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California Against the Sea

Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline
Rosanna Xia
Dr. Charles Lester
Fri October 20th 2023, 1:30 - 3:00pm
Event Sponsor
The Bill Lane Center for the American West

We would like to extend our sincere apologies for the less than ideal video angle in the event video. During the recording process, we encountered unexpected technical difficulties that regrettably impacted the quality of the video. Unfortunately, the front camera failed to capture the video, leaving us with no other option but to work with the footage we had.

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Los Angeles Times journalist and Pulitzer finalist Rosanna Xia and Dr. Charles Lester, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center at UC Santa Barbara, explore the inexorable challenge of sea level rise in this probing talk. Xia, author of California Against the Sea: Visions for our Vanishing Coastline (Heyday, 2023), has traveled across the state reporting on the stakes and struggles of the 27 million Californians who call the coastline home and face the imminent threat of surging seas. Heating oceans caused by climate breakdown mean melting glaciers and expanding waters that produce higher than high tides, more intense storms and flooding, and shoreline erosion that is poised to move the coastline inward by a measure of multiple football fields over the course of the next 100 years. 

In this conversation, Dr. Lester and Xia will explore what this means for California communities living on the edge, and what policymakers and developers in the American West can do to foster a more climate-wise relationship with our shifting shoreline.


Rosanna Xia

Rosanna Xia is an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where she specializes in stories about the coast and ocean. Her work spans feature writing to investigative reporting and engages themes of climate and social justice. Xia’s reporting has uncovered the dumping of toxic DDT waste off the Los Angeles coast; set the record straight on the seizure of Bruce’s Beach from its Black proprietors (prompting an unprecedented reparative land return in 2022); explored the impacts of coastal gentrification; and articulated the dangers posed to shorelines by pollution and heating oceans.  She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting on sea level rise, which inspired the work that culminated in California Against the Sea. Her writing has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series.

Dr. Charles Lester is the director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center in the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara, where he researches, writes, and advises about sea level rise, coastal resilience, and other aspects of coastal law, policy and management. Charles previously worked for the State of California and the California Coastal Commission for twenty years, including serving as the agency’s fourth executive director from 2011 to 2016. Previously, Charles was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he taught environmental law and policy, with a focus on public lands governance and coastal zone management. He received his Ph.D. and J.D. from UC Berkeley, and a B.A. in Geochemistry from Columbia University.Charles is an expert in integrated coastal management and California coastal law and policy. He has extensive experience in California, including managing or directing hundreds of coastal planning and regulatory projects for the Coastal Commission. In 2015, he led the agency's completion of California's first comprehensive land use guidance for addressing sea level rise and coastal protection on the outer coast (Sea Level Rise—Adopted Policy Guidance). Charles speaks regularly on coastal management, adaptation and resilience, including recently as part of a Congressional briefing on “west coast resilience” (Charles Lester at EESI).