May 14, 2016, 10:56 pm
How I Learned to Walk
Here\'s a change of pace: my essay for The New York Times\' Well section on how I learned to walk (in my 60s) after a lifetime of limping as a result of polio:

November 4, 2015, 9:01 pm
New story: farming fish in rice fields
Here\'s my newest story, for Yale Environment 360 on using Northern California\'s rice fields to rear salmon and forage fish:

September 21, 2015, 3:27 pm
Panel discussion on \"Damnation! in Santa Monica on September 30
I\'ll be on a panel discussing the film \"Damnation.\" The event will take place at the Aero Theater, 1328 Montana, Santa Monica, California on Wednesday, September 30. The film will be shown at 7:30 pm, and the panel discussion will follow.

For more information, see

September 11, 2015, 1:11 pm
New story: The fabulous sage grouse!
Here\'s my latest piece for The New Yorker, on the significance of the impending decision on listing the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. It will be the most important decision in the history of the Endangered Species Act:

July 14, 2015, 4:08 pm
new op-ed: Why CA water bond shouldn\'t fund dams
Here\'s my latest, a Los Angeles Times op-ed:

April 14, 2015, 9:59 pm
New Yorker piece on megaprojects
Here\'s my latest, my first piece for The New Yorker (online), on the folly of megaprojects and the tunnel to nowhere:

January 14, 2015, 6:14 pm
How Falling Oil Prices Could Help Stop the Keystone Project
And here\\\'s a link to my story for Yale Environment 360 on how the Canadian tar sands\\\' terrible year has raised the stakes of the Keystone XL decision.

January 14, 2015, 6:11 pm
Los Angeles, City of Water
Here\\\'s a link to my latest New York Times opinion piece, which appeared on the front page of the Week in Review section on December 7:

The story describes how Los Angeles, known as a water arch-villain for importing water from hundreds of miles to the north, has shifted its focus to developing local sources of water. It\\\'s now winning awards for its efforts to build a sustainable water infrastructure.

August 31, 2014, 2:45 pm
The True Cost of Dams-- New York Times
Here\'s my latest New York Times opinion piece, on why dams aren\'t cost-effective:

June 16, 2014, 7:19 pm
New York Times op-ed: The True Cost of Hidden Money
My latest New York Times op-ed appears today: \"The True Cost of Hidden Money,\" about new numbers put on tax evasion and the connection to wealth inequality:

May 3, 2014, 7:27 pm
Introducing A Deluge of Consequences the Video!
Master videographer and animator Eli Noyes has reconfigured my e-book, A Deluge of Consequences, turning it into a 10-minute video. He\'s drawn from the hundreds of images that project participants gave me, many of which couldn\'t fit inside the e-book format. Given that the risky, courageous project unfolded high in the Himalayas, the images are stunning:

April 18, 2014, 7:03 pm
Recent Stories, in a list with links

A lot of catching up to do.

Recent stories:

The nation’s most contentious river basin is on the verge of becoming a model of reconciliation. “Oregon’s Klamath River Basin One Step Closer to Historic Dam Removal,” Earth Island Journal, April 17, 2014:

The talk of Canada for a day or two. “Is Canada Tarring Itself?”, New York Times op-ed, March 30, 2014, on the emerging Canadian petrostate:

“Fairway to Heaven,” Earth Island Journal essay on nature’s reclamation of abandoned golf courses, with delicious photos by Robert Dawson:

My first venture into the tar sands. “Shipping Crude Oil by Rail: New Front in Tar Sands Wars,” Environment360, December 5, 2013:

\"A Deluge of Consequences.\" The World Policy Journal’s first e-book, on Bhutan’s high-risk, high-altitude campaign against the ravages of climate change, with amazing photographs taken by participants.
(Contrary to the widespread assumption, this e-book, though called by Amazon a “Kindle Edition,” is downloadable to all digital devices-- computers, tablets and phones, Macs and PCs.)

May 27, 2011, 8:19 pm
Haiti\'s Catastrophic Deforestation piece in OnEarth
OnEarth is running my piece on Haiti\'s nearly total deforestation, so bad that some scientists suspect it triggered last year\'s horrific earthquake. The story is at:

March 16, 2011, 1:48 am
\"War Wounds,\" an essay about a reunion of Vietnam War correspondents
Nearly a year ago I attended a reunion of war correspondent colleagues in Phnom Penh and Saigon. The reunion unexpectedly put my wife Leslie and me through so many emotions that I wrote an essay about the experience called \"War Wounds.\" Now \"War Wounds\" is for sale as a $1.99 \"Kindle Single\" on Amazon at:

It can be downloaded into any device, from iPhone and iPad to Kindle to Mac and Pc.

December 1, 2010, 7:52 pm
Article on the lost opportunity of the World Commission on Dams
Here\'s my latest, a short piece marking the tenth anniversary of the launching of the World Commission on Dams report:

November 12, 2010, 8:25 pm
Two Stories on California\'s Central Valley
Here are the URLs for two recent stories of mine on the Central Valley.

One, in Mother Jones, depicts Kettleman City, a tiny farmworker community where 11 babies were born with serious or fatal birth defects over a two-and-a-half-year period:

The other story, in The New Republic, is a broader essay on the Central Valley in crisis. Alas, a subscription to the magazine is required to read the story. (I hasten to add that I had no say about the story\'s deplorable headline.):

March 2, 2010, 5:13 pm
\"Rough Water\"— piece on historic Klamath River agreement
Here\'s my latest:

The piece describes how adversaries in the most contentious river basin in the U.S. reached agreement on a plan to take down four dams on the Klamath River. If they come down, as now seems likely, two of them will be the tallest dams ever dismantled.

To bring this about, farmers, ranchers and native Americans acted with enormous courage, risking the anger of their friends to try to mend relations with their enemies.

August 4, 2009, 3:01 pm
new piece on naturalist Richard Nelson in polar bear country for Men's Journal
Here's my latest:

April 28, 2009, 5:40 pm
Another Award for "The Last Empire"
"The Last Empire" has won a third award. The piece, the cover story for the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Mother Jones, explores the grim international environmental impacts of China's economic growth. Its latest award is the "Maggie," for "best feature article" in a consumer (as opposed to trade) magazine in 2008. The Western Publishing Association, which hands out Maggies, covers publications west of the Mississippi.

February 20, 2009, 4:51 pm
Leslie Wins Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT
I've won a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship to attend a week-long "boot camp" on food and agriculture at MIT in late March. This meshes perfectly with my current work.

For more on the boot camp, including the list of speakers, go to:

For the list of fellowship recipients, go to:

October 25, 2008, 5:29 pm
Society of Environmental Journalists award for "The Last Empire"
The Last Empire won Third Place in the Society of Environmental Journalism's award category called "Outstanding Explanatory Reporting, Print."

Here's the citation:

"With a writing style that is at times rollicking and evocative and at other times lucid explanation of complex connections, Leslie reports on the environmental devastation behind China's economic boom. He alternates thoroughly researched passages-- on water pollution, world-leading greenhouse gas emissions and other impacts-- with description of the scenes and characters encountered during a wild ride across the countryside with his madcap Chinese driver and guide. The story is hard to put down. Answers the question, 'What would you get by crossing Hunter S. Thompson with Bill McKibben and sending him to China?'"

I particularly like the last sentence.

October 2, 2008, 7:30 pm
awards for "The Last Empire"
The Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California chapter has named "The Last Empire" the best piece of explanatory journalism in a print, non-daily Northern California publication over the last year.

The piece examines the disastrous global environmental impacts of China's economic growth. It was the cover story of the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Mother Jones.

The piece is also one of three finalists chosen by the national Society of Environmental Journalists for best explanatory article in a print medium. The winner will be announced on Oct. 15 at the SEJ's annual conference in Roanoke, Virginia.

September 29, 2008, 9:08 pm

A few months ago the Presidential election seemed a self-contained narrative, an uncomplicated drama starring Barack and Hillary, and then Barack and John. Democrats feared that if their candidate threatened to win, the Republicans would pull an “October surprise,” and speculation centered on the bombing of Iran. But since then, time has accelerated, and the Presidential campaign no longer occupies the exact center of the story— it’s caught in the vortex, like a house picked in a wind storm, as if pre-election surprises are no longer what humans perpetrate but rather what the elements perpetrate upon them. Appropriately, it was a hurricane, Gustav, that announced the shift, forcing the heretofore unimaginable cancellation of a day of Republican conventioneering. With Sarah Palin’s selection, the Republicans produced a briefly compelling storm of their own, as if desperate to reassert human primacy, but Ike (and Palin’s thudding earth-boundedness) punctured that conceit, and the nation’s financial debacle has blown away its remnants. For the last half-century the American fantasy has been that we produce the planet’s currents, but the truth, now forcefully reasserting itself, is that the human condition is to ride them. Hang on.

September 15, 2008, 12:16 am
David Foster Wallace's Death
David Foster Wallace’s dismaying suicide sent me back to “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” his seminal, riotous essay on taking a Caribbean cruise. I had remembered, or thought I did, a sentence in the piece in which Wallace refers to his death as something exquisitely awful to contemplate and sad beyond imagining— or something to that effect.

I couldn’t find that passage— it may be in another Wallace essay— but I did find this:

“There is something about a mass-market Luxury Cruise that’s unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effects: on board the Nadir [the derisive name Wallace gives his cruise vessel]— especially at night, when all the ship’s structured fun and reassurances and gaiety-noise ceased— I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me it denotes a simple admixture— a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death. It’s maybe close to what people call dread or angst. But it’s not these things, quite. It’s more like wanting to die in order to escape the unbearable feeling of becoming aware that I’m small and weak and selfish and going without any doubt at all to die. It’s wanting to jump overboard.”

I read “A Supposedly Fun Thing” when I was trying to break away from the bland, corseting strictures of conventional journalism and turn myself into a writer of narrative nonfiction. For me the essay was an elixir. As I took in Wallace’s joyful three-page-long footnotes, his celebratory combination of high and low English, and his enthusiastic, creative deployment of capitalization and newly coined words, I kept thinking: “You can do that?…. You can do that?” The piece was a paean to the authenticity of voice, the most liberating essay I ever read. I became a different writer because of it. Only a few other writers have had a similar impact on me: Henry Adams, Norman Mailer, and George Orwell are among them.

Now Wallace has succumbed to temptation, and jumped in. Reading the essay in the light of his death, I realize that its general hilarity masks its seriousness, that in passages like the one above, he meant exactly what he said. I know nothing of his personal life, but my guess is that his highly sensitive receptors picked up too many of the myriad contradictory, appalling, exhilarating sensations of early twenty-first century life, until he was overwhelmed. His loss is an enormous tragedy.

September 10, 2008, 10:03 pm
John McCain's Immorality
One of the most appalling aspects of experiencing the current Presidential campaign has been watching John McCain’s step-by-step shedding of every last vestige of integrity. McCain once stood out among Republicans as a supporter of legislation to limit climate change and reasonable immigration laws and as a critic of both Bush and the party’s ultra-right Christian fundamentalist wing. Since then he’s embraced Bush and reversed himself on immigration and the fundamentalists— he has become what he once denounced.

His selection of Sarah Palin completes the process. What gall McCain had to present himself at the Republican convention as a President who would reach across the aisle for compromise, who would govern in a bipartisan way, when his selection of Palin ensures that such actions will never be possible. How could McCain govern as a moderate when he couldn’t even pick either of his preferred VP candidates (Lieberman and Ridge) because of a right-wing veto? What makes him think that the right-wing he has now invigorated won’t stymie every other stab he makes at moderation? And please forget about any sort of meaningful climate change legislation— while the world is is in the first stages of an environmental cataclysm, McCain’s VP selection believes that climate change is not human-caused, and stands a significant chance of inflicting that view on the rest of the country. In a single act, McCain has managed to re-ignite the culture wars and energize the country’s know-nothings; then he pretended to be above partisanship. He surely knows how ill-equipped Palin is to be president, yet he presents her as Presidency-ready “on Day One.” On the other hand, she’ll need weeks of preparation to face questioners. And McCain has the nerve to claim that he puts the country before political decisions— in choosing Palin, he showed that he cares about winning the Presidency more than any principle, more than the country’s (and the world’s) well-being.

Even worse is the campaign that McCain has been running since the convention, a collection of flat-out lies and absurd innuendo. McCain’s handlers have decided he can’t win a campaign about issues, so all their efforts are meant to impugn Obama’s integrity, while skirting any discussion of what plagues the country and might be done about it. The Bush Presidency exposed the increasing irrelevance of “facts,” the way information can be subverted by endless repetition of lies. Bush perfected the technique during his abysmal Presidency; McCain’s distinction is deploying it relentlessly on the campaign trail. Denounce the press, so that its discoveries (such as of Palin’s support for the Bridge to Nowhere, her coziness with a secessionist party, her appropriation of per-diem payments for nights spent at home, her confessions of ignorance about Iraq and the VP job, and on and on) are discounted in advance. The Swiftboat campaign that outrageously upended Kerry in 2004 has proliferated; now McCain’s entire campaign is Swiftboating— it’s a Swiftboating hurricane. On any topic, lie! It doesn’t matter, because most voters are too trusting or ignorant or preoccupied or oblivious to notice.

McCain has a history of apologizing for his lapses, from joining the Keating Five to his reckless displays of temper. It’s possible that a few years from now we’ll be treated to another apology, acknowledging the ethical emptiness of his campaign. Of course, such a prospect is possible only if McCain loses, in which case it will still strain forgiveness. Infinitely more frightening is a McCain victory, in which the rest of us are taken down with him.

August 6, 2008, 6:47 pm
Nestle drops plan to build water-bottling facillity near Mt. Shasta
Nestle's decision Tuesday to drop plans to build a water-bottling facility in the McCloud watershed near California's Mount Shasta is a victory for river preservation; the Winnemem Wintu, the tribe that regards Mt. Shasta and parts of the McCloud River as sacred; trout fishers, who take delight in the still-pristine river; and Calif. Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose threat to challenge Nestle's contract apparently led to the company's withdrawal.

For more on the contract, see California Progress Report.

And here's the story, "Six Hundred Feet and Rising," I did two years ago on the Winnemem Wintu, the McCloud River, and a proposal to raise the Shasta Dam.

August 4, 2008, 7:54 pm
"The Last Empire" a finalist for Society of Environmental Journalists award
Jacques' cover story in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue of Mother Jones, "The Last Empire: Can the world survive China's rush to emulate the American way of life?," is a finalist for the Society of Environmental Journalists 2008 award for outstanding explanatory reporting in a print medium. Since there are three finalists, and awards are given for first, second, and third place, the story is assured acknowledgment of some sort.

The story is available online at The Last Empire.

March 4, 2008, 8:05 pm
Interactive Blog at
To read Jacques' interactive blog on politics and the environment, go to Red Room.

December 28, 2007, 3:49 pm
Books of Interest to Readers of "The Last Empire"
Here are some books for readers of The Last Empire in the January/February 2008 issue of Mother Jones:

The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenges of China’s Future by Elizabeth C. Economy, 2004.

China Shakes the World: A Titan’s Rise and Troubled Future— and the Challenge for America by James Kynge, 2006.

Mao’s War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China by Judith Shapiro, 2001.

The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China by Mark Elvin, 2004.

China’s Past, China’s Future: Energy, Food Environment by Vaclav Smil, 2004.

China’s Environmental Crisis: An Inquiry into the Limits of National Development by Vaclav Smil, 1993.

China’s Water Crisis by Ma Jun, 2004.

December 15, 2007, 11:44 am
Jacques' article on international environmental impacts of China's growth now online
Jacques Leslie's 9,000-word narrative nonfiction piece, "The Last Empire," on the international environmental impacts of China's economic growth is now online at The Last Empire.

It will be published in print next week as the cover story of Mother Jones' January/February 2008 issue.

November 9, 2007, 3:27 pm
Medha Patkar Assaulted
Medha Patkar and several human rights activists accompanying her were assaulted as they attempted to visit the embattled region of Nandigram in West Bengal this week.

Nandigram has been a center of conflict since West Bengal's government, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), decided to appropriate a reported 14,000 acres of land where 40,000 people lived, for the purpose of setting up a chemical factory "hub." When residents resisted in March 2007, 14 were killed and others raped, apparently by police and CPI(M) activists.

Patkar was reportedly visiting the area to express support for local residents.

For more information, see Battlefield Nandigram: Medha Patkar assaulted.

To read a statement issued by Patkar and other activists, go to Nandigram Burning.

August 6, 2007, 2:27 pm
Released from jail, Patkar ends fast
An email from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) declares that NBA leader Medha Patkar was released from a jail in Indore on August 4, and immediately ended her fast.

She then joined a torchlight procession in the town of Badwani to protest the "illegal and unconstitutional" actions of the government against people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

August 3, 2007, 5:15 pm
Jailed Medha Patkar Launches Protest Fast
Medha Patkar, one of the world's leading antidam activists and the subject of the first third of DEEP WATER, is now in jail in the Indian city of Indore after protesting the treatment of people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. She is now on a protest fast.

For more information, see Medha on fast in Indore jail

June 25, 2007, 7:05 pm
Sealing of Omkareshwar Dam displacing thousands
The International Rivers Network reports that since Omkareshwar Dam was sealed on June 11, dozens of villages have been flooded, thousands of people have been displaced, and yet these people have not been given any sort of decent resettlement. The Omkareshwar Dam is upstream from the huge Sardar Sarovar Dam on India's Narmada River.

Four thousand displaced people are protesting at the district headquarters in Khandwa. In one semi-submerged village, people have been refusing to leave, and are instead standing knee-deep in water for hours at a time. Five people are on a hunger strike last reported to have entered its eighteenth day, and their health is said to be deteriorating.

To send a message to the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, the state where Omkareshwar is located, demanding a fair rehabilitation for people displaced by the dam, go to the IRN's website, Speak Out to Save Indian Villages!.

May 10, 2007, 8:04 pm
Dams Cause 4% of Manmade Global Warming Impact, Researchers Say
Dams are often assumed to be a clean technology, but research in the last decade has shown that reservoirs, particularly those in tropical areas, emit a substantial amount of methane.

Now researchers at Brazil's National Institute for Space Research have calculated that the world's 52,000 large dams contribute more than 4% of the total warming impact of human activities, and are the largest single source of human-caused methane emissions.

See Four Percent of Global Warming Due to Dams, Says New Research, an International Rivers Network press release.

April 25, 2007, 3:16 pm
Australian Prime Minister Howard: Pray for Rain
Australia's record-breaking drought has become so severe that the parched Snowy Hydroelectric scheme at the top of the Murray-Darling Basin is now resorting to cloud-seeding, and Prime Minister John Howard has asked Australian to pray for rain in the basin.

See "Drought threatens Australia's hydropower scheme."

February 22, 2007, 2:10 pm
Australia's Murray-Darling Basin wetlands in dire shape, says Sydney Morning Herald

A February 2 story in the Sydney Morning Herald describes the plummeting bird counts and disappearing wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin as a result of water diversions and record-breaking drought:

Death, destruction as wetlands expire

January 22, 2007, 6:45 pm
New York Times op-ed piece on America's dangerous dams
Today's New York Times carries an op-ed piece by Jacques Leslie on the deplorable state of dam safety in the U.S. The apt title is Before the Flood.

The piece has already resulted in one promise of tangible change. The private owner of a 19-foot dam called Laura Wildman, who oversees the dam removal program at American Rivers, and asked for her help in dismantling his dam.

October 6, 2006, 7:40 pm
Unprecedented Drought in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin Continues
Australia's Murray-Darling Basin, the continent's only major river system and the subject of the last third of Jacques Leslie's DEEP WATER, remains mired in an increasingly severe drought, with devastating consequences for the basin's environment and farmers. Water inflows for the last several months are the lowest ever recorded for this time of year, eclipsing records set in 1902 and 1967.

For more information, refer to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission's latest Drought Update, issued on October 5.

September 22, 2006, 12:57 pm
Jacques Leslie wins Drunken Boat Pan-Literary Award in Nonfiction
Jacques Leslie's nonfiction short story, "Lisa's Shoe," has won the online literary journal Drunken Boat's Pan-Literary Award in Nonfiction.

To read the story, about a beloved shoe repairman in Mill Valley, California, go to Drunken Boat, click on "Jacques Leslie," then click on "Lisa's Shoe."

August 14, 2006, 11:44 pm
River Murray Enters 6th Drought Year, Alarming Die-off of Trees
Australia's Murray Basin, subject of the last third of DEEP WATER, is now in the sixth year of a once-in-a-century drought, causing severe hardship among residents and unprecedented environmental damage.

In its latest drought update, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission reports that the combination of the drought, the current level of development, and enormous diversion of water from the river, chiefly for agriculture, "pose a major threat to the health of vast areas of the floodplain."

Among the most horrific impacts is the deteriorating conditions of hundreds of thousands of river red gum trees, Australia's emblematic eucalyptus species. Two years ago a survey concluded that 75% of all the red gums in the Lower Murrray basin were "stressed," "near dead," or "dead." Now that number is unquestionably higher.(See circa-2004 photographs of the dying trees in the Australia section of the Deep Water portion of this website.)

For more information, go to the drought update.

August 11, 2006, 7:42 pm
Dams Exacerbate Flooding in Western India
Monsoon flooding that has killed 350 people and left more than four million people homeless was exacerbated by authorities' decisions to large quantities of water from dams, Reuters reports:

Dams blamed for fuelling Indian floods

July 18, 2006, 8:34 pm
SEJournal Praises DEEP WATER
In a review written for the Summer 2006 issue of the Society of Environmental Journalists' SEJournal, writer Nancy Bazilchuk praises DEEP WATER as a "compelling and impressively integrative" book.

She calls it "a richly written view of the protagonists' three worlds and the complexity of dam-building. Leslie has a wonderful eye for telling details that illuminate the larger picture. My favorite is his description of 'Muela, a village in the southern Africa country of Lesotho that has weathered the construction of a nearby dam. He writes:

"'Rondavels in sparse arced clusters overlooked the reservoir, and in their neatly thatched roofs exuded sufficiency. But above them ominously loomed the project's operations building, possessing a scale so unlike anything in its human-sized surroundings as to suggest that it had been deposited there by aliens, which, in a sense, it had. Massive and bland, it announced the arrival in 'Muela of modernity, three stories high and twenty-five horizontal windows per story, as linear as a milk carton...'"

June 27, 2006, 4:44 pm
"Over Her Dead Body," Leslie's short Mother Jones profile of Medha Patkar, now online.
The first third of Jacques Leslie's book, Deep Water, depicts Medha Patkar, the Indian woman considered the world's foremost antidam activist. Here's the thumbnail version, a piece in the July/August issue of Mother Jones. Read Over Her Dead Body.

June 20, 2006, 8:16 pm
Leslie's article on a proposal to raise Shasta Dam now online
Six Hundred Feet and Rising, Jacques Leslie's article on a government proposal to raise California's Shasta Dam, in the process inundating some of the last remaining ceremonial sites of a Northern California tribe called the Winnemem Wintu, is now online. The piece appears in the summer issue of OnEarth magazine.

For more information, see the Winnemem Wintu website.

June 4, 2006, 7:58 pm
Leslie's Columbia Journalism Review essay on book promotion, back surgery, and pain med addiction now online
Jacques Leslie's essay on book promotion, back surgery, and pain medication addiction appears in the May/June 2006 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.

It's available online at A Work in Progress.

May 8, 2006, 8:43 pm
Indian Supreme Court Says Sardar Sarovar Construction Can Continue
The Indian Supreme Court today said it would allow continued work on the Sardar Sarovar Dam, thereby dealing a severe setback to Medha Patkar and other dam opponents. See Work on Sardar Sarovar Dam can continue.

In a statement, Medha Patkar and other activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan called the decision "a death sentence for this most ancient valley and the civilisation." Go to Supreme Court violates its own former orders in favour of petty politics.

April 18, 2006, 10:13 pm
Patkar Ends Fast, Broadens Her Campaign
Medha Patkar ended her fast after twenty days without having moved the government to reverse its decision to raise Sardar Sarovar Dam by another 11 meters. But the Indian Supreme Court is holding a new hearing on the issue on May 1, leaving open the possibility that the Court will rule that the raise is illegal because so many people who would be inundated as a result of the raise have not been resettled.

Medha has now launched a new campaign to show that the three state governments dealing with Sardar Sarovar resettlement have not lived up to their resettlement claims. She hopes to influence the Court's decision on May 1.

For more information, go to Next on Medha Patkar's Agenda.

April 13, 2006, 3:14 pm
Patkar's fast enters 15th day, Indian govt. may relent
As Medha Patkar enters her fifteenth day of fasting, the Indian government has announced that it will review the recent decision to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam. But the review will not take place until April 15, and Ms. Patkar has said she will not stop her fast until a decision not to raise the dam is taken. Some reports indicate that the government is leaning towards reversing the decision to raise the dam. See Medha melts govt, dam may not rise, for example.

For information on sending an email message to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue, go to IRN Action Page.

April 10, 2006, 4:13 pm
Patkar in 12th day of fast, in stable condition in hospital
Medha Patkar is continuing her fast, even though she has been forcibly hospitalized and fed glucose and a saline solution intravenously.

Go to Patkar Continues Fast at AIIMS for more information.

April 5, 2006, 6:42 pm
Medha Patkar Forcibly Taken to Hospital
Already frail and in her eighth day of a hunger strike, Medha Patkar was arrested by New Delhi police and taken against her will to a hospital, where she may be force-fed.

For more information, go to Medha Patkar Critical, Forcibly Shifted To Hospital.

The international Rivers Network is requesting that protest letters be faxed to the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, at these numbers:

+91-11-23016857, +91-11-23019545 (PM Office)
+91-11-23015603 (PM Residence)

April 3, 2006, 2:52 pm
Medha Patkar Reported in Critical Condition
Medha Patkar is now reported in critical condition as a result of her hunger strike.

For more information go to Medha Patkar on strike, critical

April 3, 2006, 1:11 am
Medha Patkar on 5th day of hunger strike, condition said to be worsening
An appeal issued by the WaterWatch Alliance in New Delhi reports that Medha Patkar and two other activists are now in the fifth day of a hunger strike, and that Medha Patkar's health is "fast deteriorating."

The three activists are protesting a decision announced on March 8 by the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam by another eleven meters. This decision is in apparent conflict with a decision by the Indian Supreme Court to suspend further building of the dam until resettlement of affected villagers is complete. Narmada Bachao Andolan activists have been in New Delhi for the last two weeks seeking the attention of the Indian central government over the issue, but have so far failed to bring about a change of policy.

For more information, visit the website of Friends of the River Narmada.

March 15, 2006, 8:06 pm
DEEP WATER nominated for Northern California Book Award
DEEP WATER has been named one of five nominees for the Northern California Book Award in nonfiction.

The award has been given since 1981 by the Northern California Book Reviewers, a volunteer group of book reviewers and book review editors. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at the San Francisco Library's Koret Auditorium on April 5 at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

The nominees in the nonfiction category are:

* The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself, Philip L. Fradkin, University of California Press
* Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, Adam Hochschild, Houghton Mifflin
* Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers, Mark Klett, Rebecca Solnit, Byron G. Wolfe, Trinity University Press
* Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, Jacques Leslie, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
* 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, Jane Smiley, Alfred A. Knopf

December 21, 2005, 7:15 pm
DEEP WATER named one of year's top science books by Discover Magazine
Discover Magazine's January 2006 issue names DEEP WATER one of the "Top Science Books of the Year."

December 21, 2005, 7:05 pm
Brutal Lathi Charge Injures Dam-Displaced Farmers in Madhya Pradesh
Medha Patkar and associates report today that police charged protesting farmers in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, India, injuring farmers and a cameraman. Go to Brutal Lathi Charge

December 2, 2005, 2:26 pm
Marin Independent-Journal Profile Calls DEEP WATER's Scope "Huge— as Huge as the Planet."
A Nov. 29 profile in the Marin Independent-Journal describes the effort that went into Deep Water.
The article, "Local writer exposes murky business behind dams," by I-J reporter Rick Polito, quotes media critic Norman Solomon on Jacques' work:
"'His writing tries to go beyond the usual boundaries of journalism... to ultimately present a lot of different layers of experience, from micro to macro, from the individual's effort to the broad issues that are often discussed abstractly,' Solomon says.
"Leslie was able to do that, says Jonathan Rowe, director of the Tomales Bay Institute, by immersing himself in the subject, sometimes literally. 'He slept under the mosquito nets in the sweltering heat. He walked the walk,' says Rowe...
"'He went out and told an environmental story with the thoroughness and cultural richness and depth that you just don't find every day.'"

December 2, 2005, 2:12 pm
"Damming the World Bank," article in
Jacques' Nov. 23 article on, "Damming the World Bank," describes how the Bank has repeatedly commissioned independent commissions to study its dam-building practices, then has ignored the commissions' recommendations.

October 25, 2005, 1:24 pm
Grist carries Jacques' comments on rebuilding New Orleans
Grist asked what it called "a mess of smart people" to offer advice on how to rebuild New Orleans. Scroll to the bottom of "We Rebuilt This City" for Jacques' response.

October 16, 2005, 11:41 pm
5,000 people demonstrate over meager Indira Sagar Dam resettlement, NBA says
Indira Sagar is one of four large dams that comprise a massive Narmada River irrigation "package." Just as with the Sardar Sarovar Dam described in Deep Water, the Indira Sagar resettlement is a shabby business."Huge demonstration of Indira Sagar oustees," says an Oct. 14 press release issued by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement).

October 15, 2005, 7:14 pm
C-SPAN2 to re-broadcast DEEP WATER reading on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific time (2:30 a.m. Monday, Eastern time)
This is a one-hour-long presentation of a DEEP WATER reading originally performed at Copperfield's Book Store in Santa Rosa, CA on Sept. 15.

October 15, 2005, 7:09 pm
Jacques Leslie appears on Air America's Ecotalk
To listen to a six-minute interview with Betsy Rosenberg on Ecotalk, go to (which may require registration on Air America), scroll down to the October 7, 2005 program, and click on "Listen" at the end of the second paragraph, which introduces DEEP WATER.

October 14, 2005, 5:38 pm
marvelous review of DEEP WATER in Columbia Journalism Review now online
Tom Vanderbilt's wonderful review is now up. Go to "When Elephants Fight."

October 12, 2005, 6:37 pm
A favorable review of DEEP WATER in Grist Magazine
Grist lauds Deep Water's "lovely details and useful insights." Go to "Damalot".

September 29, 2005, 12:27 pm
South Australia's Coorong lagoon risks permanent collapse, studies suggest
Scientific studies recently conducted on the Coorong, the lagoon described at the end of _Deep Water_, indicate that it is close to permanent collapse. The studies say that:

-Though the Coorong once was Australia's largest permanent pelican breeding colony, pelicans have not bred there for four years

-Salinity levels are three times that of sea water.

-12 species of fish are locally extinct, and migratory wading bird populations have dropped from 150,000 in the 1980s to 50,000 now.

See Environment Victoria's press release, National Icon in Crisis, for more.

September 28, 2005, 2:01 pm
Hurricanes Are A Global Warming Wake-up Call, Tim Flannery says
The hurricanes devastating the American coast are the wake-up call the world needs, says Tim Flannery, Australia's best known scientist. Do nothing about climate change, and the collapse of civilisation is 'inevitable,' he says.

Read more on scientific luminaries' reactions to the hurricanes in "Ill winds that whisper the collapse of civilisation".

Flannery's "The Future Eaters" is quoted extensively in Deep Water.

September 27, 2005, 12:28 pm
Patkar and Andolan report that tribal people near Sardar Sarovar Dam are being evicted to promote tourism

About 900 tribal families living near Sardar Sarovar are now being threatened with eviction to make room for an "eco-tourism" project that includes water parks, golf courses, hotels and restaurants, according to a press release signed by Medha Patkar and issued by her Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement).

The Sept. 26 statement, carried on the Right to Water listserv, says that the "eco" in "eco-tourism" "seems to stand for 'economic' and not 'ecological.'"

Many of these potential oustees lost their lands in 1961, when the Sardar Sarover Dam was first planned, but have managed to continue living at their homesites since then. But even as they face eviction, they have never been recognized as "project-affected persons," and therefore have not received land to replace what they've lost.

September 27, 2005, 12:05 pm
Join the online conversation about DEEP WATER
Go to Inkwell.vue to read and participate in a conversation about Deep Water. Topics addressed so far include dam's environmental impacts, ways of replacing the water storage and electricity that dams generate, and the planning that went into the writing of the book.

September 23, 2005, 1:24 am review of "masterful" DEEP WATER
In a combination review of Deep Water and interview with me called "Earth be dammed, Salon's Ira Boudway writes, "The modern dam has come to signify both the majesty and folly of our age's drive to conquer nature-- a duality that Leslie captures masterfully in 'Deep Water'."

... The book is "a startling peek at the world our descendants will inherit."

September 22, 2005, 4:38 pm
C-SPAN2 to air DEEP WATER reading on Sunday, Sept. 25
Last week I walked into Copperfield's Bookstore in Santa Rosa, Calif. to do a reading from Deep Water. I expected a small crowd, maybe ten or twelve people, and that's about how many people were in the audience-- plus a C-SPAN crew. I had about three minutes to think about whether I'd make changes in my presentation to address Katrina (the news peg that C-SPAN apparently intended to hang the program on), and settled for making Katrina the first question in the Q and A after the reading.

Now comes news that C-SPAN2 will air the reading three times on Sunday, Sept. 25: at 6 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m. Eastern time (3 a.m., 9 a.m., and 1 p.m. Pacific time).

Here's the URL for the program: Deep Water readings

September 16, 2005, 1:28 pm
Bill McKibben Gives DEEP WATER a Rave Review
Bill McKibben, an elegant environmental writer, has given Deep Water a rave review. In the fall issue of OnEarth, the Natural Resources Defense Council publication, McKibben calls Deep Water "heir, both in organization and in power, to Encounters With the Archruid, John McPhee's classic profile of [David] Brower and his fight against damnation....

McKibben calls the book "beautiful," "stunning," and "incantatory."

For the full review, go to "How Much for that Dam?"

September 16, 2005, 1:19 pm
DEEP WATER gets a starred review in Sept. 15 issue of Booklist
Deep Water has gotten a starred review from Booklist, the American Library Association publication. The review by Donna Seaman says Leslie's "extensive research and demanding journeys to controversial dam sites around the world result in solid documentation of the often-corrupt finances and politics of dam building and the cruelty and injustice of the displacement of (usually) indigenous communities and the submergence of their land... Leslie's edgy, potent, and in-depth inquiry unveils the drastic, unintentional consequences of dams and exposes yet more evidence of the catastrophic results of allowing greed and politics to trump science and justice."

September 12, 2005, 1:10 pm
Columbia Journalism Review's rave review of DEEP WATER
The Columbia Journalism Review's fall books issue features reviews of five books, one of which is Deep Water. The 1,500-word review by Tom Vanderbilt compares Deep Water to writing on dams by Joan Didion and John McPhee. Whereas Didion and McPhee focus on the dams themselves, producing "brilliant but limited" accounts, Deep Water's subjects are people— specifically, three people who lives are profoundly involved with dams. "This makes all the difference," the review says. "It renders in human scale issues whose contours are vastly spreading, difficult to read, intertwined, and contradictory....

"Leslie is a keen observer of people and an evocative cartographer of place. He has spent years on research and traveled far and repeatedly, often to speak to people who had few more possessions than the chairs on which they and Leslie sat. He delivers scene and mood with the economy and precision of a good novelist. His profiles are so well observed one forgets that the characters have not sprung from his own imagination...."

Though the CJR website doesn't carry the review, it does include a provocative introduction.

September 11, 2005, 2:28 pm
Sacramento and the Auburn Dam
Here's my latest short opus, in the opinion section of today's Sacramento Bee: "A dam that would not die

August 31, 2005, 8:24 pm
Two Points about Katrina
One, the extent of the hurricane’s devastation is greatly attributable to the human-engineered diversion of the Mississippi River over the last 150 years. While the changes facilitated navigation and eliminated all but the largest floods, they made the Mississippi Delta vulnerable to the kind of tragedy it is now experiencing. Sediment borne by the river that once fortified the Delta was instead propelled all the way into the Gulf of Mexico, causing the horrific coastal erosion and wetlands destruction that has plagued the Delta ever since. As the Washington Post explained today, the Louisiana coastline now loses 25 square miles a year. In another era, wetlands would have partially absorbed the storm surge produced by a Katrina-sized hurricane; in their absence, Katrina’s storm surge extended as much as a mile inland, and set in motion the inundation of New Orleans. The calamity shows the fallacy of flood protection, which in its capacity to limit moderate-sized floods produces the illusion that it can also stop the big ones. Flood protection failed here, while inducing a complacency that added to the city’s vulnerability.

Two, it becomes more and more likely that the growing intensity and frequency of hurricanes are artifacts of global warming. (See today’s Los Angeles Times on this subject.) Commingled with our horror over the tragedy that has befallen Gulf Coast residents is irritation at hearing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, of all people, bemoan their fate. It is Barbour, after all, who as Republican National Chairman forcefully and, by many accounts, successfully lobbied President Bush to reject the Kyoto treaty on the grounds that global warming is a sham. (Here’s Robert Kennedy on the subject.) Katrina is likely only one is a series of steadily intensifying monster storms. Now, while there still may be hope of limiting the acceleration of global warming decades from now, the best thing Barbour could do is acknowledge that it is he who has perpetrated a sham.

August 31, 2005, 11:10 am
Mother Jones' favorable review of DEEP WATER
This nice review appears at:

Deep Water

August 23, 2005, 2:48 pm
first review of DEEP WATER in World Rivers Review
The International Rivers Network's newsletter, World Rivers Review, carries the first published review of Deep Water. The review is on page 10.

August 23, 2005, 2:34 pm
Court Slows Down Resettlement on Indira Sagar Dam
This release from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) describes a decision by the Madhya Pradesh High Court temporarily preventing dam authorities from submerging 91 villages affected by construction of the Indira Sagar Dam on the Narmada River. The Indira Sagar is one of three dams upstream from the Sardar Sarovar Dam and meant to store water for the canal that runs from Sardar Sarovar.

Indira Sagar