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From the Editor: Coastal change drives need for ongoing education, action

Lauren Coughlin, Editor
10:06 am PDT August 3, 2017

There is the welcome, refreshing prospective of change — and then there is the type of change that is wildly unwelcome yet seemingly unavoidable.

And when it comes to anything to do with the local environment being harmed and/or impacted, Malibu residents do not tend to welcome change unless it results in a positive solution. 

Local surfers and beachgoers came to City Council on June 26 to request that they look into protecting and restoring Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider Beach and the surrounding area. 

“Ocean rise is making this a critical time and we need to take action protecting the lagoon and the Adamson House, potentially the highway, the beach — [there’s] a lot of historic value here,” one speaker said at that meeting.

But it’s not just Surfrider, and this week, the buzz continues. 

As columnist and Malibu resident Ashley Hamilton so eloquently penned this week in his Page 17 column, the coastline is changing. That much is widely known and widely discussed in many forums. But the weight of Hamilton’s column only increases when considering the other news that came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency this week (Page 4). 

As part of the California Coastal Analysis and Mapping Program, FEMA has redrawn its maps — removing some properties from the floodplain, but adding others for the first time. The details of those changes can all be reviewed online (for more resources, visit, but officials will dive deeper into the discussion this month, too.

On Tuesday, Aug. 22, FEMA will hold a public meeting at the Malibu City Hall to discuss the newly revised floodplain maps. Further, with the proper criteria, residents can file an appeal from Aug. 9 through Nov. 6.

For many, coastal changes are a daily realization, but when it comes in the form of a FEMA map, it can feel a bit more definitive.

One of the very first events I covered as editor of the Surfside was a Malibu Library Speakers Series panel on climate change. I was absolutely floored by the attendance, and I was even further impressed by the thoughtful questions and compassion Malibuites expressed for their beautiful environment.

At the event, scientist Gary Griggs spoke about how the sea level was rising at a rate of about 3.3 millimeters per year.

“If you live within a foot of sea level, that’s a lot,” Griggs said at the time, noting that scientists also feared that rate would only increase.

“What do you do with the 150 million people on the planet that live within 3 feet of sea level?” Griggs had said.

Nearly a year later, the coastline continues to change — certainly in Malibu, and certainly in other coastal locales around the world. And in Malibu, it remains something residents are keenly tuned into, even when it’s largely beyond their control. 

In the case of coastal change and climate change alike, there’s no such thing as being too informed. Luckily, I suspect many in Malibu are well aware of the matter — and I know it’s not one anyone will be taking lightly.