In this Oct. 31, 2019, photo, smoke from the Maria Fire billows above Santa Paula, Calif. California regulators are voting Wednesday, Nov. 13, on whether to open an investigation into pre-emptive power outages that blacked out large parts of the state for much of October as strong winds sparked fears of wildfires. The state’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., initiated multiple rounds of shut-offs that plunged nearly 2.5 million people into darkness throughout northern and central California. © Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times. From “Trump
Revolution: Climate Crisis” presented by the Bronx Documentary Center
After a successful hunt, Josiah Olemaun, a young whaling crew member takes a break from moving and stacking whale meat into his family’s ice cellar in Utqiagvik, Alaska. April 29th, 2018. Ice cellars are generations-old massive underground freezers dug deep into the permafrost. As permafrost thaws it is wreaking havoc, melting what used to be permanently frozen ground and destroying and flooding many ice cellars. Others have warmed up to a point that they are unusable, spoiling whale meat and other crucial hunted foods.  © Katie Orlinsky
On a summer bird hunt, Kenyon Kassaiuli, Jonah Andy, Larry Charles, and Reese John cross a flooded walkway in Newtok, Alaska. May 27th, 2019. The Yupik village of Newtok, Alaska, population 380, is sinking as the permafrost beneath it thaws. Erosion has already wiped out nearly a mile of Newtok’s land, and it is estimated that in three to five years it could be underwater. The entire village is in the process of moving to Mertarvik, a new village site about nine miles away. Newtok is the first community in Alaska that has already begun relocation as a direct result of climate change—pioneering a process that many other Alaskan villages may soon undergo.  © Katie Orlinsky

Homo sapiens first appeared in the nearly 200,000 years ago in Ethiopia. Their footprints have vanished, their accomplishments turned to dust—but one thing that survived them is their stewardship of the earth. But with the advent of European exploration into the Western Hemisphere, the seeds of climate change were planted, taking root during the Industrial Revolution, and progressing at a cataclysmic rate that now poses an existential threat to life as we know it. For Trump Revolution: Climate Crisis, the second installment in the Bronx Documentary Center’s series exploring the impact of the Presidency of Donald Trump, curators Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera explore how the 45th President of the United States has overturned decades of environmental policy in just a few year.

Bringing together the work of photographers Stacy Kranitz, Kadir van Lohuizen, Yuri Kozyrev, Katie Orlinsky, Bryan Thomas, and Marcus Yam, the exhibition looks at the profound effects of White House policy on American society and the planet itself. Here Michael Kamber, Founder and Executive Director, shares his insights into this harrowing chapter of contemporary American life, sharing the impact of an anti-science administration on the people and the land.

A 16-year-old resident of Island View Drive wipes her tears, as she looks on at her family’s home destroyed by the Thomas fire, the morning after the fire started, in Ventura, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2017. © Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times

Could you give us a sense of where Climate Crisis fits into the larger Trump Revolution exhibition series?

“Love him or hate him, President Trump has completely turned America upside down in a number of inter-related ways. So the BDC is looking at foreign policy, immigration, the media, nationalism and the environment in our Trump Revolution series. The environmental decisions made by Trump may very well have the most long lasting, destructive and  far-reaching effects of anything that he has done.”

Could you speak about what you see as the most important aspects facing the nation and the globe as a result of Trump White House policy on climate change?

“Pulling out of the Paris accords was a devastating blow to international cooperation on reducing global warming. But it doesn’t stop there. Trump has literally put oil and coal lobbyists in leading positions at the EPA and other agencies as you can see on our exhibition site. He and his appointees have rescinded hundreds of regulations protecting the environment and stopping global warming. They are green-lighting fossil fuel projects at national parks around the country and deregulating our country‘s largest polluters. From an ecological point of view the results are devastating.”

How did you determine which photographers and stories you wanted to feature in the exhibition?

We looked at a broad range of projects from around the country. We wanted to make sure we had good geographic diversity as well as diversity in terms of subject matter. It was important to get the California wildfires in there but also to show rising sea levels, the melting of the permafrost in Alaska and the effect of fossil fuel companies that are continuing to pollute our environment in the American South.”

April 2017, Louisiana. The massive Exxon chemical plant is situated next to the ExxonMobil Refinery in the Standard Heights neighborhood of Baton Rouge. ExxonMobil Chemical Company has been caught regularly releasing air pollution above what is lawfully allowed in its permit. The harmful and hazardous air pollutants include dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals and gases such as benzene, toluene, propylene, ethylene, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hexane, methylene chloride, and other volatile organic compounds. Evidence also shows that the plant has released toxic air pollution that the facility doesn’t have permits to release. Exxon’s reporting consistently lacks enough detail to comply with regulations and does not provide nearby residents crucial information about their potential exposures to dangerous pollution. © Stacy Kranitz

Could you discuss the interconnections that exists between these various projects, such as the melting polar caps and rising sea levels, and their impact on states as far apart as Alaska and Florida?

“It has been well documented at this point that there is no place on earth, and certainly not in the US, that has not been strongly affected by climate change. From the rising sea levels, to the increasing wildfires, to the extinction of species, we are in the midst of an interconnected environmental disaster that we have not yet begun to understand or to cope with. This is affecting Americans from Alaska to Florida to Maine.”

Could you speak about how photographs can convey the issues of climate change, and how visualizing the issues at stake help people better understand the scale and scope of the crisis?

“As with many things, we frequently see a statistic that gives you a percentage or a degree. It can be very hard to actually visualize and understand the crisis at hand. The photos from our exhibition on the enormous wildfires ripping through California or the indigenous peoples in Alaska or the lives of African Americans in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley are undeniable documents that bring the crisis home.”

Many people feel overwhelmed by the issues raised by climate crisis. Do you have any suggestions for how they can contribute the cause?

“The BDC’s mission is not to tell people how to live and I think everyone needs to evaluate their own lifestyle and decide what is right for them. Small changes and increased awareness do make a big difference however. 

“One of the biggest differences people can make is simply turning off their air conditioners. One air conditioner often uses more electricity than everything else in your house combined. Turning off AC when you’re not home goes a long way.

“Giving up meat is another step people can take in helping to protect the environment: the waste products and intensive feeding process for the millions of animals that we slaughter each year is catastrophic. And there are now quite good soy products available that taste very much like meat. “

“Recycling, which many of us already do, makes a big difference but I find that many people don’t actually recycle correctly so learning about local guidelines can be a big step. Improperly recycling means that most or all of what you put in a recycle bin may get thrown into a landfill.

“Of course driving a car less, riding a bike, flying less frequently, line drying your laundry and many more small changes add up to a real difference. Educating your children and neighbors about the importance of conservation is also important.

“Lastly, people can reach out to their local representatives to let them know that they care about this and vote for candidates that support their way of life and will keep the earth in better shape for our children.”

Construction begins on the Auberge Beach Residences & Spa in Fort Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The residences, which feature the artwork of Fernando Botero, range from $1.5 million to $9 million. The streets of nearby Fort Lauderdale regularly flood during “king tides” and, according to Climate Central researcher Benjamin Strauss, “even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, and Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level.” © Bryan Thomas 2020
Esmeralda Garcia, Kali Cedeno, and Anthony Cedeno pose for a portrait in Destin, Florida. As humans continue to pollute the environment, our “sea level debt” grows. Sea level debt is the long-term sea level rise that we cannot avoid. In Destin, given current trends in pollution, 50% of the city will be underwater by the year 2070. © Bryan Thomas 2020