RISING SEA LEVELS POSE A THREAT TO NYC

When the remnants of Hurricane Ida tore through our region, more than 40 people were killed by the devastating floods. Entire neighborhoods, roads, and subways were flooded and submerged. The widespread destruction highlighted the urgent threat that extreme weather, and in turn climate change, poses to New York City. That threat is the subject of a fascinating new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York called “Rising Tide: Visualizing the Human Costs of the Climate Crisis” that illustrates the dramatic consequences of rising sea levels in New York City and across the world through photographs, video, drone images and sound. Tonight as part of our ongoing Peril and Promise initiative reporting on the human stories of climate change and its solutions, Dutch documentary photographer Kadir van Lohuizen takes us inside the exhibit along with Chief Curator and Deputy Director at the Museum of the City of New York, Sarah Henry.

For more information on the exhibit, click here.

Aired on September 22, 2021.

Peril and Promise is an ongoing series of reports on the human impact of, and solutions for, climate change. Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III. 

 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

WHEN THE REMNANTS OF HURRICANE IDA TORE THROUGH OUR REGION, MORE THAN 40 PEOPLE WERE KILLED.

ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS, ROADS AND SUBWAYS WERE SUBMERGED IN WATER AND THE WIDESPREAD FLOODING HIGHLIGHTED THE URGENT THREAT THAT EXTREME WEATHER AND CLIMATE CHANGE POSES TO OUR AREA AND THE WORLD.

THAT THREAT IS THE SUBJECT OF A FASCINATING EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK CALL EED 'RISING TIDE: VISUALIZG THE HUMAN COST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.'

THE WORK IS OF KADIR VAN LOH LOHUIZEN, WITH PHOTOGRAPHS, VIDEO, AS WELL AS DRONE IMAGES AND SOUND.

JOINING ME TO TALK ABOUT THIS EXHIBIT AS PART OF YOUR ONGOING 'PERIL AND PROMISE' INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON THE HUMAN STORIES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS SOLUTIONS ARE KADIR VAN LOHUIZEN.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

AND WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY SARAH HENRY.

SARAH IS THE CHIEF CURATOR AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

SARAH, WELCOME.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING US HERE.

SO, KADIR, I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND JUST SORT OF ASK, WHEN DID YOU START THIS PROJECT AND WHERE WAS IT THAT YOU WENT, BECAUSE IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT NEW YORK.

IT'S DEFINITELY NOT JUST ABOUT NEW YORK AND I THINK I STARTED THE PROJECT, IT WAS 2011 WHEN I WAS WORKING ON A DIFFERENT STORY, WHICH WAS ABOUT MIGRATION IN THE AMERICAS AND I WAS TRAVELING FROM THE VERY SOUTH OF LATIN AMERICA TO THE VERY NORTH OF ALASKA, BASICALLY, TO TELL THE STORY ABOUT CONTEMPORARY MIGRATION AND I WAS IN -- ABOUT HALFWAY, IN PANAMA, I CAME TO THESE BEAUTIFUL ISLAND S AND I WAS INTERVIEWING PEOPLE THERE, ON THE CARIBBEAN SIDE, THESE BEAUTIFUL POSTCARD ISLANDS AND PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT THEY WERE BEING EVACUATED AND WHEN I ASKED THEM WHY, THEY SAID, THE SEA IS COMING.

SO, ALTHOUGH I'M SPEAKING TO YOU FROM AMSTERDAM AND I LIVE BELOW THE SEA LEVEL AND WE KNOW LOTS ABOUT THE ISSUES WITH THE SEA IN THE NETHERLANDS, I WAS NEVER AWARE THAT THIS WAS ALREADY AN ISSUE WHICH WAS HAPPENING TODAY.

I THOUGHT, LIKE MANY OF US, THAT THIS WAS -- WOULD HAPPEN IN THE NEXT FEW GENERATIONS.

SO, THAT WAS BASICALLY THE START OF THE PROJECT AND WHERE I STARTED TO RESEARCH, BECAUSE I THOUGHT, IF IT'S HAPPENING THERE, IT MUST BE HAPPENING ELSEWHERE.

AND THAT'S HOW IT BECAME A GLOBAL PROJECT.

AND SARAH, WHY WAS THIS AN EXHIBIT THAT THE MUSEUM WAS ATTRACTED TO AND WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT AS MANY NEW YORKERS GOT A CHANCE TO SEE IT?

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, KADIR'S IMAGES ARE ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.

THEY ARE HAUNTING.

THEY GET INTO YOUR BRAIN, THEY GIVE YOU A VISCERAL FEELING OF THE HUMAN CONSEQUENCES OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS LIKE NOTHING WE'VE SEEN BEFORE.

AND WE REALLY -- YOU REALLY HAVE TO SEE IT TO EXPERIENCE THAT.

AND SECONDARILY, VERY IMPORTANT TO US AS A MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK IS A COASTAL CITY.

THAT HAS BEEN OUR STRENGTH SINCE THE FOUNDING OF NEW YORK.

OUR WATERWAYS, BUT IT ALSO MEANS WE'RE INCREDIBLY VULNERABLE TO THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND RISING SEA LEVELS.

WE HAVE 520 MILES OF COASTLAND IN NEW YORK CITY.

JUST IN THE FIVE BURROWS.

AND SO THINK ABOUT LOW-LYING AREAS LIKE THE ROCKAWAYS OR HUNT'S POINT OR THE SHORE OF STATEN ISLAND, THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE VULNERABILITY FOR SO MANY NEW YORKERS AND IT'S CRITICAL FOR US TO THINK AS NEW YORKERS AND AS THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, HOW TO FACE THIS CHANGE, HOW TO MITIGATE IT AS BEST AS POSSIBLE, TO THINK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY AND ALSO WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RESILIENT.

AS THE MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, WE CONNECT PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE AND THERE'S NOTHING MORE THAT'S GOING TO SHAPE OUR FUTURE THAN THIS QUESTION.

KADIR, I WONDER WHAT IT WAS YOU WERE SORT OF SETTING OUT TO ACCOMPLISH OR DID YOU HAVE A GOAL IN MIND WHEN YOU BEGAN THIS PROJECT?

AND I ASKED THAT BECAUSE, WHAT YOU'RE REALLY SORT OF ATTEMPTING TO DO, AT LEAST AS I CAN SEE IT, IS DOCUMENT SOMETHING THAT ISN'T NECESSARILY VISUAL TO PEOPLE.

AND THE FACT THAT IT ISN'T NECESSARILY VISUAL YET TO SOME PEOPLE STILL LEAVES SOME ROOM FOR PERHAPS DENIALISM.

SO, WHAT WAS YOUR INTENTION GOING INTO THIS?

WELL, MY INTENTION STARTED, OBVIOUSLY, WITH THE RESEARCH AND I THINK IT -- THE IMAGES PROVE THAT THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY, BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WE ASSUME -- I THINK MOST OF US KNOW THAT THE SEA LEVEL IS RISING, NO MATTER IF WE CUT OUR EMISSIONS TODAY, IT WILL RISE ANYWAY.

BUT I WANTED TO SHOW AND I THINK THAT THAT WAS THE CHALLENGE FROM THE START, A WAY FOR THE WATER TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR HOUSE, YOU KNOW, IT STARTS WITH FREQUENT FLOODS, IT STARTS WHEN THE WATER DOESN'T RECEDE THAT PEOPLE -- THE SOIL GETS --

KADIR, I THINK HE MIGHT HAVE FROZEN FOR A SECOND, SO, SARAH, I'LL GO BACK TO YOU --

YES.

AND ASK, HOW DOES, AT LEAST IN YOUR OPINION, THE IMAGES OF THE FLOODING AND THE FIRES ARE THINGS THAT WE HAVE SEEN WHEN HURRICANES HAPPEN, BUT HOW DO YOU THINK THAT VISITORS TO THE MUSEUM WILL EXPERIENCE THIS WHEN THEY ACTUALLY VISIT THE EXHIBIT?

SURE.

WELL, THE EXHIBITION WAS ORIGINALLY ON VIEW AT THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM IN AMSTERDAM, WHO IS ONE OF OR PARTNERS ON THIS PROJECT, ALONG WITH THE OCEAN GRAPHIC INSTITUTION.

THE MUSEUM IS FIRST AND FOREMOST A SENSORY PLACE, SO, THIS IS SOMETHING WE HEAR ABOUT, BUT NOT NECESSARILY SOMETHING THAT WE CAN EXPERIENCE WITH OUR OWN EYES, THOUGH EVENTS LIKE HURRICANES, SUPERSTORM SANDY OR IDA RECENTLY CERTAINLY DROVE IT HOME IN THE FIVE BOROUGHS.

SO, THAT IS ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS OF WALKING INTO THAT STRIKING ROOM AND BEING SURROUNDED BY THESE VIDEOS AND IMAGES.

WE ALSO HAVE A SECTION OF THE EXHIBITION ABOUT SPECIFICALLY WHAT NEW YORK IS TOGETHER TO F DOING TO FACE CLIMATE CHANGE AND GET PEOPLE TO THINK WHAT ACTIONS WE CAN TAKE INDIVIDUALLY AND WHAT WE CAN TAKE COLLECTIVELY TO MAKE OURSELVES A MORE RESILIENT CITY.

AND SO, WE GIVE PEOPLE A LITTLE CHANCE TO THINK POSITIVELY ABOUT THE FUTURE, EVEN WHILE FACING THE E NORTY OF THE REALITY THAT WE'RE ALL FACED WITH AND, IN FACT, COMING UP IN THE MID-OCTOBER, OCTOBER 17th, WE'RE HAVING A GREEN ACTIVIST NEW YORK SORT OF ECO-FEST, WHERE PEOPLE CAN COME AND HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY BEING ACTIVE IN THIS AREA, WHETHER IT'S ON THE VENDOR SIDE, PERFORMANCES, YOUNG PEOPLE SPEAKING UP.

REALLY DRIVING HOME THE WAYS IN WHICH WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND I'LL SAY, AMONG THE PLEDGES THAT YOU CAN TAKE IN THE EXHIBITION, THERE'S A WHOLE ARRAY OF THEM, ONE OF THEM IS JUST TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMATE.

AS WE LEARNED FROM OUR FRIENDS AT THE CLIMATE MUSEUM, BREAKING THE CLIMATE SCIENCE IS AN IMPORTANT PIECE OF THIS, AND I THINK KADIR'S WORK DOES THAT IN SUCH A PROFOUND SENSORY AND VISUAL WAY.

WELL, KADIR, I KNOW THAT WE LOST YOU VERY BRIEFLY FOR A MOMENT, BUT -- SO, I WANTED TO GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO FINISH OUT A THOUGHT THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN IN THE PROCESS OF DELIVERING BEFORE WE LOST YOUR CONNECTION.

KADIR, I THINK YOU ARE MUTED AGAIN.

OKAY.

YEAH.

SHOULD I START OVER?

YEAH, NO, JUST -- BECAUSE I KNOW THAT WE LOST YOU AND I WANT TO MAKE SURE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO FULLY SHARE WHATEVER THOUGHT IT WAS THAT YOU WERE IN THE PROCESS OF GIVING US BEFORE WE HAD TO RECONNECT.

WELL, I THINK WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO -- WHAT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO LEARN AND I THINK THAT'S ALSO IMPORTANT, WHAT THE IMAGES EXPRESS IS THAT WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE WATER TO BE PERMANENTLY IN YOUR HOUSE.

THE ISSUE STARTS MUCH EARLIER, IT STARTS WITH SEA WATER COMING IN BECAUSE OF MORE FREQUENT HEAVIER STORMS, BECAUSE OF FLOODS, SEA WATER DOESN'T RECEDE AND PEOPLE CAN'T GROW THEIR CROPS ANYMORE BECAUSE THEIR LAND BEC BECOMES.

THERE'S NO SAFE DRINKING WATER.

THERE'S MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ALREADY WHO ARE RELOCATING MOST OFTEN BY THEMSELVES TO HIGHER GROUND.

SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK, I HOPE THAT IT SENDS AN URGENCY THAT WE REALLY HAVE TO ACT TODAY AND I THINK MANY OF US HAVE SEEN THE REPORT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE PANEL, WHICH JUST CAME OUT, WHICH WAS VERY ALARMING.

VERY ALARMING FOR ANY COASTAL REGION, FOR ANY COASTAL CITIES.

AND --

WELL, I DO WANT TO ASK THEN, BECAUSE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW PEOPLE IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD ARE ALREADY STARTING TO RELOCATE, THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE, AT LEAST A CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVEN MIGRATION HAPPENING AS MUCH IN AMERICA AND THERE CAN BE ALL SORTS OF REASONS BEHIND THAT, BUT CONSIDERING THAT THIS PROJECT TOOK YOU ALL OVER THE WORLD, I'M WONDERING, WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES THAT YOU SAW IN OTHER COUNTRIES THAT PERHAPS AMERICANS WOULDN'T CONSIDER THEMSELVES HAVING ANYTHING IN COMMON WITH THAT YOU ALSO WERE SEEING HERE?

WELL, I THINK EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS ARE STILL OFTEN CONSIDERED BY TOO MANY PEOPLE AS BEING NORMALITY.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, IF YOU LOOK AT THE FIRES IN THE U.S., IF YOU LOOK WHAT HAPPENED WITH HURRICANE IDA, IF YOU LOOK AT THE FREQUENCY OF THE TORNADOES, THE FREQUENCY AND THE STRENGTHS OF HURRICANES, IT'S ALL AN INDICATION THAT WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.

AND I THINK, YOU KNOW, WE OWE TO OUR NEXT GENERATIONS THAT WE ACT, YOU KNOW?

WE -- WE CAN'T DENY IT ANYMORE.

I MEAN, THERE'S SO MUCH PROOF THAT THIS IS THE CASE AND THAT THIS IS HAPPENING AND THE ONLY WAY TO -- AT LEAST TO SLOW IT DOWN IS THAT WE CUT OUR EMISSIONS AND THAT WE TRY TO STABILIZE THE WARMING UP OF THIS PLANET.

AND OTHERWISE, IT'S GOING TO BE VERY CATASTROPHIC FOR THE NEXT GENERATIONS AND I THINK IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

WE ARE THE GENERATION WHO REALLY FLOURISHED, YOU KNOW?

WE HAD EVERYTHING WE WANTED AND WE HAD IT BETTER THAN OUR PARENTS, WE HAD IT BETTER THAN OUR GRANDPARENTS AND I THINK FOR THE NEXT GENERATIONS TO COME, THE LIFE IS GOING TO BE -- IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.

AND WE SHOULD BE READY TO DO A STEP BACK.

OF COURSE.

SARAH, WE HAVE ABOUT TEN SECONDS LEFT, SO JUST, ONE MORE TIME, YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT IT IS THAT PEOPLE SHOULD EXPECT OR WHY WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY SEE THIS EXHIBIT?

WELL, FIRST OF ALL, TO EXPERIENCE THE KINSHIP WITH PEOPLE ALL AROUND THE WORLD, THE WAYS THAT WE DO SHARE THESE OCEANS TOGETHER AND IT IS VERY MOVING AND REALLY BEAUTIFUL, EVEN THOUGH IT'S A TROUBLING -- A TROUBLING -- DEEPLY TROUBLING STORY, BUT ALSO TO EXPERIENCE A LITTLE BIT OF HOPE.

AND TO LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT YOU AND I AND ALL OF US TOGETHER CAN DO.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, I WANT TO THANK BOTH OF MY GUESTS, KADIR, I HOPE I'M PRONOUNCING YOUR NAME CLOSE TO CORRECT, WHO OF COURSE IS THE ARTIST BEHIND THIS AMAZING EXHIBIT TITLED 'RISING TIDE: VISUALIZING THE HUMAN COST OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS.'

AND OF COURSE, THANK YOU TO SARAH HENRY, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

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