Although industrialization has enabled humans to attain a living standard that we’d never known before the Industrial Revolution, it also continues to play a big role in destroying our environment. The natural beauty of a region is sadly no match for a wrecking crew and a factory. No place on Earth puts that fact on display better than the Russian city of Norilsk.
Norilsk began as a labor camp for Soviet prisoners in 1935. The first waves of prisoners were forced to dig mines high in the Putorana Mountains, which are known to have some of the largest nickel deposits on Earth.
The first group of laborers was 500,000 strong, and life was hard in Norilsk. In the first year, at least 18,000 people died by freezing to death or starving.
Norilsk is located in the Arctic Circle and it’s built on top on a continuous permafrost zone. Temperatures plunge to well below freezing during the winter. In the summer, the temperature is fairly moderate, but there is usually still snow on the ground in some areas.
While the weather might seem like the worst part of living in Norilsk, the city’s biggest problem is actually the insane amount of pollution and industrial waste it produces.
Close to four million tons of copper, lead, cadmium, nickel, arsenic, sulphur, and other toxic chemicals make their way into the air around Norilsk annually. Acid rain is also a massive issue.
The pollution is so bad, in fact, that mining in and around the city is economically viable. This is because of the numerous chemicals that can be found in just one clump of dirt.
On the outskirts of the city are large areas filled with discrded pieces of machinery and abandoned neighborhoods. It’s like walking through a post-apocalyptic ghost town.
Take a virtual walk through the city with some help from the video below.
I understand that we need certain metals and chemicals to make the products we use every day, but this is insane. You’d think that the Russian government would at least have made an effort to clean up the city at some point.