Essays

The true impact of activism may not be felt for a generation. That alone is reason to fight, rather than surrender to despair

Last month, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden had a public conversation about democracy, transparency, whistleblowing and more. In the course of it, Snowden – who was of course Skyping in from Moscow – said that without Ellsberg’s example he would not have done what he did to expose the extent to which the NSA was […]

From Lying to Leering


Published in:   London Review of Books
January 19, 2017
Rebecca Solnit on Donald Trump’s fear of women

Women told me they had flashbacks to hideous episodes in their past after the second presidential debate on 9 October, or couldn’t sleep, or had nightmares. The words in that debate mattered, as did their delivery. Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton 18 times (compared to 51 interruptions in the first debate). His reply to the […]

The time when you don’t need hope is when your hopes have been fulfilled. Hope is for when you don’t have what you need and for when things are not OK. It is the belief that liberation might be possible that motivates you to make it more possible, and pursuing hope even when it doesn’t […]

It is not a final victory, and there is much to fear from pipeline investor Donald Trump, but much will come of this gathering and its vision, tactics and power. o one saw it coming. But on a Sunday, word came that the US Army Corps of Engineers was withdrawing permission to build the Dakota […]

City of Women


Published in:   The New Yorker
October 11, 2016

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is a song James Brown recorded in a New York City stu­dio in 1966, and, whether you like it or not, you can make the case that he’s right. Walking down the city streets, young women get harassed in ways that tell them that this is not their world, […]

We may be living through times of unprecedented change, but in uncertainty lies the power to influence the future. Now is not the time to despair, but to act. Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope […]

If you boil the strange soup of contemporary right-wing ideology down to a sort of bouillon cube, you find the idea that things are not connected to other things, that people are not connected to other people, and that they are all better off unconnected. The core values are individual freedom and individual responsibility: yourself […]

On April 24, 1916 — Easter Monday — Irish republicans in Dublin and a handful of other places staged an armed rebellion against British occupation. At the time, the British Empire was the strongest power on earth; Ireland was its first and nearest colony. That the puny colony might oust the giant seemed far-fetched, and […]

Alejandro Nieto was killed by police in the neighbourhood where he spent his whole life. Did he die because a few white newcomers saw him as a menacing outsider?

Bird in a Cage


Published in:   Harper's Magazine
March 1, 2016

There are two things I think about nearly every time I row out into San Francisco Bay. One is a passage from Shankar Vedantam’s The Hidden Brain, in which he talks about a swim he once took. A decent swimmer in his own estimate, Vedantam went out into the sea one day and discovered that […]

Medical Mountaineers


Published in:   The New Yorker
December 21, 2015
Delivering basic care to the remote Himalayas

To get to Saldang is simple, if not exactly easy. You walk. The nearest airport, many days away by foot, is a rough dirt strip at an altitude of about eight thousand feet. It sits on the side of a Himalayan mountain in the Dolpo district of northwest Nepal, on the border with Tibet. Heading […]

As Barack Obama opens up the Arctic Ocean to oil drilling, how can this pristine wilderness withstand the human hunger for fossil fuels? At midnight on 29 June, the sun was directly north and well above the hills. It had not gone down since I arrived in the Arctic, three days earlier, and would not […]

Poison Apples


Published in:   Harper's Magazine
December 1, 2014

Thirty years ago, Apple Computer launched a new product with a messianic commercial in which legions of blank-faced, coverall-clad workers march, as if in a trance, through a strange industrial world. They arrive at a bright screen, which they sit in front of in homogeneous rows to watch a Big Brother–like figure announce the triumph […]

Cassandra Among the Creeps


Published in:   Harper's Magazine
October 1, 2014

The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf — that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie. Perhaps it should be. The daughter of the […]

Social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth. If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, […]

Diary


Published in:   London Review of Books
August 29, 2013

In or around June 1995 human character changed again. Or rather, it began to undergo a metamorphosis that is still not complete, but is profound – and troubling, not least because it is hardly noted. When I think about, say, 1995, or whenever the last moment was before most of us were on the internet […]