Rebecca Solnit - Altruism in the Face of Disaster


KBOO is a proud media sponsor for Rebecca Solnit speaking on "Altruism in the Face of Disaster"

“The positive emotions that arise in…unpromising circumstances demonstrate that social ties and meaningful work are deeply desired, readily improvised, and intensely rewarding. The very structure of our economy and society prevent these goals from being achieved.”

Where: First Unitarian Church Sanctuary, 1211 SW Main Street, Portland

When:  Thursday, October 28, 7:00 p.m.

Cost:    $10, tickets available through and at the door.

Writer, historian, art critic, and social activist Rebecca Solnit will speak at the First Unitarian Church of Portland on Thursday, October 28 at 7 p.m., the first guest for the new annual “Speaking of Justice” Sewell Lecture, sponsored by the First Unitarian Church.

Her lecture will be on the incredible yet common tales of people helping one another through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. In her most recent book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, Solnit surveys disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. She shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization, and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding, and housing each other. Named by The Nation “The most valuable non-fiction book of 2009,” A Paradise Built in Hell has been viewed as an important counterpart to isolated incidents of violence shown on the news.

Solnit, a San Franciscan, writes eloquently about landscape and walking, the environment and politics, the arts and gender. She is the author of twelve books and has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, two NEA Fellowships for Literature, and a 2004 Wired Rave Award for writing about the effects of technology on the arts and humanities.

Solnit’s work resonated with the Sewell Lecture Committee because the theme of a caring community is essential to our times and often as urgent to provide. First Unitarian Church hosts a daytime shelter for homeless families, has sponsored unemployed tradespeople in the congregation to work on reconstruction efforts in New Orleans, and coordinates a resource sharing program called First Share - to mention a few of its many Social Justice programs and committees. 

The Sewell Lecture series is named for Reverend Marilyn Sewell, who retired as senior minister of the church in June 2009. It is endowed by gifts from church members to honor her commitment to social justice during her long tenure there. The church is also in the process of welcoming its new senior minister, Reverend Bill Sinkford, who began preaching September 12. Rev. Sinkford will introduce Rebecca Solnit, Rev. Sewell will be attending the lecture.

A “Social Justice Fair” will be held after the lecture, with ideas and information about how to get involved in the community. As Solnit writes, “people volunteer to do something as specific as read to a blind person or as general as change the world.”

Tickets to the lecture are available through and at the church following Sunday services.



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