McCone Irvine Auditorium
McCone Building
499 Pierce St
Monterey, CA 93940
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Open to the Public

Author and Journalist Rosanna Xia looking at the camera with a bright and penetrating gaze, warm smile, with long black hair against a light blue sea and strip of coastline in the background
Rosanna Xia, environment reporter for the Los Angeles Times and author of California Against the Sea

Climate change is arguably the most urgent and complex issue of our generation. With so much at stake, how do we tell the story of climate in a way that is authentic, but not simplistic?  Fact-based, but not fear-based?  

Telling the Story of Climate Change:  Lessons from an LA Times Reporter
Speaker:  Rosanna Xia, environment reporter for the Los Angeles Times and author of California Against the Sea
Wednesday, March 6, 2024
6:30pm to 7:30pm, with reception and book signing to follow
Irvine Auditorium at the Middlebury Institute
499 Pierce Street, Monterey, CA 93940
In-person event, registration requested


About the Topic

In this talk, Los Angeles Times reporter Rosanna Xia will break down how environmental journalists today are writing about climate change, with lessons learned on how to turn complex issues into memorable stories. Xia will also introduce her new book, California Against the Seaand share insights from her award-winning reporting on sea level rise.

The excerpt below from California Against the Sea expresses the challenges of talking about climate change:

“It can take tens of thousands of years to cycle through a geological epoch, just a couple of hundred for industrialization to make a mess of the planet, and only a decade or two to delude people into making decisions based on flawed time frames — whether it’s a 30-year mortgage or a political term that resets every four years. And in this moment when inconvenient realities like climate change have become so politicized, shortsighted individualism has further clouded our ability to plan ahead. We seem to have both no time and too much time to act, and so we spiral into paralyzing battles over the why, who, when and how.”  

About the Speaker

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. Her first book, California Against the Sea, has been praised as a beautiful and revelatory exploration of how we relate to the natural world. 

About the Book

California Against the Sea:  Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline

Wherever land meets sea, global warming is wreaking havoc. As the ocean absorbs heat generated by human industry, its waters swell into higher-than-high tides and city-leveling storms. Venice sinks, Louisiana shrinks, Indonesians flee their seaside capital, and North Carolina’s beaches are disappearing like a time lapse with no end. For the last hundred years, California’s 1,200-mile Pacific coastline has enjoyed relative calm due to a rare confluence of atmospheric factors. But shifting tides exacerbated by climate change are bringing this serene century to a screeching close. In California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline, Pulitzer finalist Rosanna Xia dives deep into the stakes, stopgaps, internecine struggles, and potential paths forward for the 27 million people who call this coastline home.

Voyaging across the state, Xia—a veteran coastal reporter for the Los Angeles Times—pulls the curtain back on the trepidations of scientists, the tenacity of activists, and the pitched battles intensifying in more than 20 communities dotting the California coast as they grapple with rising waters. These waters, which could surge by as much as 6–7 feet by century’s end, threaten to push the shore inland by a measure of multiple football fields. This anticipated surge imperils tens to hundreds of billions of dollars of human settlement—seawalls notwithstanding—to say nothing of the risk posed to human and non-human life. The scale of this prospective destruction and displacement could rival the impacts of the state’s raging wildfires.

The challenge, Xia says, is How do we get more people to care? How do we convey urgency? How do we tell them it’s now, not later? Through graceful, in-depth reporting Xia addresses herself to these questions, exploring how development and other vested interests have trumped science, how low-income communities bare the disproportionate brunt of environmental catastrophe (and are poised to do so again), how an attitude of human supremacy has hobbled our imaginations to envision what the coast could be, and how we may yet forestall impending devastation if we can find the way to embrace our collective capacity for change—in time.

Recommended Reading

Event Itinerary

6:00pm: Doors open

6:30pm: Author Talk & Audience Questions

7:30pm: Reception and book signing (light refreshments will be served)

8:00pm: Event ends

Event Location: McCone Irvine Auditorium

The McCone Building is located at 499 Pierce Street, Monterey, CA, 93940, on the campus of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Attendees should enter through the glass doors from Pierce Street, and the Irvine Auditorium is located inside to the left. View the campus map.


This is a free event, open to the public.  Registration is requested, but walk ins are welcome.  This is an in-person only event, no live-stream will be available, and the event will not be recorded. 


Parking is available in any Middlebury Institute campus lot after 5 p.m., no parking permit required, no fee.  View the campus map.  Free parking is also available on the street (time limits on surrounding streets end at 6 p.m.).


Contact Rachel Christopherson at the Center for the Blue Economy at or (831) 647-4183.

Gratitude to Our Sponsors & Community Partners

We thank KAZU radio, 90.3 KAZU-NPR for the Monterey Bay Area—a community service of the California State University, Monterey Bay and the Nancy Eccles and Homer M. Hayward Family Foundation our sponsors.  We also thank our community partners who helped us spread the word:  the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  

About the Hosts

The California Coast and Climate Semester program brings undergraduate students from Middlebury College, Vermont and other east coast liberal arts colleges to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey from January to May each year.  It offers unique, place-based learning focused on climate change, coastal resilience, and environmental justice. The students access the extraordinary beauty, rich cultural history and deep environmental ties of the Monterey Bay, while enrolling in master’s level classes in Environmental Policy and Management or other MIIS degree programs, earning credit toward their undergraduate degrees.  Getting away from east coast winters is a definite bonus.

The Center for the Blue Economy is a research center at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, that provides economic and policy analysis to support the development of a robust and equitable blue economy for the 21st century. The Center uses the World Bank’s definition of the Blue Economy: the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.   We must maintain ocean health to maintain human health, economic health, and the health of the planet.  Climate change is linked, inextricably, to a healthy ocean.  Consider joining our movement for Ocean Climate Action Now.    Consider joining our Center for the Blue Economy Newsletter List (3-4x per year by email).

See the Lineup of all Speakers & Events

The Environmental Justice and Sustainability Speaker Series