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  • Barron Bixler Photographs

    Stories of An Environment in Flux

A Speculative Atlas of California

Watershed

Set against a backdrop of ongoing drought in the American West and the spiraling social-environmental impacts of climate change, Watershed: A Speculative Atlas of California surveys the breadth of the California water system in its natural and engineered forms to make sense of the ecological—and increasingly existential—problem of water in California.

Views from An American Roadtrip

Under the Darkening Sky

We left California under a darkening sky. Traveling overland, somewhere around the million burning mirrors of Ivanpah, the smoke descended and it hounded us across the continent through Iowa and into Illinois. Finally, in Chicago, the sky went blue again. But we were already deranged.

Commercial Fishing in Northeastern Brazil

A Prayer to Iemanjá

Trawling these aquamarine waters twenty-five years ago, Brazilian fishermen rarely had a bad day. The southern Atlantic was believed to be underfished, its bounty nearly inexhaustible. But today, fishermen commonly return from long days at sea hauling just a couple baskets of shrimp and small fish. Due to overfishing and rampant destruction of the area’s mangrove forests, populations of high-value species like spiny lobsters, swordfish and tuna teeter on the brink of collapse as the entire marine ecosystem careens down a bottomless carnival ride.

A Field Survey

Oregon West

The place we now call Oregon is where the idea of manifest destiny first became manifest. On November 20, 1805, the Corps of Discovery Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Columbia River, where the present-day town of Astoria sits. Within five years, Astoria became the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast—and the first sentence in an ongoing story of environmental catastrophe in the American West.

Troubled Sleep

Oregon East

These landscapes are vast not just physically, but also temporally. The juxtaposition of their geologically ancient landforms with ragged threads of human settlement places the natural and anthropogenic forces that shape our world in troubled tension with each other, posing a question: which will ultimately assert dominion over the other?

Views from the Animal-Human Interface

Animalia

Over the past couple years, as the world has been turned inside-out, I’ve come to think more deeply about these accidental animal encounters—these glimpses I’ve had across the narrow but inviolable divide between me and them, and about how the animals might sense my lumbering, upright form staring back at them through the looking glass.

Views of the San Joaquin Valley

A New Pastoral

While I hope that these pictures shed light on what it means to farm at this industrial scale, I also hope that the pictures communicate something of the Valley’s peculiar, sometimes agoraphobic, beauty. For non-Valley dwellers, perhaps they will fill in the blanks as you reluctantly pass through this land on your way to somewhere else.

A Story of Oahu's Diverging Foodways

The Fall of King Sugar

Biotech seed companies have been pursuing a land grab, transforming a staggering amount of Hawai’i’s prime farmland into an industrial-scale GMO seed lab. Activists, organizers, policy wonks, politicians, farmers and even chefs are all pushing back against what they see as biotech’s usurpation of local efforts to establish a more sustainable food system—built on principles of economic, social and environmental justice—that might begin to move Hawai’i beyond the complex legacy of King Sugar.

Mining California

Industrial Materials

The deeper I dug, the more I came to see how essentially Californian these strange landscapes were: the incalculable volume of minerals extracted from our mountaintops and riverbeds has been refashioned into the very infrastructure that has paved the way for California’s growth.