San Francisco, California

The Hiding Place

Robert McFarlane has written an outstanding piece on the dangers and difficulty of disposing with radioactive waste:

Deep in the bedrock of Olkiluoto Island in southwest Finland a tomb is under construction. The tomb is intended to outlast not only the people who designed it, but also the species that designed it. It is intended to maintain its integrity without future maintenance for 100,000 years, able to endure a future ice age. One hundred thousand years ago three major river systems flowed across the Sahara. One hundred thousand years ago anatomically modern humans were beginning their journey out of Africa. The oldest pyramid is around 4,600 years old; the oldest surviving church building is fewer than 2,000 years old.

After reading this post I immediately picked up Robert’s book Underland: A Deep Time Journey which this piece is only an excerpt of and I can’t wait to dig into it. I find the way that Robert writes is lyrical and dances along to a rather lovely beat whilst never losing focus, and that happens to be an extremely difficult trick to balance whilst writing.

Take the introduction to this piece, for example:

Birches, birches, pines, birches, clearing, blue farmhouse. Low river valley, wooden bridge. Everything frozen: rivers, trees, turf, fields. Pink crag of granite, yellow ice-fall spilling from it. Boulders big as houses between the birches, among the pines. Black crow pulling red flesh off the white ribs of a dead fox. Jackdaw, jackdaw.

This is not a place for you.

Lovely! Without any connective tissue between the words all that’s left is a flash of images as you read—like the click of a camera snapping between shots. (Also, unrelatedly, this is just the sort of effect I was hoping for in Berlin, indefinitely a good while back.)