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The USSR turned Bulgaria, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland and East Germany into toxic pits. Now, factories spill sulfur into the air, creating acid rain so potent it strips entire forests of their foliage and branches. All that remains of some forests are blackened poles and mountains topped in sulfuric mists. Mining and smelting operations release clouds of metallic particulates into the air, afflicted generations of children with a variety of lung diseases and mental disabilities. Even after all of this, it is far worse in Romania, where coal strip mining turns the air black thanks to places like Copsa Mica's Carbosin Plant. A thick layer of soot covers buildings and trees, creating a landscape devoid of colors. It snows black flakes in the evening, carbon particulates saturate the mists and clouds, soiling the very sky, and even sheep are of night's hue.
Vampire: The Masquerade — Clanbook: Tzimisce (revised)

The refuse of a thousand years of labour fills the Plain of Zharr. Here, the land is broken and tortured, a twisted shadow of its former self. Pits of molten tar and rivers of boiling oil strew the landscape like open wounds, whilst massive stockpiles of coal scab over treacherous ground, festering in the sweltering heat.

A huge pit opens on one side of the central area, a dark reflection reeking of the tortured earth's pain. This area is a sick parody of a Glade, full of the twisted reflections of Glade Children and Naturae. Like a strip mine, the area descends level by level into the stinking pit. Each level is littered with the stumps of huge trees and the twisted bodies of animals destroyed by pollution. Moon Bridges from Blights and Hellholes usually open into this area. At the lowest level of the pit is a foul lake of irradiated, oily water. The lake is a mile across at its widest point. The surface bubbles with sulfurous fumes. Huge deformed fish slowly drift in the shallow waters, hiding under patches of glowing algae. On the shore of the lake is a truly horrific Blight, a shantytown full of corrupt spirits living in the shattered buildings of a slum. On the levels above the shantytown, Banes in the form of large earth-moving machines run amok across the landscape. These Banes are totally mindless and thy will crush whatever gets in their path.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Book of the Wyrm (first edition

Whatever the Skaven are building, it’s no science of any Dwarfkind. The steam they make eats through the rock walls, gets into the water and makes it deadly poison. Then that water flows into the soil and everything growing on the surface rots and dies. It eats through metal, too, I reckon, so everything they build must fall apart twice as fast, and when they explode, they’ll just dump more of that junk into our mountains and ancient Dwarf holds. When we take them back, there may be nothing left to reclaim, and the air too toxic to breathe. The Skaven are to engineering what Warpstone is to flesh: they pervert and destroy all that was natural and strong.
Behram Gundarson, Dwarf Skaven Slayer, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Children of the Horned Rat — A Guide to Skaven

The areas devastated by the nanomachines are completely inhospitable, stripped of all life. Even the soil is reduced to nutrient-free silicate dust, ensuring nothing can ever grow again. One such area is much like another, regardless of their original ecosystems. Some clues remain as to a place’s history, such as desiccated husks of trees and animals, or the skeletal remains of buildings, but most of the Earth’s surface is identically empty. Between the depleted soil and carbon-rich rock, even the topography is often unrecognizable.
—"Nanopocalypse — Post-Apocalypse," The End of the World: Revolt of the Machines

The Pustyye Zemli, better known as the empty lands in the west, did not emerge overnight as it might seem. Taboritsky's regime began a policy of systemic chemical weapons use on a localized scale before the reunification of western Russia was complete. Though comprehensive records from the era are obviously rare, it is estimated that by 1966 over ten million cubic meters of various chemical agents had been unleashed on the Russian landscape, mustard gas and chlorine gas being the most common, along with copious amounts of incendiary chemicals and defoliants. With this staggering level of use, it is almost a certainty that small areas of Russia had already been rendered uninhabitable to all higher forms of life before the Regent's forces had crossed the Urals.
Though the foundations for the empty lands were laid during the reunification wars, they did not truly start to materialize until Russia was fully unified under the so-called Holy Russian Empire. Taboritsky's reign of terror and ethnic cleansing campaigns were fiercely opposed by dozens of partisan groups, some of which continue to operate even now. To combat these rebels the HRE embarked on a suicidal campaign of mass gas deployment and environmental destruction within its own borders, seeking to deny the underground organizations anywhere to hide in Russia's vast landscape.
The empty lands are the inevitable result of this policy. In Russia's current state conducting on-the-ground research is an impossibility, but aerial surveillance has recorded over ten thousand examples of newly lifeless regions since 1969. The vast majority of these are less than ten square kilometers, but the largest examples can cover thousands, representing entire dead ecosystems. Early studies estimate that 0.4 percent of Russia's land area is now uninhabitable for at least the next two to three decades, and over 10 percent has been contaminated to varying degrees.
The New Time of Troubles: Russia in the 20th Century, by Richard Pipes, The New Order Last Days Of Europe


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