- American Beauties — Stories on the Plastic Bag (Topic | August 2018) *Select bibliography
- What The Stone Said (Orion Magazine | forthcoming Summer 2018)
- Everything Is Going To Have To Be Put Back — A Letter to America on Plastic (Terrain | June 2018)
- How The Benzene Tree Polluted the World (The Atlantic | October 2017) *Select bibliography
- On Pollution — An interview-essay with Caspar Henderson. (Five Books | September 2017)
- The 55-Gallon Drum, An Object Lesson (The Atlantic | November 2016) *Select bibliography
- American Petro-topia (Aeon Magazine | March 2015 Reprinted, Utne Reader | Winter 2017) *Select bibliography
- When The Raspberries Come (Brain, Child | August 2014)
- The Homes We Drove Past (Full Grown People | October 2014 )
- On What We Bury (ISLE | Special Edition on Climate Change | Winter 2014)
Rebecca Altman is a writer and sociologist. Her work explores the social history of chemistry, plastics, pollution and environmental legacy— what we pass from one generation to the next. Recent essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Aeon Magazine, Terrain, Brain, Child, and ISLE.
She is represented by Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates and is at work on a manuscript— an intimate history of plastics.
Rebecca holds a PhD in environmental sociology from Brown University, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Science and Environmental Health Network, a national think-tank. With SEHN, she has worked on projects from the rights of future generations to a livable planet to the perpetual care of communities affected by chronic contamination. She has taught courses on environmental health and justice for the Community Health Program at Tufts University, and speaks on topics ranging from plastics to legacy contaminants and creative nonfiction. Her research on biomonitoring, body burden(s), the environmental health movement, and toxic exposure has been published in such journals as The American Journal of Public Health, Environmental Health Perspectives, and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
Originally from New Jersey, she is relocating to Providence, Rhode Island this summer with her husband, their two sons and her in-laws.
American Petro-topia, Aeon Magazine (2015)
"The daughter of a plastics manufacturer assesses the toxics that get passed from one generation to another, in her family and yours. First published in 2015, this story, like petrochemistry, stays with you." —Longreads.com
"Make(s) plastic achingly personal." —Toxic Legacies
"The way Altman’s essay tentacles in many directions is a simulacrum of the subtle pervasiveness of plastic itself and the ways in which it permeates our lives. It’s around us, in us, of us... It’s a complicated piece that has left me with a lot to think about..." —Amanda Giracca for Vela
"We must be more plastic— willing to adapt as changing environmental conditions press us."
Herbst Theater, San Francisco | 10.10.2017
Watch Rebecca's TEDx talk here.
*Thanks to Kate Orff, Justin Hofman, Max Liboiron/CLEAR, Five Films, All Things Bakelite, and Chelsea Rochman and colleagues for granting permission to feature their maps, art, images, data and footage, and to Igor Celikovic, for helping to construct additional slides.