Environmental Photographer Captures Climate Change
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Climate were protecting the people the two things are connected climate protection equals people protection and Maureen Corrigan reviews black as the body autobiographical essays by Emily Bernard. Our guest James Bay. Log is an award winning photographer whose work explores the relationship between humans and nature. It's a subject that's taken on increased urgency. He believes with growing evidence of the impact of climate change. He was last on our show to talk about climate change and the melting of Arctic glacial ice, which he documented through time lapse photography that led to his project, the extreme ice survey and his film chasing ice. Now. He's featured in a new documentary called the human element which follows him as he documents places and people affected by rising oceans wildfires and air pollution associated with climate change. The film is available for streaming on itunes and other digital platforms. James Baylor is founder of the earth vision institute, and is the author of eight books. He spoke with fresh Air's Dave Davies, James Bay. Log welcome back to fresh air. You want to? Plane the conceptual framework for this film. What you set out to do? Delighted to be here in the story of the film is really based on a very ancient conception of the world, which is that there are these elemental forces that that govern our existence earth, air, fire and water and really one of the breakthrough ideas in science of the last century or two is that humanity is a really powerful force in the world is well, a fifth elements essentially, so that's it. It's that that the film is based around. So in the film, you I address water and the impact of humanity on the water on the planet. And of course, some may know that several years back, I guess in two thousand five you started the extreme ice project to document the melting of the glaciers you want to just explain what that is. And kind of what it shows us clearly basically starting in two thousand five. Start at the extreme ice survey in it's still live in ongoing in the fields. We just finished our twelfth field season. And in simplest terms were were making a photographic documentation of how the world's glaciers and ice sheets are retreating as a consequence of a warming climate one of the most widely talked about aspects of the project is that we have time lapse cameras bolted to bedrock alongside the Termini or the terminuses of various glaciers from Greenland to Alaska to Iceland to Antarctica. And they're clicking away. These cameras every half hour around the clock has lungs. It's daylight making record of how the world is changing. And in the course of the past twelve years we've amassed a in. Our cub of roughly million in half pictures, showing the change in the landscape. These images are the real world. Tangible evidence of climate change in action, you can see it. And and and if if you have the headphones turned on you can hear it, you know, so so the the extreme I survey is evidence. It's actual living visual evidence of how the world is changing. Of course, see levels have been rising, and you go to some places to look at where that's truly affecting people now, including Norfolk Virginia, which is right at sea level and a little island called Tange ear ten year island in Chesapeake Bay what's happening there. There's a straight line connection between melting ice and rising seas. When you take water that's in its solid form on land. And you melt it it has to go somewhere and that somewhere is the ocean. And of course, the ocean laps up against all of these civilized places. So we're in the midst of having a gigantic chain. Change in the boundary conditions between the seas and civilization the Caesar rising, but they're also coming laterally farther inland. His specialty during the big storms. So you see it most acutely on the east coast in Norfolk in on Tanja island both of which are in lower Chesapeake Bay tanger- is in the process of being completely submerged by the seas. And Norfolk already has a lot of neighborhoods. Very pleasant. Nice. Well, established neighborhoods that are getting overtaken by the high tide in in the autumns. And during the autumn tides known as king tides and these front lawns and streets are getting saturated. It's way worse in all of these kinds of places when the storms come in and drive more water in off the ocean. So reusing the Chesapeake Bay story is as an example of conditions that are. Changing all up and down the east coast. It's most photograph -able and Chesapeake, but it's happening in Miami. It's happening in the Carolinas. It's happening is well, obviously in the Mississippi delta, we've all heard a lot about that. And of course, parts of New York City are impacted in a similar fashion again, especially during the big storms like superstorm, sandy. Well, so tell us about coming to tanger- island. This is a community of Justice you hundred people and they've gotten some attention before you arrive there. What do you see? And how do you wanna tell the story? What you see is. It charming community almost at sea level, the the houses a hundred or so of them are built on these the airy slight little ridges of sand that are surrounded by saltwater marshes. And so on the high tides in September, October November sometimes December when the high tides come up twice a day, you watch the ocean coming in right through those marshes into People's Front yards lapping at their doorsteps. It's pretty amazing. And you you just say to yourself my God how long can this go on? I mean, Wendy, you know, pack up your your when do you pack up your gear and move similar situations. Apply in places like Charleston, South Carolina have photographed there during a hurricane Matthew a few years ago and to watch the flooding that those people are subjected to during the storm it just. Kind of makes your head spin. I just can't understand how people accept that year. After year, you have a conversation with the mayor of tanger- goes by the name of ochre. He describes himself as a Waterman has a unique. Accent was interesting to hear that one of the place. He takes you is what used to be a graveyard. That's pretty remarkable. What do you say? Yeah. Pretty staggering. There was a there was a graveyard that goes back hundreds of years out on the the edge of the island, and that whole area that used to actually be a village as well has been washed away over the past hundred years or so and so in the in the film, we see euchre discovering this old marble tombstone that lays over one of the ancestors of the people who still live on the island. So he picks up the this marble tombstone goes, oh, man. Okay. Things change. Aging. Most of the graveyard has washed into Chesapeake Bay at this point the tombstones the coffins everything it's gone and he picks up human bone fragments. Yeah. That's that's right. Either human bone fragments that are washed up on the beach. Let's just here. Just a little bit of this. This is the mayor of tanger- speaking about the missing graveyard the graveyard. That's been washed away. When you're walking up here at the site of whether community was it can be depressing to this day. You're still fond bone fragments from the graveyards at road in went into the bay. Here's one of the one of the headstones from the graveyard. I actually no, I know a guy down on y'all and just was was his grandmother. That's from the film, the human element. That features our guest photographer James Bay. Log. You know, you you have kids come into the water and photograph them, and it struck me that they're sort of a symbolic way that they are telling the story that the danger of climate change poses tells a little bit about some of the shots. He L you you you hit the nail on the head. They are meant to be symbols of of the time that were in their symbols for all of us stand ins for all of us. So what we see our children in the portrait's mostly inundated in the in the rising water, and what I mean to say with head is that the the world that those children will know when they're fully mature adults in entering their old age will be a very different world than the world that we see today. So the pictures show the water way way up on the kids as a way of kind of startling us. And making us wonder what's going on in the world. The rising water in tanger- island has been reported on for a while. I think there was a New York Times magazine story about it. I wonder if the residents were at all reluctant or a little bit cynical about another film crew or photographer coming in to get their pictures, and then leave them to their fate. I didn't sense cynicism or resistance per se. But I did certainly sense a bit of a schism in the way, they view in this this situation on the one hand you had people saying there's no rising sees this is all about erosion and on the other hand they'd be talking about rising seas. And we need one hundred million dollar plus handout from the federal government. And then on the other hand there. They're rabid anti-government, folk, you know, they they don't they don't like the federal government's they don't like taxes, but they want the handout and then to add yet another on the other hand, one of the the the the prominent women on the island who we who we see in the film says, you know, we're just one storm away from. Coming part of history. It's a it's a it's a shocking of, you know, knife to the heart when you hear that in the film. Yeah. And this is something that struck me about a lot of the interviews, and photographs and and film that we see here is people who are suffering terrible facts. And in the case of tanger- island, the possible elimination of their community, and the mayor what he wants the government to spend a hundred million dollars to create a seawall all the way around the island. And I wanted to what extent people do connect this with something global, you know, with policies that are enacted by people they vote into office, and that they need to pay attention to. There is a strange disconnect on a lot of these things. And it's frustrating exasperatingly for me. You know, I. Tile the dots. Together. I see how the pieces fit together. And that's really what this film is about. But we've we find over and over again that if people's ideology conflict with their observed reality around them, they tend to stay with the ideology instead of going. I think we need to throw out the ideology and look at the evidence of our senses in our experience. It's a very strange characteristic of the human mind to do that. Why would you not use the evidence of your senses to bear witness to the world around you and change your ideas based on that evidence? So the folks in tanger- that you spoke to by and large. Aren't aren't conscious of climate change and advocating policies to to to reverse it? They're ideologically opposed to the concept of climate change because they perceive it to be part of some sort of cabal to make the government more powerful to have more taxes to whatever or it. Or it's an idea that comes from pointy headed intellectuals in the cities. And you know, it's it's it's frustrating. But they've got the if got the living evidence of it right there. One of the people who is with you tanger- island is a I think marine biologist from the US army corps of engineers who kind of explains what's happening. And he also says what is a head for not just tanger- island, but for other places like Miami and Norfolk Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. What does he say? The marine biologists. Name is Dave Solti. And he has studied this issue extensively, and he talks about how some places may have to be sacrificed. He says look there's there's only so much money to go around in our society to protect these various populations and the big cities will always figure out how to have enough money to take care of themselves. But some of the smaller places he may need to move because there isn't enough money to take care of everybody. So you talk about the air one of the other elements, the ancients thought comprised our our world and how it has been affected by climate change. And it's interesting because you're a photographer waters, quite visible fire is very dramatic. The air is invisible, you conjured some ways to capture images that deliver, you know, the impact of this. What you do? Yeah. Air was the hardest part of this entire story. You know error is invisible. It's all around us all the time. It actually has weight in mass and volume we depend on we inhale the stuff twenty thousand times a day at least so it's an intimate part of our lives. But you can't see it. So what to do one of the things was I put a time lapse camera in a weather balloon in in partnership with a friend of mine named Patrick Cullis, who's very clever, physicists knows how to handle weather balloons. So we turn the camera on to shoot one picture every second, and we released the weather balloon in it floated right up through the atmosphere the motivation here was that. I wanted to see the incredible view that the astronauts see knowing that I'll never be an astronaut and look down on that that sin layer of air that surrounds the earth. But let my camera. Do it for me. It's my surrogate my little robot so up. Goes the camera and within about thirty five or forty minutes. That camera was was well out of the breathable atmosphere. It was up in the blackness of space and seeing that thin thin in blue membrane bear that surrounds us. So that that boggled my mind in just barely over half an hour a balloon can float up to outer space. That's how thin the Erez, and we all down here on terra firma. We spend our lives thinking, oh, you know. There's that Seru leeann dome over our heads, and it's pretty infinite. Well, guess what it is an infant? And it's a thin little nothing kind of a place that very quickly goes out into the naked black void or the galaxy. Right. And a cool moment is you actually have a video camera on the the weather balloon, you see it burst. When it reaches. What about seventy thousand feet or one hundred thousand feet, and it floats to Erin a- para? Shia cooling this. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The balloon actually burst at nine thousand nine hundred. Thousand seven hundred feet, and then the camera came back to earth on a little little parachute in landed out in a farmer's field. My little camera came back to earth in gave us that story. It's interesting that in and looking at the issue of air pollution. You're in Colorado, which I think a lot of us think of is, you know, the place of Big Sky and clean air. And there are some serious issues. And you have this fascinating right in a van that's rigged out with this really expensive measuring equipment with a scientists. Jessica gilman. What are you doing? Is you drive through these areas? And what is what do you see? Well, they had they had more than a million dollars worth of very sophisticated air chemistry. Sampling equipment in that van. And so we're picking up the different constituents of pollution that are in the atmosphere as we're driving out in northeastern, Colorado. So this becomes of course, a really ironic story. Because as you point out, we all think of the the Rockies in Colorado has having this fabulously clean wonderful air. I live in that area. And I was stunned to discover how contaminated the air has become it's tailpipe pollution from our cars and our trucks. It's a power plant emissions. It's the what are called fugitive emissions from oil and gas wells in northeastern, Colorado. There's twenty some thousand live oil and gas wells right now in many times that of old abandoned oil and gas wells in these things are mostly intact, and they don't leak at least in the relatively near term of their lives, but eventually a pretty substantial fraction of these facilities leak. The, you know, the gaskets were out the metal gets rusty or whatever and gases come leaking from underground. And that winds up in the air. We breath. So we made pictures of that. And then in addition to all of that we're watching wildfire smoke blowing across our part of the country for months at a time. Now, I can tell you twenty or thirty years ago. It was really rare thing to live along the edge of the front range of Colorado in c Brown skies from wildfire smoke blowing in from you know, where wherever it was coming in from that was rare twenty thirty forty years ago. Now, we typically spend three or four months from June through September where the sky is Brown more often than it's clear in. That's all the fire smoke coming either from the Colorado Rockies from Arizona from California from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana or even all the way up far up in Canada in the northwest. Territories we have wildfires going on constantly, and we breathe it. But guess what the rest of the country breathes to it may be. Visible, but it's mixing in with air that all of us breath. We're listening to the interview fresh Air's Dave Davies recorded with James Bay, log the new documentary the human element follows him as he photographs people and places affected by rising oceans wildfires and air pollution associated with climate change. They'll talk more after a break and book critic, Maureen Corrigan will review Emily Bernard's new collection of autobiographical essays, titled black is the body. I'm Terry gross. And this is fresh air support for this podcast and the following message. Come from each raid. You want to invest your money? But there's one problem you're not sure where to begin. Luckily, there's each raid each rate simplifies investing without the financial jargon. Plus, they're easy to use platform keeps you in the know about your money it all times. And if you need a hand at any point each raise investment professionals are standing by to help for more information. Visit each rate dot com slash NPR each rate securities LLC member. Fenra SIPC this is fresh air. And we're speaking with photographer James Bay, log his work is featured in the new documentary about the impact of climate change called the human element. You spent some time with the family in Denver. And I thought we would listen to a clip from the film here. We're hanging woman named yet era Sanchez who has three or four kids. I think and they all have asthma. She has they have it and it begins when she's about getting them out in the morning getting ready to go to school, and she's giving them their medicine through an inhaler which she holds while they stand she places it over their nose and mouth. Let's listen to this. After we moved to this part of town, my older, son. Ruben started developing asthma. My daughter Olivia we had to start her on medications at the age of one, and they're Nardo was just kind of born into it. Kay Cass job. Now, go rinse your mouth, really good. Please. All of us have asthma. So we're indoor people we're not outdoor people. The pollution here in the neighborhood is pretty extreme. And you know, we have the refinery. And all of the pollution from the semis that pass through. As MS a normal thing in this part of town. One of the questions that a lot of people have asked is why haven't you moved? Why why don't you just move because moving takes money, and that is good era. Sanchez speaking in the documentary, the human element, which features the photography and the work of our guest James Bay, log up it's powerful to see these kids at home. And then you go to the school, and that's really affecting. What do you see there? Many as Matic children need a medical intervention medicine. So many times each day that they often can't very effectively go to regular schools. So so the Sanchez family goes to a special school within national Jewish hospital in Denver and at that school. They have all day long nursing care couple of different nurses, take care of them in the kids are constantly rotating in for various sorts of in inhalers to suppress their asthma problems in wonderful kids regular school, and I don't know how many children go there. But I it's it's quite a few on the order of a hundred or so, and and they are so afflicted that they they they have to get these interventions, and we have some of the kids saying, well, you know, I've been to the ICU couple times I've ridden in an ambulance four times. But the point of this. Whole part of the story is that in protecting the climate were protecting the people the two things are connected. Climate protection equals people protection in. There are direct immediate impact on our health from the contaminated air that in turn creates contaminated climate. You know, these are emotionally powerful scenes, and I again wondered here whether MRs Sanchez or this teachers in the school or the nurses connect what they're seeing to policies that affect? The climate. Yes, they're they're quite vocal about this. They think everything ties together. And and and they see all of this is being a unified issue. Just as I do you have some pretty domestic stuff here about the growth of wildfires in the west. And I think you say in passing that you had a personal experience with wildfire fire early. What happened? Oh boy. Yeah. We used to live in the foothills of the Rockies west of Boulder, Colorado. And there was a quite a large wildfire. One day was actually Labor Day. I think it was twenty ten not positive about that. But in any event, one hundred sixty structures of my neighbors burned down and the fire almost got to our property, and I can tell you. It's a terrifying and humbling things to see gigantic pillars of smoke. Doc on you know, just to the west of your house wondering if your house is about to go. So that is what really brought wildfire home for me in in catalyzed. What later became this whole section of the film for the footage in this part of the film? You went in with firefighters, and we see you in a hard hat and assumed you sign some pretty serious waivers because it looks like you've got pretty close to the fires. How has described some of the challenges that you face shooting a fire and how you get what you want to get. Well, I yes, I was in very very deep by actually went to light, wildland firefighter training school as did most of my my crew we learned how to be how to do how to think out there along with the firefighters. So that on the one hand we knew what we're looking at and what was about to happen. But on the other hand I wanted to know how to get killed out there because it was. Very clear to me that this was a dangerous environment. So yeah, I really inhaled if you'll excuse the pun, the the the experience of being a firefighter, I thought the science of fires was incredibly interesting. Some of the most intellectually interesting stuff I've ever been exposed to because the science integrates questions of whether you know, what what are the winds doing? What are the temperatures doing? It integrates biology because you need to know what the fuel types are it integrates geology because you need to understand the terrain and how the vegetation is distributed on the terrain and how that's going to affect fire behavior. And then of course, there's a whole issue of how people intervene against the fires to keep them from from doing bad things or to help to encourage the fires to do. Good things. And the fire is a powerful powerful. Powerful force, and I developed enormous admiration and respect for these wildland firefighters, it's really really crazy dangerous crazy violent activity, and I've talked to structure firefighters, the the, you know, the people who fight fires in buildings in urban and suburban areas, and they go man, those wildland guys they are crazy stuff. They do. But they do it. Anyway. Yeah. What are some of the differences? What I elaborate on that a bit. What did they see that's different about this number one the clothing that the wildland firefighters where is fairly lightweight compared to what the structure fire fighters wear. You don't have any respiratory protection. When you're out on wildland fire because you you're working you're the physical work goes on for so long in. It's so hot that you can't wear a respirator would just be too insanely miserable. So they go out there, and they're inhaling all these talks. Gases in they're inhaling, all these particulars. Whereas the structure firefighters go inside buildings with with with essentially scuba tanks on and self contained breathing in the air masks, and the relatively well protected in these very very heavy suits, not to say that it's easy to walk into a go into a burning building. But no, no, it's definitely not easy going into burning buildings, but they are relatively well. Protected compared to what these wildland guys have to work with. We're speaking with photographer James Bay, log his work is featured in the new documentary the human element. We'll talk some more. After a short break. This is fresh air. This message comes from NPR sponsor, squarespace squarespace is the all in one platform to build an online presence and run your business. Create your company's website using customizable, layouts along with features, including ecommerce functionality, and mobile editing and squarespace offers built in search engine optimization. Go to squarespace dot com slash. NPR for a free trial. And when you're ready to launch us, the offer code NPR to save ten percent off your first purchase of a website, or domain. Hey, it's guy-roger here. And on the next episode of how I built this how one man reinventing airline travel again, and again, and again to create one of the most innovative airlines in the US, JetBlue checkout. David Neil, laments amazing story on our podcast. How I built this. This is fresh air. And we're speaking with photographer James Bay, log his work is featured in the new documentary about the impact of climate change called the human element. There's an image in the film, and a believe this video rather than still photography, but it appears to be a camera right in the middle of a stand of trees that's going up in the f-. The camera is I guess on the ground or near the ground looking up through the trees as they go there absorbed in this fire. How had was that acquired, you know? Well that I did that charge and we spent a couple summers trying to figure out how to do that. And we picked his spot where we knew the fire was advancing pre position the camera on the grounds be in front of the flames and turned it on and let it rip and we had already burned up melted. A lot of cameras at that point maybe five or six I think and this camera melted to. But we learned that even if the camera melted if the fire move fast enough, the flash card inside the memory card would survive in. We would still get a picture. So we went for broke the fire moved right over the camera passed by a couple of minutes later. It was gone. The cameras covered up with, you know, burning sticks in numbers, but we still had a shot inside there. So what what did you hear from firefighters from their own experience about how fires have changed in recent years? Well, what you hear over and over and over again, whether it's young firefighters are or old timey firefighters who were not on the front lines anymore. But they're they're back managing these things. They all say the fires are bigger. There's more of them the fire season lasts longer in the fire behavior is far different than it used to be. The fires are more violence more ferocious. And of course, they've always been violent and for Rochas. But, but there's a sense of sort of all in humility in how they talk about these things, they're they're they're quite wouldn't say intimidated because intimidated means you go. Ooh, scary. I'm running away these guys still get out there in spite of how how now intimidating. The fires seemed to the rest of us. They get out there. And they do it. Right. And not just guys will note. There's one point where you're with some firefighters that are going to try and establish a line. Into to stop a fire from going over a ridge and entering a town in the the strategy. I guess is to actually burn the hillside nearer the town. So that when the the main fire gets there at won't have the fuel in this you want to just describe what that amounts to and what your experience it was photographing it. Yeah. It's an incredible thing to be part of an operation like that. They it's called the burn out burnout, and we're up on top of a pretty sharp ridge surrounded by very thick vegetation on either side of the ridge in the fires coming towards us from the west and burning down into a valley. And we know it's going to burn down into the valley in up the the slope towards us and in the opposite direction as you said there's a village that they're trying to keep from burning down. So the notion is to use fire to fight fire. And so we started to burn out all the vegetation between our ridge line. And where that fire was coming from. And they burned out the the fuels using helicopter torches that were dropping napalm on the on the on the forest and by throwing. Shares in shooting flares way deep into the vegetation. So the idea was to literally just torch the entire mountainside. So that once the the the advancing flames hit that section. They would just go. Poof can't can't move anymore. There's there's nothing else we can do. Now. What makes it so exciting is that there's a lot of heat. There's a lot of smoke coming up at you. And you know, one of the things you learn in firefighting school is you don't want to be on the top of a ridge with a fire below you. Because fires like to climb. Uphill they feed on their heat, the convection of the flames, and you don't want to have a fire come roaring up a mountainside in fly right over you and start burning the vegetation behind you. That's how a lot of firefighters have been killed over the decades. So, you know, we're we're doing what we have to do for the burnout, but you still thinking, oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. We're not. In such a good place right here. So everybody's really on their toes. You know, watching all directions staying situationally aware to make sure we've got some measure of control over what's going on around us. But always you're wondering, oh my God. Or we have to get trapped in here. Well, as it turned out everything went, right? We didn't get trapped. They burned it out in the fire died where it was supposed to end the village with saved the there are a couple of pretty harrowing moments at looks like how close did you come to get burned. I was very very close to some flames because I was so captivated by the by the being credible. Power in in beauty. Frankly of these gigantic walls of fire that I went in pretty close. Everybody else had backed away all the season firefighters had backed away because they looked at these burning treason. They said man that's too hot. I'm not going anywhere near there. But I went in o- to maybe fifteen feet away from this big wall of flame in after. I was shooting for thirty seconds, or so I realized my God, am I may maybe melting the glue inside the lens here. And then I started to realize my hands feel like they're burning off. And so I I backed off and got out of there. And that's the moment we see you running back towards the camera. Right. Yeah. Shaking waving my hands in my my crew is back behind me going on. Jim. You went too far on that one. Right. You also talked to a lot of victims people who've just saw their all of their possessions and homes go up in smoke. You also talked to people who are victims of floods after hurricanes and these are powerful often heartbreaking stories, and I wonder if the fact that you're focused on the photography on getting the shot. Right gives you some detachments some emotional defense that the emotions may become back when you see the images later. Yeah. You you as a photographer, you you you have to show up. Have to function you have to get the shot. And there's a little trick you play inside your mind, and you go, you know, I'm inside the black box right now. I'm just trying to frame this image inside the rectangle and make make an interesting picture and time is always short. You never feel like you have quite enough time. So you get your job done. And then it's at night, or it's a month later or a year later in you reflect on this in it's still just tears your heart. Yeah. On the other hand, I would think that when you're talking to people who've endured tragedies like this. They would want somebody who with some empathy. Not somebody who's you know, just somebody's just there for the picture. Yeah. The one of the secrets of this field. Whether you're war photographer or you're photographing natural disasters. Or whatever is that people really want their stories to be told they want you to come as a witness and over and over again there. I I've seen for for. Decades working on hurricanes in volcanoes and floods and all kinds of things soon. Nami in Indonesia, they want a witness to be there to say here. This is what happens. This is the truth. You spent decades looking at nature and humans relationship with nature as you're finishing this project on wondering how you're thinking has evolved about humans and their place in in the natural order. One of the biggest messages of this film is that we humans are part of nature. That's what you realize when you look at the four elements in the context of humanity. We're not separate from nature. We've been taught for thousands of years that were separate and we're looking in on nature, but I've come to realize and the broader science that's around me has come to realize we are in nature, not disjointed. And so in a way, I would like to think of this film as a coming of age story. I think we should look at the environment not through the lens of dreamy romanticism. And I don't think we should look at the environment through the the lens of selfish extraction. Both of those kinds of things. Dreaming dreaming and selfishness are juvenile. And I think the the core issue of humanity for our time at least as as regards the environment. But also as regards humor. In health, and a lot of other things is that we need to grow out of those old patterns of thinking and grow into a more sophisticated more complex understanding of what we are in who we are in relationship to nature. James bay. Thanks so much for speaking with us. My pleasure. Thank you. James Bela work is the subject of the new climate change documentary the human element. The film is now available for streaming on I tunes Amazon prime Google play and other digital platforms. He spoke with fresh Air's Dave Davies who also WHYY's senior reporter after we take a short break. Book critic Maureen Corrigan will review a new collection of autobiographical essays by Emily Bernard called black is the body. This is fresh air. This message comes from NPR sponsor Samuel Adams of all the beers. Sam Adams has ever brewed Boston lager is their all time favorite with its distinctive balance of spicy hops, sweet roasted malts and smooth finish. It stood the test of time and helped launch the whole craft beer revolution. Sam Adams, Boston lager, full flavored rich and complex. There's nothing quite like the taste of an original Boston beer company, Boston mass saver responsibly. Emily Bernard is a Scott. Collar of African American literature and culture, she's written a lot on interracial friendships, including that between Langston us and the white Harlem renaissance patron curl van victim. Bernard's latest book is a searching collection of autobiographical essays called black is the body. Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review before I talk about individual essays in Emily Bernard's. New book black is the body. I wanna pay an all inclusive tribute even the best essay collections routinely contain some filler, but of the twelve essays here, there's not one that even comes close to being forgettable Bernard's languages, fresh poetically, compact and often witty she writes about growing up black in the south and living black as an adult in the snow globe state of Vermont. She considers subjects that hit close to the bone like the loving complex. Nations of her own interracial marriage and adopting her two daughters from Ethiopia in her introduction. Bernard tells us that this book was conceived in a hospital where I was recovering from surgery on my lower bowel which had been damaged in a stabbing a bizarre act of violence that helped set me free as a storyteller that's a literary origin tale. You don't hear every day? But shock value is the least of the reasons why Bernard shares with us instead, the visceral reality of her scarred winding intestines becomes an implicit metaphor for the kind of writing she hopes to achieve contradictory messy and very personal all of these essays are about race and are rooted autobiographically in the blackness of Bernard's own. N- body through her writing Bernard says she wanted to contribute something to the American racial drama. Besides the enduring narrative of black innocence and white guilt. There are other true stories I needed to explore the only way I knew how to do. This was by letting the blood flow and following the trail of my own ambivalence in a collection full of standouts. One of the best is an essay called teaching the N word in which Bernard ushers us into her African American autobiography class at the university of Vermont, all of her eleven students are white the expected way. This essay would unfold would be Bernard to poke gentle fun at these liberal white students whose refusal to say the N word doesn't absolve them from their own uncut. Conscious racism tie this all up with an inclusive pithy, and you've got yourself a nice essay. But Bernard has been through that life altering knife attack. She doesn't do what's expected instead much of this confessional essay focuses on Bernard's own moments of self deception as a black professor at an overwhelmingly white university. For instance, she says she instructs her students in her African American studies classes, not to confuse my body with the body of the book in part, she's inviting her white students to have the intellectual courage to criticize novels like their eyes were watching God and invisible, man. Even though she their professor is black Bernard also tells her again, mostly white students that this material is not the. Exclusive property of students of color. This is American literature American experience after all, but to us readers Bernard admits feeling claims to this literature that are less democratic sometimes I give this part of my lecture, but not always sometimes I give it and then regret it later. Another essay that complicates thinking about race is called interstates the opening situation. Reads, like an updated version of the film the green book Bernard her white, then fiance. John and her parents are driving to a family reunion in Mississippi when their car gets a flat Bernard describes how John who's behind the wheel pulls over to change the tire while there, we stand my black family as vulnerable as an open window on a hot summer day, a page later Bernard offers this observation John was not ignorant of the root of my fathers anxiety, but the danger presented by the flat tire took precedence over any other type of danger somewhere between the clarity of John's, focus and the complex. City of my fathers, anxiety, perhaps lies the difference between living white and living black in America. I see the difference mostly I despise it. But my belief that difference can engender pleasure as well. As pain made it possible for me to marry a white, man. Those are words capable of sparking one of those halting discussions about race that Bernard conducts in her classrooms in black is the body. Bernard proves herself to be a revelatory storyteller of race in America who can hold her own with some of those great writers, she teaches marine cardigan teaches literature Georgetown University. She reviewed black is the body by Emily Bernard tomorrow on fresh air. My guest will be New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt whose broken several major stories about the Muller investigation and connections between Trump his associates and Russia. Schmidt was one of the times reporters who last month broke the story that after Komi was fired the F B I opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether President Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia and posed a threat to America's national security. Schmidt also broke the. Story about Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of a private E mail server while she was secretary of state. We'll talk about his reporting and the impact it's had. I hope you'll join us. I'm Terry gross.