Storming the Gates of Paradise

BOOK: Storming the Gates of Paradise
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Praise for the author

“Rebecca Solnit has the wide-foraging mind of a great essayist and the West-besotted soul of the recording secretary for your local historical society. . . . A San Franciscan, she’s who Susan Sontag might have become if Sontag had never forsaken California for Manhattan. . . . Solnit’s prose combines the imagery of a poet, the ideas of a theoretician, the rhythm of a thoroughbred, and the force of a Southern Pacific locomotive.”

David Kipen,
San Francisco Chronicle

“Solnit has emerged as one of our most gifted freelance intellectuals.”

Philip Connors,
Newsday

“Like a Mike Davis, Marshall Berman, or Simon Schama, Solnit is a cultural historian in the desert-mystic mode, trailing ideas like swarms of butterflies.”

John Leonard,
Harper’s Magazine

“A guide of tremendous erudition and just as much common sense, capable of slipping almost imperceptibly from the personal mode to the analytical and back again without appearing self-indulgent.”

Andrew O’Hehir,
Salon

“Passionate, potent, and to the point, Solnit’s polemic embodies American political and social writing at its best.”

Publishers Weekly

“An extraordinary mind seizes hold of an unexpected topic and renders it with such confidence, subtlety, and grace that one finds it hard to remember what things looked like before the book appeared in the world.”

Jim Lewis,
New York Times Book Review

“An inspired observer and passionate historian, Solnit, whose
River of Shadows
(2003) won a National Book Critics Circle Award, is one of the most creative, penetrating, and eloquent cultural critics writing today.”

Donna Seaman,
Booklist

“Her gift for synthesis, her supple grasp of history, and her ability to shift smoothly from fact to metaphor without warning recalls another artful American writer: Henry Adams.”

Mary Panzer,
Chicago Tribune

STORMING THE GATES OF PARADISE

 

STORMING THE GATES OF PARADISE
LANDSCAPES FOR POLITICS
REBECCA SOLNIT

University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit
www.ucpress.edu
.

University of California Press

Berkeley and Los Angeles, California

University of California Press, Ltd.

London, England

© 2007 by The Regents of the University of California

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Solnit, Rebecca.

Storming the gates of paradise : landscapes for politics / Rebecca Solnit.

p.    cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN
: 978-0-520-25109-0 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. Political ecology—United States. 2. Human ecology—United States. 3. Landscape assessment—United States. 4. United States—Politics and government. I. Title.

JA
75.8.
S
65 2007

304.20973—dc22
2006035367

Manufactured in the United States of America

15   14   13   12    11   10    09   08   07

10   9   8    7   6   5    4    3   2    1

This book is printed on New Leaf EcoBook 50, a 100% recycled fiber of which 50% is de-inked post-consumer waste, processed chlorine-free. EcoBook 50 is acid-free and meets the minimum requirements of
ANSI/ASTM D
5634–01 (
Permanence of Paper
).

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the generous
support of Peter Wiley and Valerie Barth as members of
the Literati Circle of University of California Press.

Contents

List of Photographs

Introduction:
Prisons and Paradises

1
UNEVEN TERRAIN:
The West

The Red Lands

The Postmodern Old West, or The Precession of Cowboys and Indians

The Struggle of Dawning Intelligence:
Creating, Revising, and Recognizing Native American Monuments

The Garden of Merging Paths

2
BORDERS AND CROSSERS

A Route in the Shape of a Question

Thirty-Nine Steps Across the Border and Back

Nonconforming Uses:
Teddy Cruz on Both Sides of the Border

3
TROUBLE BELOW:
Mining, Water, and Nuclear Waste

The Price of Gold, the Value of Water

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Poison Pictures

4
REACHING FOR THE SKY

Excavating the Sky

Drawing the Constellations

Hugging the Shadows

Justice by Moonlight

5
LANDSCAPES OF RESISTANCE AND REPRESSION

Fragments of the Future:
The FTAA in Miami

Jailbirds I Have Loved

Making It Home:
Travels outside the Fear Economy

Mirror in the Street

Liberation Conspiracies

Sontag and Tsunami

6
GARDENS AND WILDERNESSES

Every Corner Is Alive:
Eliot Porter as an Environmentalist and an Artist

The Botanical Circus, or Adventures in American Gardening

A Murder of Ravens:
On Globalized Species

7
WOMEN’S PLACE

Tangled Banks and Clear-Cut Examples

Seven Stepping Stones down the Primrose Path:
A Talk at a Conference on Landscape and Gender

Other Daughters, Other American Revolutions

8
INFERNAL MUSEUMS

California Comedy, or Surfing with Dante

The Wal-Mart Biennale

The Silence of the Lambswool Cardigans

Locked Horns

9
CITY AT THE END OF THE WORLD

The Orbits of Earthly Bodies

San Francisco:
The Metamorphosis

The Heart of the City

The Ruins of Memory

Gaping Questions

CODA:
The Pacific

Seashell to Ear

Acknowledgments

Notes

Permissions

Index

Photographs

Frontispiece

Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, “Ms. Homeland Security: Illegal Entry Dress Tent, installed at the border between the US and Mexico,” 2006. Original in color.

1
UNEVEN TERRAIN:
The West

Mark Klett, “Casa Grande ruins with protective rain shelter, Casa Grande National Monument,” 1984. Gelatin silver print.

2
BORDERS AND CROSSERS

estudio Teddy Cruz, “Border Wall Sequence,” 2004. Digital photography, originals in color.

3
TROUBLE BELOW:
Mining, Water, and Nuclear Waste

Michael Light, “Spur of the Bingham Copper Mine, Utah; Earth’s Largest Excavation,” April 2006. Black and white photograph. Courtesy of the artist and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco and New York.

4
REACHING FOR THE SKY

Meridel Rubenstein, “Home,” 1987. Four palladium prints in steel frame, 80 in. × 32 in. × 2 in.

5
LANDSCAPES OF RESISTANCE AND REPRESSION

Eric Wagner/basetree.com, “Non-Lethal,” activists and police, ChevronTexaco Refinery, Richmond, California, 2003. Original in color.

6
GARDENS AND WILDERNESSES

John Pfahl, “Bare Trees and Topiary, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA,” 2000. Detail; original in color. Courtesy of Janet Borden Gallery, New York City.

7
WOMEN’S PLACE

Meridel Rubenstein, “Woody Wrapped in Russia,” one panel of triptych, 1987. Original in color.

8
INFERNAL MUSEUMS

Terry Evans, “Ravens, Field Museum, Wyoming, 1871; Oklahoma, 1964,” 2000.

9
CITY AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Susan Schwartzenberg, “Globe, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library,” 2003. Original in color.

CODA:
The Pacific

Lukas Felzmann, untitled, 2004. Gelatin silver print.

Introduction
Prisons and Paradises
I

It was a place that taught me to write. I had begun going to the huge antinuclear actions at the Nevada Test Site, sixty miles north of Las Vegas, in the late 1980s. The next few years of camping and committing civil disobedience by trespassing into this most bombed place on earth—the site of more than a thousand nuclear explosions that were only nominally tests—taught me other things as well.

Maybe the first was that the very term
place
is problematic, implying a discrete entity, something you could put a fence around. And they did: three strands of barbed wire surrounded this 1,375-square-mile high-security area—but it didn’t keep in the radiation or keep out the politics. What we mean by
place
is a crossroads, a particular point of intersection of forces coming from many directions and distances. At the test site, some of the more obvious convergences or collisions involved the history of civil disobedience since Thoreau and the history of physics since it became useful for atomic bombs, along with the Euro-American attitudes toward the desert that made it possible to devastate it so wantonly, and the counter-history of the indigenous people of the region. During the decades of detonations, the radioactive fallout reached New England and beyond; protestors came from Japan and from Kazakhstan, as well as from New York and rural Utah. So much for fences.

The challenge of describing the austere sensuality of living outdoors in a harsh
and possibly radioactive desert under a spectacular sky, of doing so while contemplating the fate of the earth and playing tag with assorted armed authority figures, called forth a great collapse of category for me. I realized that in order to describe the rich tangle of experience there, I needed to describe, to analyze, to connect, to critique, and to report on both international politics and personal experience. That is, I needed to write as a memoirist or diarist, and as a journalist, and as a critic—and these three voices were one voice in everything except the conventions that sort our experience out and censor what doesn’t belong. Thus it was that the distinct styles in which I had been writing melded. My 1994 book
Savage Dreams
(later reissued by the University of California Press) came out of this, but that was only the start.

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