California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

The California coastline will experience more frequent and more powerful storms and rising sea levels as climate change accelerates. Some cities and towns have started preparing by moving buildings further inland, installing public storm-warning systems, and limiting property owners’ manipulation of beaches, such as building stone or concrete walls to retain or rebuild beach property. Beach construction is a temporary fix and merely moves erosion to other properties. Public beach erosion may threaten long-term viability of some vacation-dependent economies. California clearly has a great deal of work left to do. While climate change is already harming ocean coastlines, lake coastlines will eventually face similar issues. Any volunteers?

— Kay Wosewick


From a celebrated environmental journalist, the riveting exploration of sea level rise along the West Coast through human stories and ecological dramas.

2023 Golden Poppy Award Winner for Nonfiction, Chosen by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance

"Viscerally urgent, thoroughly reported, and compellingly written--a must-read for our uncertain times." --Ed Yong, author of An Immense World

"When do seawalls make sense? And when is it better to give in to the tides? ...] In California Against the Sea, Xia ...] writes about the difficult realities of trying to incorporate fairness into our tally of costs and benefits." --The New Yorker

Along California's 1,200-mile coastline, the overheated Pacific Ocean is rising and pressing in, imperiling both wildlife and the maritime towns and cities that 27 million people call home. In California Against the Sea, Los Angeles Times coastal reporter Rosanna Xia asks: As climate chaos threatens the places we love so fiercely, will we finally grasp our collective capacity for change?

Xia, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, investigates the impacts of engineered landscapes, the market pressures of development, and the ecological activism and political scrimmages that have carved our contemporary coastline--and foretell even greater changes to our shores. From the beaches of the Mexican border up to the sheer-cliffed North Coast, the voices of Indigenous leaders, community activists, small-town mayors, urban engineers, and tenacious environmental scientists commingle. Together, they chronicle the challenges and urgency of forging a climate-wise future. Xia's investigation takes us to Imperial Beach, Los Angeles, Pacifica, Marin City, San Francisco, and beyond, weighing the rivaling arguments, agreements, compromises, and visions governing the State of California's commitment to a coast for all. Through graceful reportage, she charts how the decisions we make today will determine where we go tomorrow: headlong into natural disaster, or toward an equitable refashioning of coastal stewardship.

About the Author

Rosanna Xia is an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where she specializes in stories about the coast and ocean. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting, and her work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781597146197
ISBN-10: 1597146196
Publisher: Heyday Books
Publication Date: September 26th, 2023
Pages: 336
Language: English