Trump Revolution: Climate Crisis, the second in the BDC’s photography series examining the consequences of President Trump’s election, documents the overturning of decades of American environmental policy, and the profound effects on American society and our planet at large.
For tens of thousands of years, humans were mostly along for the ride on this planet, subject to whims of nature largely outside our control. We remain deeply vulnerable to nature, but in the hundred-plus years since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution we’ve left our own footprint as we unleashed the power of fossil fuels, building wealth while decimating nature. In August 2016, the International Union of Geological Sciences declared that the planet had entered a new geological era — known as the Anthropocene — defined by human influence, most importantly man-made climate change. A few months later, Donald Trump won his surprise election as U.S. president.
In some ways, Trump was a fitting pick for the dawn of this new era, his rhetoric on climate and the environment focused largely on what humans could extract from the earth rather than efforts to protect it. Trump certainly didn’t create the environmental crisis that has left millions gasping for clean air and water, nor did he initiate our malign addiction to fossil fuels, which has heated the planet to the detriment of billions of people. But his arrival as a political force in this critical moment signalled trouble ahead for the slow-moving efforts to address these issues.
Trump has followed through on that promise. Since taking office, he has ended U.S. global collaboration on measures to tackle climate change, eliminated key protections for public lands and rolled back dozens of environmental rules, including landmark regulations to limit transportation and power plant greenhouse gas emissions. In a sense, the Trump Administration's action on the environment cuts deeper than simple regulatory rollbacks: his administration has sought to root out science-based decision-making across the board. Committees dedicated to scientific expertise have been disbanded across the government, meanwhile Trump welcomed a panel aimed at critiquing climate science and appointed a prominent coal lobbyist to lead—and partly dismantle— the Environmental Protection Agency.
We will certainly feel the effects of those decisions for decades to come, and yet it’s evident even now. As seen in the photos of Bryan Thomas, Americans who live on eroding coastal shores are losing their homes and livelihoods. Stacy Kranitz’s work explores how millions of Americans, particularly low-income and people of color, breathe polluted air and drink contaminated water, taking years off their lives. Marcus Yam’s harrowing images show Californians living on the edge of wildfire-zones, increasingly at risk of losing their homes, or worse. Katie Orlinsky, Kadir van Lohuizen and Yuri Kozyrev document life and environmental disaster in lands to the north, bringing attention to the melting permafrost and the resulting changes to indigenous communities. Through photos, words and multimedia this exhibition examines the devastation of our environment, threatening our economic stability and livelihood, and the very existence of life on this planet.
Text written by Justin Worland.
This exhibition was curated by Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera.