Chernobyl

Ben and I watched the first episode of the TV series Chernobyl last night and it was brilliant! I’m looking forward to watching the rest. One of the protagonists is the same actor who plays the dad in Friday Night Dinner. It’s a very different role for him in this series and because of this, I had trouble figuring out where I’d seen him before.

I’m not sure how accurate the TV series is but what was astounding for me is the level of denial just after the explosion. When the front-line staff tried to convey the problem to officials, they refused to accept the radiation readings given by their dosimeters and instead blamed the equipment or the person taking the reading.

There are interesting parallels with climate change deniers who have, over the years, also refused to accept the temperature readings and instead, blamed the equipment or accused scientists of fraud. They don’t want to accept the truth and instead look for explanations elsewhere.

Humans can see one thing –  be it billowing clouds of smoke from a nuclear reactor or hotter summers and broken temperature records every year  – and yet still convince themselves that nothing is wrong. I believe this is called cognitive dissonance which is where someone holds conflicting thoughts or beliefs – it’s a sort of internal disagreement.

If we ignore or suppress the truth it doesn’t make it go away. It’s still there. But even worse, it becomes more dangerous because it makes us ill-prepared and causes us to make poor decisions. After the initial explosion in Chernobyl, as depicted in the TV series, the manager on at the time insisted his minions lower the control rods and pump water into the reactor. When his minions tried to explain that the control rods had been blown to smithereens he got angry with them. If he’d accepted the truth then fewer people would have died because they’d have been evacuated rather than being tasked with walking into the reactor room and peering into the core – a death sentence.