In this week's Landscape Reads, we visit the giant, steel sarcophagus that will soon encase Chernobyl, go inside the battle for "solar rights," pay tribute to the blazing fires that created the American prairie, and follow the secret highway crossings of bears.
The steel arch that will encase Chernobyl is the largest moving structure ever. It will cost $2 billion and last only 100 years—enough time, scientists hope, to fully clean the area. "The structure is so otherworldly it looks like it could have been dropped by aliens onto this Soviet-era industrial landscape," writes Henry Fountain, chronicling the long quest to bring the arch into existence. [New York Times]
As cities expand up into the sky, there is one dark downside. Around the world and throughout history, cities have grappled with the scarcity of light. Are you willing to pay more for a sunlight loft or an apartment that faces south? How should cities regulate "solar rights?" [Salon]
You can think of highways as roads that get you from point A to point B. You can also think of them as dangerous borders that divide a piece of land in two. That's why the Trans-Canada Highway comes with animal crossings, specially designed for bears or moose or hares to pass safely over traffic. [Orion]
Without fire, there would be no prairie. The prairie's very existence, you see, relies on fire's continual destruction, which burns away cedar trees that might want to turn the land into forest. So every year, ranchers in eastern Kansas turn their fields into a glorious, deliberate blaze to keep the tallgrass growing. But as human settlement encroaches on the prairie, this fire- and destruction-dependent way of life may begin dying out. [NPR]
One of the haunting details I remember from the 9/11 commission report is that same air traffic controllers were in charge of both planes that crashed into the WTC. One of those controllers took to Reddit for an AMA this weekend, sharing his experience vectoring those flights and the mad scramble to ground all flights on 9/11. [Reddit]
Top image: An aerial view of shipping containers stacked at the Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the United States. Photo courtesy of The Daily Overview, a gorgeous and fascinating collection of satellite views around the world.