Hilary Walecka: Future of the Land-Sea Interface

Fellow Name: Hilary Walecka
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2016
Host Agency: California Coastal Conservancy

Hi, I’m Hilary and I’m the Climate Ready fellow at the California State Coastal Conservancy.

Hilary Waleka familyMy family came to California in 1883.  They landed in the greater Los Angeles area to a land of orange groves, figs, and other fruit trees.   

Today, in the a land of smart phones, email, and over-busy days, it’s easy to live in the immediate mindset (or really in cyberspace…) and only think about our world today, right now.

But what was California like 50 years ago when my mom was in elementary school; or 150 years ago during the gold rush when hoards of hopefuls came to California in search of opportunity; or 250 years ago before the Portola expedition and Spanish missionaries when native peoples populated the state?

Now, how about what California will look like in 50 years?  In 100 years? 

What do we want it to look like?  

During my CA Sea Grant State Fellowship with the State Coastal Conservancy, I have been able to understand the importance of how local and state policies shape what our state looks like. For a scientist that previously had no interest in “policy” or “politics” and was embarrassingly unaware about the workings of our state and local government, I think I’m being converted. 

Right now, we are making decisions that will affect what our state looks like now and in the future.

As sea levels rise and storms impact our coastline, will we continue to create and enforce shoreline armoring and seawalls to protect development at the expense of our beaches?  Will we have an entirely armored, unnatural coastline in 50 years?   Will we have any beaches or wetlands left?

Image of 1) a sunny beach day and 2) an armored shoreline in Ventura

Will we change our transportation structure, industrial systems, and growth patterns to find solutions and pathways that don’t use fossil fuels—polluting the air and accelerating climate change?

California’s policies and the way we manage our state and local communities will determine that.

I have grown up with an innate love of nature and a love of our coastline, harvested through my visits to the beach.

I want that opportunity to exist for people less fortunate than me now, but also for everyone in the future: what it’s like to spend a day at a beach, see birds flock at a wetland, and stand on a bluff and look out at the expanse of the ocean.

The California Coastal Act is a law that was passed in 1976 that governs decisions about development on California’s coast to ensure the protection of coastal resources and public access to our coast.   Not all states have such a law that protects coastal resources for the public.

Climate change and sea level rise have brought a paramount challenge to our coastal management agencies and local and state governments.

California must design new forward-thinking policies, land use decisions, and collaborations to protect what we love about our state for future generations.

Written by Hilary Walecka

Image of a beach

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

“The future starts today, not tomorrow.” Pope John Paul II