Rebecca Solnit on hope, failure and storytelling

Image 2

The title of this article by Rebecca Solnit is “Protest and Persist: Why Giving Up Hope Is Not An Option” but it is also about storytelling. As she puts it, “This work is always, first and last, storytelling work, or what some of my friends call ‘the battle of the story’. Building, remembering, retelling, celebrating our own stories is part of our work.” She charts various “failed” activist projects and shows how, despite failure (or sometimes, initial failure) that had important impacts in unexpected ways.

Why this photo? Partly because I don’t have very many photos on my laptop but also because we’ve been fighting the battle of the story here over the right to walk safely in winter. It’s a small thing compared to most of the stories Rebecca Solnit tells in the article, but it is about health and inclusion and clean air. It often feels as though we’ve failed but in fact we have made progress, both in practical results (at least some sidewalks are now cleared, though not the one in the photo) and in storytelling (the city has active transit as one of its goals in the latest strategic plan and schools are organising walk to school programs). We can’t take all the credit but I think all the activism did make a difference.