This is a book about abandoned places: exclusion zones, no man’s lands, ghost towns and post-industrial hinterlands - and what nature does when we’re not there to see it.
Exploring some of the eeriest, most desolate places in the world, Cal Flyn asks: what happens after humans pick up and leave? Whether due to war or disaster, disease or economic decay, each extraordinary place visited in this book has been left to its own devices for decades. In this time, nature has been left to work unfettered - offering a glimpse of how abandoned land, even the most polluted regions of the world, might offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery.
As part of a journey that takes her around the world, Cal Flyn travels to Chernobyl where she meets the scant handful of people who returned to their irradiated homes. She spends a night on an uninhabited Scottish island where feral cattle - descendants of a herd set loose in the 1970s - live wild. She visits a botanical garden lodged high in the cloud forests of Tanzania where exotic plants brought from opposite habitats grow alongside native trees - a show of how adaptable our ecosystems might prove. She visits a Caribbean ghost town where volcanic flows have subsumed the streets. She explores derelict buildings ruled by urban scavengers, sneaks through barbed wire, and walks a beach made of bones on the shore of a dwindling sea.
By turns haunted and hopeful, Flyn’s luminous journey is pinned together with new ecological insights that map an answer to the big questions: what happens after we’re gone - and how far can our damage to nature be undone? Though these strange, forgotten landscapes represent some of the most damaged spots on the planet, they are also proof how much potential we have for biological diversity, regrowth and a chance at redemption.