Climate & Clean Energy
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#13: A blueprint for suing the pants off fossil fuel companies

Published on
June 21, 2022
Show notes

In Episode 13, Quinn and Brian plot a blueprint for suing the pants off fossil fuel companies. Of course we don't know where to start, so we asked for help. Meet the mastermind: Mayor Serge Dedina of tiny Imperial Beach, California, one of the first cities to sue fossil fuel companies for climate change damages. We discuss what led to their suit, but more importantly, actions other cities should be taking to plan for the future, including their own legal action. Also: surfing, Nazis, and grandmas. Want to send us feedback? Tweet us, email us, or leave us a voice message! Links: Mayor Serge Dedina on Twitter Wild Coast Serge’s book choice: Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari Blue Carbon Australia Quinn Emmett on Twitter Brian Colbert Kennedy on Twitter Intro/outro by Tim Blane Subscribe to our newsletter at! Like and share us on Facebook! Check us on Instagram! Follow us on Twitter! Pin us on Pinterest! Tumble us or whatever the hell you do on Tumblr! Ok that’s enough good lord


Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And my name is definitely Brian Colbert Kennedy, no reason to say anything else about it.

Quinn: Nicely done, nicely done. This is episode 13 with Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, California. He is also Executive Director and Co-Founder of WILDCOAST, and they work to conserve marine ecosystems. But most specifically for this little chat, Mayor Dedina was the first mayor and mayor of the first city to sue the fossil fuel companies.

Brian: No big deal.

Quinn: That's right. That case is still ongoing, and a number of others have delightfully sprung up, and we're going to talk about those and also, whether your community should be joining the fight.

Brian: Hint, they should be, but there's some steps to take first, obviously.

Quinn: And not surprisingly, the good mayor outlines those pretty simply for us all.

Brian: Oh, yeah.

Quinn: Serge isn't new at this, man. God, this is awesome. You know, it runs in the family. His old grandma basically punched Hitler.

Brian: Yeah, right in the face.

Quinn: And that's all we're going to say.

Brian: Yeah, we'll let him take it from there, but that should excite you, because his family is awesome.

Quinn: Right, right. Basically, from punching Hitler to defending the ocean like Aquaman.

Brian: Oh, God, the one part where ... I'm so excited.

Quinn: No, don't do the thing. Don't do the thing.

Brian: It's going to be good.

Quinn: Yeah, people are going to be excited. They're going to really enjoy it. I want to apologize for some audio quality on this one. You might not pick up on it, but my delightful OCD did.

Brian: Yeah, it wasn't up to Quinn's very high standards.

Quinn: Serge had some technical issues, probably not his fault.

Brian: No, of course not.

Quinn: We had some technical issues, which involved Brian and I sharing a microphone like Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons but much less sexy.

Brian: It was very cute, though.

Quinn: For who?

Brian: Well, for us. What do you mean? For whom?

Quinn: For whom?

Brian: I thought it was nice to be close to you. We're friends. We got to talk into the mic and sit next to each other. It was great.

Quinn: Tier two friends.

Brian: Nope, that's not true.

Quinn: Anyways, we appreciate it. If it makes you feel any better, we were sweating our balls off, because it's 78 degrees here, and that's just out of control.

Brian: Oh, God, and even hotter in here without the air.

Quinn: Yeah, the surface of the sun outside our windows. We got these new Target curtains.

Brian: They are very nice, and they're extremely helpful. I can't imagine what the fuck it would have been like without them.

Quinn: $11. It fucking saved our lives today, and we can't turn on our air conditioner, because now you know what it sounds like.

Brian: Yeah, it's very loud. It's way too loud, and it's right by the mic. It would be a nightmare.

Quinn: Do you want to tell everybody why, despite a number of weather apps on the App Store, you chose to wear a jacket today?

Brian: I did. Listen, I walked out of my house checking the app. The app said it was like ... It said 67 degrees.

Quinn: It's not 67 degrees.

Brian: It's what it said on the-

Quinn: No, there's no way. It is 5:30 right now, and it's 78 degrees, so there's no way at 3:00, it was 15 degrees less.

Brian: Maybe I need to get a new weather app.

Quinn: Yeah, sounds like it.

Brian: Quinn, okay, and then I thought to myself, well, I'll think ahead, and by the time I leave it'll be colder. It won't be. Now I realize. So yes, I wore a heavier jacket than I should have.

Quinn: What's your weather app?

Brian: I explained to you that the problem is, I don't have a lot of jacket options right now.

Quinn: And my point was, it's not about jacket options. It's you don't wear a jacket.

Brian: I didn't need one at all. Also, let me point out, Mr. "I have you when you ride a motorcycle," it's actually a little more protective to have some sort of jacket, also. Not that it's a motorcycle jacket.

Quinn: Yeah, I was going to say, that jacket's not ... Members Only is not protecting you from anything.

Brian: It's not a Members Only jacket, and it would at least save my skin from being scraped up if it was a minor accident. Maybe.

Quinn: Not as much as you think. What's your weather app?

Brian: I don't know. The fucking on that comes on the phone. Yahoo, I guess?

Quinn: Oh, Jesus. Yahoo's not even a company anymore.

Brian: No, it's not Yahoo. It's The Weather Channel app, okay?

Quinn: You've got to get into Dark Sky, man.

Brian: All right, well yes, I clearly need to use something else.

Quinn: You know how in Frozen at the end, she puts the snowstorm cloud above-

Brian: What an amazing movie to reference. From Quinn with three children to Brian with zero children.

Quinn: I'm trying to explain to you how hyper-local Dark Sky is. She puts a snow cloud above the snowman, Olaf, so that he doesn't melt, ever, no matter what season it is. That's basically Dark Sky, which is they're like, "Hey, Brian, where you're standing, it's about to rain in 10" ... I mean, it doesn't say rain here, but five, four, and then it fucking rains.

Brian: Wow.

Quinn: And then they're like, "Hey, it's going to stop," and then it stops.

Brian: All right, I'll get Dark Sky. Is it free?

Quinn: No. It costs money and man hours or female hours to make it.

Brian: Fine.

Quinn: I think it's a dude, but I don't really understand.

Brian: Thank you for that. Anyway, I like the new plants in the office.

Quinn: We got some new plants. The old one, it was on its way out. We did a pretty good job, but I abandoned it for a few months, and it turns out, that's what happens.

Brian: Do you know what kind of plants these are, what their names are?

Quinn: No.

Brian: Okay.

Quinn: No. They said it enhances the oxygen we breathe, which I figured we could use that.

Brian: They look really great. When I first came in, listeners, Quinn said that they were ... He said, "Say hello to Little Brian and Big Brian," but then he really let the truth out, and-

Quinn: I changed their names.

Brian: Really, it's Harold, yean. It's Harold.

Quinn: Yeah, Harold. No, it's Harold Junior and Harold 2.0.

Brian: Oh, got it, right, right, right. I felt good for a second.

Quinn: So anyways, also baseball started. That's great.

Brian: Yeah, super fun. You went to a game?

Quinn: I did, opening day. That was great.

Brian: Was it good? I forgot to ask.

Quinn: Yeah, it's always good.

Brian: I wasn't there, so I just didn't really care that much, but I hope you had fun with your other, better friend.

Quinn: Brian's beard still hasn't grown back, and it makes me so upset.

Brian: I was just going to boom because I felt good about my jab, and then you went right into that.

Quinn: And then you forgot that you look like a child molester?

Brian: Yeah, well you know ... No, child molesters have beards, man, for sure.

Quinn: No, they don't. They have disgusting red mustaches.

Brian: Mustaches, yeah, and glasses, and maybe they're bald. No offense to other mustached, glasses-wearing bald listeners.

Quinn: There goes three of our listeners. They're like, "What the fuck, Brian?"

Brian: You know what I was going to say about my facial hair was that I was sure that I was going to walk into the office today, open the door, and there was going to be my good pal and cohost also clean-shaven.

Quinn: We can't both be clean-shaven.

Brian: As a stand in solidarity with me.

Quinn: Not going to happen.

Brian: I'm glad you didn't.

Quinn: I'll be your phone call when you go to jail, but I'm not going that far. I'm not going to shave with you.

Brian: I hate it, but I'm trying to at least be the one person who's like, "No, it's fine." But yes, I also don't like it. And it's going to grow back.

Quinn: If you were to go to jail-

Brian: Yeah, likely, first of all.

Quinn: What is the thing ... 100%. What's the thing you think you're most likely to go to jail for? Go. What's your gut say?

Brian: You know what? I think it would be something ... Oh, this would be it for sure.

Quinn: I can't wait.

Brian: Oh my God, I have it, so specific.

Quinn: Hope your mom's listening to this one. Let's hear it.

Brian: I love you, Mom, so much. I was jaywalking the other day.

Quinn: Check.

Brian: Which I do often. I don't know, it seems normal to me, and a cop did like the real quick, like whoo-whoo-whoo, just to get my attention. Then I looked over, and he sort of just gave me a look, like, "You're fucking breaking the law, dude," or whatever. So in my mind, I was thinking, man, if he came over here to give me a ticket and I was just in a mood that I'm often in-

Quinn: Which is what?

Brian: I don't know, sometimes I want to be combative.

Quinn: Why?

Brian: I don't know, because something pissed me off, and now I'm ... Listen.

Quinn: Talk to me about that.

Brian: I'm just answering your question, okay? We can talk about that later. I thought to myself, if he came over here and wrote me a jaywalking ticket, because they're pretty expensive. They're like hundreds of dollars. Yes, they are, look it up.

Quinn: Hundreds, plural?

Brian: I'm going to-

Quinn: We'll check back on that. We'll put it in the show notes.

Brian: We'll on it. Even if it's $50-

Quinn: It's not hundreds, but anyways, keep going.

Brian: [inaudible 00:07:38]. I feel like I would, like possibly, because I was in a snappy mood at that time, I would have been a smart ass.

Quinn: Well, what's going to cost you hundreds of dollars isn't the $50 jaywalking ticket. It's fucking resisting arrest.

Brian: That's what ... My whole imagination-

Quinn: Because you're in a unexplained, combative mood.

Brian: Yeah, that's right. That is what I think it would have ... It would be something silly like that, because I would not be able to contain my bad attitude because something dumb pissed me off, and it would be at a cop who, yeah, was trying to give me a ticket, and then I'm tell him, "Good job, buddy, is this what you got into the force for?" Like something real dumb, and then I would rip the ticket up in front of him, and then he'd arrest me.

Quinn: You're a nightmare.

Brian: It's only if I'm in a bad mood.

Quinn: So, on the subject of righteousness, that's a great segue. We love a great segue here. Serge applies it in the most positive fashion.

Brian: Absolutely.

Quinn: And probably has a little bit more of a leg to stand on. So, let's go talk to him about that, instead of-

Brian: Let's talk to Serge about that, instead of me. I'm not, I wasn't saying I was going to do that.

Quinn: And, here we go.

Brian: Fine, bye.

Quinn: Our guest today is Mayor Serge Dedina of Imperial Beach, California. Together, we're going to explain the blueprint for taking legal action against fossil fuel companies. Should your city be suing is a good question. Let's find out.

Brian: Welcome, Mayor. Thank you for being here.

Serge Dedina: Great, thank you for having me.

Brian: Do us a favor and just tell us all who you are and what you do.

Serge Dedina: I'm Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach, California, which is a little, 20,000-resident, little blue collar city on the US-Mexico border at the southern end of California, and I'm also the executive director of WILDCOAST, an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. One way or the other, I'm involved a lot with the ocean and coastal protection and really trying to figure out how we conserve natural ecosystems and, of course, improve the quality of life in my very super cool blue collar beach town. I think the only one left now in Southern California.

Quinn: Yeah, the overlap there is certainly dwindling. Listen, so we want to set up our conversation today, our listeners have heard this a billion times, but we're big believers in questions, and that's something that really fascinates us, but questions that don't provoke action are just philosophy. We love philosophy, but it is a time for action, and certainly, you get that. So, that's where we're trying to go, what we're trying to provoke here on the podcast every day.

Brian: What we want to do, Serge, is get some context from you. The why of you, the why of the immense change facing our listeners, and then progress to some actionable steps that they can take. Something that will inspire them to get to work at whatever level, whatever party they subscribe to. Does that sound all right?

Serge Dedina: Yeah.

Brian: Groovy. Mayor, we start with one important question to really get to the heart of why you're here today. Instead of that question being, what's your story, or whatever, we like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of this species?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, so why am I vital? It's really important to have people who can see into the future in terms of understanding what's happening in the present and what that means for the future, and I think, probably, given my background and my family's background, that's just something that's in our DNA. My parents were immigrants. My mom was bombed during the Blitz in London during the Second World War, and then my dad's family are Jewish, and my dad came to this country in 1939. My grandmother whisked him and my uncle Roland out of their home in Paris and then just boarded them on a boat and came to America. That's because she had been a refugee from Poland and had her village obliterated by the Russians, and she actually lived in a village that had been obliterated by the Russians and anti-Semites for hundreds of years.

Serge Dedina: You could just say that this idea that understanding that what's happening now may not be good for the future is something that was ingrained in me by my mom and dad and my grandmother. I had a very momentous morning when I was a kid. I was [inaudible 00:11:52] Imperial Beach and my grandmother, Lottie, this tiny little Jewish woman, who might as well have been Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman. She's like the most badass little grandma you could ever have. You did not want to get in her face.

Brian: I had a couple of those.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, and told me the story of how she had dressed up like a man in 1938 in Paris and boarded the train for Vienna and then had used the passports of my dad and my uncle Roland who were a couple years younger than her niece and nephew, Lizette and Bernard, and then went and rescued them from Vienna and brought them back to Paris. My dad's cousin, Bernard, my grandmother's great-nephew, he ended up becoming a fighter in the French resistance and then after the war, so he was ingrained to kill Nazis. He worked at the Nuremberg Trials.

Serge Dedina: So, you could say that in my family, this idea that you take action and seek justice is something we were raised with. This idea that you're never quiet in the face of injustice, that you always have your feelers out to sense what's coming and why it may or may not be good. That's sort of translated into my moving to Imperial Beach in 1971 at the age of seven, falling in love with a Tijuana estuary, which is now a National Wildlife Refuge, but back then, was slated for development as a marina and high-rise development. My family quickly got involved in helping to stop that. I got beat up. It was a pretty heavy moment, you know?

Quinn: I'm sure.

Serge Dedina: [crosstalk 00:13:25], but we prevailed. Since then, I've been really involved in really sensing what's out there in terms of environmental threats and trying to deal with them and address them, and fighting some pretty heavy people to make that happen. That's really been my story and why I think it's important to have me and other people like me out there, really making sure that we're addressing these things that we're seeing on the ground now and in the water now, and really portend not necessarily a great future for our planet and the survival of our species.

Quinn: That is a hell of a unique answer.

Brian: I feel terrible for anybody who's ever run against you in anything.

Quinn: Or your family. Or it sounds like your grandma specifically.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, when you're raised in an immigrant family, and I find I have this in common with other folks who are elected officials and immigrants. At least for me, my childhood was like the equivalent of a Marx Brothers movie combined with a Seinfeld episode, in the sense that the rules don't apply. You're not interested in following rules because you never knew what they were, and you have parents that have already fled the rules that were not fair. So, you've come to America, and basically, you're just all about moving forward. It's bad. It's bad when you're always awkwardly embarrassed wearing the wrong thing in the 1970's in junior high and stuff because you didn't have any idea what normal American teenagers are supposed to look like and your parents sure don't, but also, because you tend to run over things or steamroll things that are in your way, which can be good and bad. Not always good for human relations, but definitely helpful when you're trying to address threats to your community and toward the environment and now, obviously, to the planet.

Quinn: Absolutely. I thought when we first encountered you, I think is the best way to describe it, your force, at the conference at UCLA, I thought I heard you describe something. Did your family take some legal action in Paris regarding the trains? Something like that, or have I totally mangled that?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, that's an interesting story. My dad never forgot what happened to his family, and actually, I'm sitting in a room. I have a box full of the deportation orders of my dad's cousins that got sent to concentration camps. My dad always blamed as much the Nazis and the French government for what happened to his family, and then also the fact that his parents had lost their family and their business in Paris when they fled Europe. So, my dad signed on. There was a special commission in France to recompense and deal with the victims of people who had lost their properties and their families during the French occupation.

Serge Dedina: So, my dad went back to Paris and actually testified at this special tribunal with his cousin Lizette, who my grandmother had rescued. He won a judgment, which is a huge deal for my dad, but he'd also signed onto a lawsuit by a pretty prominent attorney who was trying to sue the French railway system for basically profiting off sending Jews to their death. The French railway system had actually charged the Nazis per seat steerage on those trains, and so it made a profit off it. My dad was part of that effort. It wasn't successful, but nothing got in the way of my dad when he was trying to move forward. I was really proud of him for that, and I think he felt it was necessary to seek justice for his family and make sure that those wrongs were righted in some way.

Quinn: Well, we can all certainly benefit and learn from your family's history of flaming righteous social justice. It's pretty awesome.

Brian: Let's talk about what's been going on, I guess, for about the past 50 years and take us up for today in one of my patented mangled history lessons. So, we've been burning fossil fuels pretty intensely for about 100 years. Yes, it built the industrialized age and gave us the 20th century, but it also had a lot of other ramifications, some of which we're still finding out about. We cut to July 27th, 2017, which might be a make or break date for us as a species, as a planet. Your city sued, along with two other municipalities, San Mateo and Marin. You sued 37, I believe, oil and gas companies, claiming their actions intensified climate change and exacerbated costly sea level rise. Those companies are reportedly responsible for 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions between 1965 and 2015. I'm just going to read a little bit from the filing here.

Brian: It says, "Defendants have known for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the earth's climate and sea level. With that knowledge, defendants took steps to protect their own assets from these threats through immense internal investment and research, infrastructure improvements, and plans to exploit new opportunities in a warming world. Defendants concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes." As we've all discovered through things that have been revealed from some of the biggest fossil fuel companies, they knew that warming was going on the whole time. There were plenty of internal documents that have since surfaced and spread online.

Quinn: Since then, a number of other cities have also sued, mostly in California, but New York as well, Paris is reportedly considering it, and maybe the whole state of California will be joining that fray.

Brian: Right, and these lawsuits aren't going to stop emissions, right? Unless you start to help put these companies out of business, but in a world where we are running 40 years behind the actual emissions feeling the effects, theoretically, it'll help to pay for adaptation, which is something we have to reckon with, and I imagine with your seaside community, it's something you're dealing with. Is that a proper context for where we are today, Mayor?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, absolutely. The very real issue is, I was elected mayor not to deal with sea level rise but in my blue collar beach town, to really do the kind of investments we needed to make to make this a normal, everyday city. We had alleys that were unpaved, which is a big deal if you're in a wheelchair and you live fronting an alley. And your kids have asthma and the dust makes that worse. So, put in sidewalks and crosswalks and get a grocery store. We have a 25% poverty rate in my city, and a third of the kids live in poverty. It's something I'm not proud of, but we're a low-income community, a working class community next to the US-Mexico border.

Serge Dedina: We have an ambitious plan, and we have been engaged in that to really put in infrastructure and really improve the quality of life of our lowest-income residents who had been ignored for 60 years. So, sea level rise, although I knew about it, and climate change, obviously very aware of it, wasn't something I was elected to deal with or even really thinking that we'd have to really address until we went along with the ... We started engaging in a seal level rise planning process that we started carrying out, and then was really shocked to learn that as a result of sea level rise in the next 100 years, or by 2100, we would have probably 30 to 40% of our city impacted by coastal flooding. I was really awakened to the idea of it.

Serge Dedina: And, well before this lawsuit started addressing state-wide forums saying, there's a difference between Malibu and Laguna Beach and Imperial Beach in that we don't have the money to a geologic hazard district and assess our homeowners what to pay for these adaptation measures. We're going to be bearing the cost of things that we don't have. It'll be, I've got to fix our coastal flooding, but at the same time, then go back to ignoring our lowest-income residents. And it turns out that some of the most vulnerable areas in our city are areas where, in fact, are high poverty rates and people live in low-income apartment buildings or I guess a lower-rent apartment buildings, which is good, but that means that we're going to have to address all those things as well. That's why, I think, this lawsuit, it's not an ideological statement for us or even a political statement. It's very real.

Quinn: It's necessary.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, it's necessary. We didn't cause this problem. We're suffering from it and we're going to suffer a lot more from it, and so therefore, those who caused it and knowingly caused it, need to pay up, because my residents can't afford to.

Brian: Fuck yeah!

Quinn: So, talk to me, and like you said, before the lawsuit, you started talking on the circuit about it. How did this conversation really, to start taking legal action, how did that start for you personally?

Serge Dedina: Well, I really think, again, we started realizing it was happening, became aware of this legal effort and really discussed it. I think it was really just this idea that we need to have a mechanism to hold these companies accountable, to help pay for what it would be, hundreds of millions of dollars in my city to just adapt our infrastructure. Not even deal with people's neighborhoods and our roads, right? I think that's really what it became about. Our legal team, these are really smart folks who have really developed this legal strategy, but really, for us, it's really a survival strategy, and that's why we have embraced this and more importantly, I think, even before this legal effort, we decided as a city that we were going to own sea level rise in the sense that we were going to acknowledge it, we were going to deal with it, and we were going to educate other cities and governments about the need to start planning for this now.

Serge Dedina: I think if you look at Imperial Beach and the counties of San Mateo and Marin, the first folks who signed on, and then later San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, and Santa Cruz County and the City of Santa Cruz, we're all leaders nationally, if not internationally, on addressing the very real threats of climate change to our entities, to our constituents and our infrastructure. And then, understanding what the cost would be. Those are studies that we've gone through. That's why we're on the forefront of this legal charge, because we've already been doing this already, even before the legal effort.

Brian: All right, so out of absolute necessity, obviously, legal action was taken. Talk to us about, how you'd build your case?

Quinn: Because this has been something that people have tried before in vain, and it has failed, so yeah, how did you guys build this from the ground up, to know that this time might be different?

Serge Dedina: I think, first of all, the legal team is really, really, I think a step above other folks who have tried this. But, number two, really, it's the documentation. I think the documents that are making this case actually come from the oil companies and fossil fuel companies themselves. For example, ExxonMobil donated their papers to the University of Texas at Austin library. I actually got my PhD in geography from the University of Texas back in the early 90's, so it actually was interesting to see that connection.

Serge Dedina: So they found these documents that outlined what these oil companies and fossil fuel companies were doing, and really, the crux of the argument is not only did these companies acknowledge the impacts of climate change from their own abilities and the need to change, but at the same time, they were mounting the campaign to greenwash ... Or, not greenwash, but basically cover up climate change and their own role in causing it. They were also implementing their own adaptation strategies to make sure that their own infrastructure would be resilient to sea level rise and climate change.

Serge Dedina: I think that's the crux of it. Here you have these companies knowingly denying this problem exists and creating this false campaign, and at the same time, addressing the very real issues themselves. I think that's what's different is the documentation that we have, and really, the smoking gun documents that are [inaudible 00:25:51]. And the whole science of cumulative carbon in which, basically, scientists can really target and understand the emissions that come from these individual companies.

Quinn: Sure, and again, even aside from, I think, a lot of folks, and we've tried to help surface, these documents are floating around saying they've known about it for 50 years, but which are pretty damning in themselves. But when you find documentation, like you said, that have been volunteered, that not only do they know about it, but they're preparing themselves for the repercussions of these things, it paints them into a corner, you would think. It's just, it's incredible, it's incredible. How did this, when you guys took the leap to get onboard with this thing, what was the reaction from your mayor friends?

Brian: Yeah, all the mayors just hang out, right? You guys have a big group?

Serge Dedina: You know what's funny, is yeah, I think we've got a lot of support nationally. At the local level, some of our constituents are doubtful of climate change, questioned it, others were very supportive. What's interesting, and I think for me really sad, was that I was at a climate conference last year with Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco who passed away not that far after I met him [crosstalk 00:27:12]. Probably more than any other mayor, I'd never met him before, and was immediately just captivated by his very folksy, down to earth style, and we really hit it off in terms of just being really clear. Like, "Hey man, we're infrastructure guys, and we've just told the engineers," he said that as well, "I've told my engineers, get to work and help us figure this out."

Serge Dedina: You could tell that he was really, really focused on it, and again, not from an ideological or political standpoint, more like, we can see these rising seas happen. San Francisco's experienced, all the Bay Area has experienced, a lot of pretty significant coastal flooding. It's pretty eye-opening, like our own city, and like many cities. They were very focused on starting to address it. Some other mayors, though, we've got some other folks in San Diego County that have told us that sea level rise is something happening to your beach city, but it's not happening to us.

Brian: Yeah, that makes sense.

Serge Dedina: It's like, okay, sure. My argument has been that if you're not, you need to start planning now or it'll be too late. I'm the chair of a regional government agency that includes all the cities in San Diego County, so we've been assisting all the coastal cities in San Diego that want to be engaged in this in starting to plan for sea level rise in a very functional, practical way, so they can do these, really, plans to accommodate coastal flooding and figure out, first and foremost, how do they address it, how do they deal with, and what's the extent of the problem?

Serge Dedina: So, there can be a way to address it that isn't political, that's not ideological, it's very functional, and it gets people on board to address this threat of coastal flooding in addition to other things like, now, for climate change in general, fires obviously, and mudslides and the other things that come around with our unstable climate.

Quinn: Where does the case stand today, right now, what's going on?

Serge Dedina: You can imagine at first, the companies didn't respond in terms of a flurry of activity, but now, there's been a lot of activity on the part of the fossil fuel companies. There's been a lot of requests for information. They tried to have this thrown to federal court. That failed. They're trying to have us deposed in Texas, and so that's something we're working on now.

Quinn: Why Texas?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, and because ExxonMobil and other companies are in Texas. You can only imagine that they've got a bunch of high-priced, fancy-suited lawyers really spending a lot of time focused on me. Even since then, these scam groups that represent so-called manufacturers, it means they're fronts for fossil fuel companies and the Koch brothers, have launched a campaign against me and apparently Mayor Bill de Blasio. I'm actually pretty honored that I'm the subject of a manufacturing troll campaign on social media. Even in The Washington Times, apparently, I'm part of a giant conspiracy. They've argued that we're part of a large conspiracy. Apparently it's called the La Jolla Conspiracy, and this has been going on for a long time, and God knows, maybe I was even born [inaudible 00:30:24], I'm a sleeper agent designed to combat fossil fuel companies. We're not going to underestimate these companies' desire or intent to really railroad this effort, because as you said, cities are starting to join this, and maybe other larger entities as well.

Quinn: Sure, and you know, as far as you being the man with the target on your back, I am about as far from a New York Yankees fan as humanly possible. There's this great quote from Reggie Jackson where he said, "Fans don't boo nobodies," which I think applies. They're coming after you for a reason, man.

Brian: Yeah, congrats.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, you have to understand about Imperial Beach, we're a blue collar beach town. We don't have a lot, so if they want to come at us, sure, go ahead. I'm also dealing with issues related to pollution from the Tijuana River in Mexico, some of the most horrific pollution in the county if not the planet. We've filed a lawsuit against the International Boundary and Water Commission and Veolia Water, the world's largest water company, for egregious violations of the Clean Water Act. I'm talking about toxic waste being dumped in our watershed. I've gotten sick. My sons, they've gotten sick while surfing. Our lifeguards are getting sick. Our [inaudible 00:31:35] are getting sick. They can't make it any worse than that, and frankly, someone asked us about the risk. The risk is not doing anything. The risk isn't challenging fossil fuel companies. The risk is sitting on our butts and basically ignoring this problem, just like so much of our federal bureaucracy is now being told to do.

Quinn: Something interesting happened in court in San Francisco this last week. This week? Last week? Where-

Brian: This week or last week. It was one of the two.

Quinn: Yeah, thanks, Brian.

Brian: Yeah.

Quinn: Where the judge requested, basically, a seminar on climate science from both sides, from some of the cities involved and also from the big fossil fuel companies. Pretty unique, but at the same time, I guess, it could still go one way or the other, but it feels good to know they're trying to act with science on their side. What are your thoughts on that climate science discussion that happened? Does that affect you guys at all?

Serge Dedina: It's a different case, but I think it definitely sets the context and probably a precedent. I think there's a lot of complex information here that needs to be studied. I think that's probably a good thing. I think it makes it a lot more transparent and open, and in some ways, democratic, so I think that was a good sign for these cases that we're getting a fair hearing in court. I like that precedent. I think you're going to see a lot of new and interesting things come out of this. This is an unprecedented case, not unlike the tobacco lawsuit and possibly even what will be happening with opioid lawsuits. You're holding these industries accountable, so you're going to start seeing new and novel approaches to deal with this. I'm not an attorney, but I've been impressed with the legal theories and their approach in this case, but more importantly, the response of the judge, which I think appropriate and fair for the defendants, as well. I think that's good.

Brian: I just want mention also, yeah, sort of similarly, I guess just yesterday, a federal judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit that ExxonMobil brought on to say, hey, don't let New York and Massachusetts sue us, and a federal judge said, "No, fuck that." Which, again, is not specific to your case, but must be great for all of these cases.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, absolutely. You're going to see a lot more cities piling on. I actually met the mayor of Paris as well. It was a climate meeting of mayors in Chicago in December hosted by Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago. Out of that, you had San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz joined on, Richmond. I was with the mayor of Richmond at another ocean conference and they signed on. You're going to start seeing more of these lawsuits, and I think at the end of the day, people are going to say, oh, again, it's an ideological or political statement, but at the end of the day, because our federal government is unwilling [crosstalk 00:34:44]. Yeah, it's a nightmare, but they're unwilling to acknowledge the scope of the problem we face, and we know there's no help coming. Our cities are own their own, so they need to come up with these novel approaches, legal approaches, and innovative approaches to be able to begin to identify ways to pay for these very real costs that they did not cause.

Brian: What is the best possible result from all this, you think?

Quinn: Yeah, what are you specifically seeking? What are the damages you're seeking? Again, keep in mind what we're trying to do is sort of try to paint a picture and build a blueprint for these folks across the US and across the world that have started taking action this year across a variety of interests for maybe the first time in their lives and are pretty fired up, and we want to help build some concrete steps for them and ways they can both support you and build momentum in their own communities, because obviously this is one that's both international, everything is connected, but also so hyper-local.

Serge Dedina: Look, the first step in that process was for us to do a sea level rise adaptation plan or an impact assessment and really identify what the specific impacts would be. That was a sobering analysis, to look at the impacts on our infrastructure. We're surrounded on three sides by water, so we're four square miles with San Diego Bay on the north side of our city, the Tijuana Estuary, a National Wildlife Refuge on the south side of our, and then the Pacific Ocean to the west. We've got some very real threats coming from three sides, and in fact, what happens with sea level rise and coastal flooding is that all the sudden, old flood zones that have not been flooded with normal rains all the sudden start to fill in with water. So, it's even on our east side.

Serge Dedina: That was the first step. The second step was to quantify what the economic impact would be. That would be significant, especially to the 30% of our roads that would be impacted by coastal flooding. The water pipes, the sewage pipes, the storm drains, the electrical infrastructure. All that has a really specific cost, and we're starting to already identify projects that we would carry out that would help us become more resilient, and we're talking about, already, tens of millions of dollars that we don't have. That's really, I think, the first part of that process, is to really go out and soberly evaluate what the impacts of sea level rise and climate change. Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County are filing on behalf of not just sea level rise but overall the climate change impacts, because they're surrounded by forests.

Serge Dedina: I think if you look at a city like Montecito in Santa Barbara County, even Los Angeles with Bel Air and those forest fires, Santa Rosa in Northern California, New Orleans and Puerto Rico, as well, obviously. And Houston, Miami. All these cities that are subject to these tremendous damages from climate-related storms, then you're looking at a pretty sobering assessment of what's happening nationally and possibly even internationally with other cities. That's the first step.

Serge Dedina: And then, really, making sure that you have the legal wherewithal to file these cases and make your claim and really understanding the risks that are associated with that in terms of legal repercussions, possibly. But understanding that we have no other choice but to do this, because we have no other options to pay for the types of damages that will take place.

Quinn: Well, and you have to imagine that that is the case over and over and over, and yes, some of these cities are inherently, vastly more wealthy and resource-laden on a number of fronts, whether it's purely fiscally or attorney-wise or federal support or things like that, but at the same time, the bigger the city, the more shit you got to pay for. So, I guess, let me ask this question. The study you guys did that gave you the sobering analysis. Was paying for that study in itself, was that difficult?

Quinn: Again, I'm trying to think of the steps that if I go back to my hometown or someone's listening and they live in a medium-sized town and they're starting to think about, okay, when I go to my city council, and I'm identifying specific steps we need to start taking to even explore potential action. Not even to take action. We want to lay those steps out for folks and build a blueprint. Talk to me about how difficult it was to both rally your council, and I don't know how the city power works in your town, and some cities are city managers versus mayor power. How difficult was it to get that done, and then how difficult was it to pay for that? Just to get it going, to find out what you guys are looking at?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, I think our city was pretty open. That even occurred before I was elected, so that whole process of identifying the grants. Our city identified foundation grants and some support. An agency, government agency, support to pay for that planning process or that economic impact and the sea level rise impact analysis. So that helpful. It was still a big process, and we had to engage our city staff in that, and then engage the public. We had a technical advisory committee of local stakeholders. We're a beach community. We have a lot of folks who have been engaged in issues related to coastal protection for a long time. Really good, several engineers and scientists were living in our town, so they were heavily involved in that process. I think that's a first step, is to identify what it will cost.

Serge Dedina: And then, most importantly, to get folks involved in that study who can really relate to the community. We were lucky to have a guy named Dave Revell, who has a PhD from UC Santa Cruz and worked with a guy named Gary Grigges, who's a really renowned professor at Santa Cruz, who wrote, really, the sea level guidance policies for the California Coast Commission and arguably one of the world's experts on that issue. Dave not only was a great scientist, but he fit the culture of our community, so he's able to really work with our community. He'd surf with us in the morning, go to meetings all day, and that was a really important part of that process. It sounds funny, but you want to have scientists who are able to communicate effectively with local stakeholders and local residents.

Serge Dedina: We made a point of, when we did that process, to really use it as an educational process. It was happening during El Niño storms and flooding. We had a lot of coastal flooding at that time and a lot of storms, and so we really used this as an educational process. We had one of the most highly attended meetings in our city's history. We had 400 people at a meeting to talk about coastal flooding and sea level rise. That became a very constructive process.

Quinn: If I could interrupt there, the 400-person meeting. You've mentioned that you're a pretty blue collar town. I have to imagine that all of those 400 people weren't necessary in agreement on action.

Serge Dedina: Well, the first thing is just identifying what's the impact. Really, we were coming up with a whole range of possible actions. Really, what the point of that was to really identify what the impacts would be and how much our cost and then to educate them about that. This is the quandary that everyone's going to be facing, and that's something I've realized, and I do conservation work for a living, so I spend a lot of time thinking about how you communicate conversation and environmental values and issues to local audiences and broad audiences.

Serge Dedina: I think the issue here, though, in terms of educating people about the impact and what to do and how much it's going to cost is that let's all be honest, we're not used to thinking about what's going to happen in 100 years. We're not used to thinking about what's going to happen in 100 days or even 100 hours, right? Getting those ideas and concepts across to people is something you can't do just in a meeting or in one process or the plan. That's going to be an ongoing educational process and an evolving work strategy and educational strategy, so when these events happen, you can really educate people. "Okay, this is what happened. This is why it happened," and really do it effectively.

Serge Dedina: The one thing that we did, and I think if you look at whether it's New Orleans or Newport News, Virginia, where they're doing these types of processes, is no one's really talking about sea level rise as much as we're talking about coastal flooding. Everyone can pretty much get behind coastal flooding, and they can see it happen. That's what, I think, was good about our process. It was very practical. We didn't focus a lot on the science of climate change, even though we did talk about it. We're very open about it. We really wanted to get the meat and potatoes of, we're surrounded on three sides by water. We can see this flooding happening now. This is what's predicted to happen in the future. So, let's rally together to figure out how to deal with this.

Serge Dedina: But how to deal with it in terms of what adaptation measures you take is going to be some of the tough stuff. There's some tough decisions we're going to have to make. But, in the meantime, what we came up with, and I think our residents can rally behind, and this is a tragedy of a Congress and a president that can't understand infrastructure. [crosstalk 00:44:07]. People [crosstalk 00:44:07] infrastructure programs. The purpose of government, in my opinion, is to help, obviously, care for the health and safety of our residents, and a lot of that has to do with infrastructure. When you say, "Hey, look, man, we've got a lot of flooding that's coming along now. We need to move a waterline [inaudible 00:44:21] storm drain, and let's help a school adapt to that. Let's think about what to do with our roads." That's something that people can get behind.

Serge Dedina: We have a lot of retired military in our community. San Diego is a big Navy town. We're at the south end of San Diego. So, that was a way to frame it, and I think that's a really successful strategy. I've talked to everyone from people in the Navy to folks from the Dutch government and folks from New Orleans, and I think that's what they all say, is the more practical you are, the less sort of, let's hit you over the head with our ideological point of view or our point of view and really get you to really accept the way we think about things, versus the practical nuts and bolts approach to dealing with coastal flooding and sea level rise. I think that's really the way that we get the community engaged.

Quinn: And that seems to be the model and been the most successful model throughout human history, is, what can I see and touch and feel with my own hands? And, storytelling, versus, as we've clearly seen in the past year and a half, the science isn't cutting it. There's a bunch of nerds who love science, and they'll argue that all day, but it's just not effective, versus telling people, showing them a picture of, like you said, coastal flooding versus sea level rise and saying, "Hey, that's your house, Jim, in that red area on this image on the slide projector. That's your house, and that's yours, Suzy," etc., etc.

Brian: Yeah, get your head out of your ass, Jim.

Quinn: Oh, Jim. And really trying to help paint that picture to tangible things that people can understand, because that's what's going to move the needle. It's hard to say you have to apply to people's best interests, but that's it, if you want to get them involved when there's so much else going on and so much else that's distracted, to make them think about something that's going to happen in 20, 50, 100 years. But like you said, in places like where you are, looking at the new studies on San Francisco airport, Oakland airport, are in deep shit. I'm from Virginia. I have spent a large part of my life about 15 minutes away from Newport News. I know very well what they're facing and the Naval base there. You have to paint that picture for people to really get them involved.

Serge Dedina: And even still there are going to be a lot of tough decisions. Those folks in Montecito with the mudslides or folks in Bel Air, they're not going to want to move, or folks in Houston. We're really good at responding to threats. We're not so good at preventing threats. I think that's where we have to move the needle, is really going back to saying, "Okay, let's all work together. Let's at least take the lowest-hanging fruits in terms of floodplain management."

Serge Dedina: My argument, too, is we've got all these watersheds and wetlands. Let's restore them to their full capacity, so at least we can use those. That's the first line of defense in terms of natural climate solutions. That's something we've also been working on, is really focused on, we've got some areas that can be even more resilient in terms of converting a salt flat and mudflat into fully functioning wetlands, so we'll do that. Even making our watershed that feeds into our community a better ecosystem and a healthier ecosystem. That's what we've also been preaching to cities across the county of San Diego, or at least on the coastline is, "Here are some practical things you can do."

Serge Dedina: I think this issue of natural climate solutions, that's the other way of looking, now, at conservation, is not just about conservation for its own sake but it's, hey, these are the most cost-effective adaptation measures you can take. They don't really cost you that much to conserve the open space around your city or your entity in the first place.

Quinn: Sure. What else do you feel is transferrable to other cities regardless of size? Other municipalities that haven't taken action yet?

Serge Dedina: Let's summarize the process. So, the process really [inaudible 00:48:14]. It's going to be for that. One of the things that California's been really great at is doing, there's a whole king tide program. There's a whole citizen science monitoring project where people are going out and documenting king tides. I think that's going on in a lot of coastal areas in the United States. If you're in a coastal city and no one's doing that, that's a good first step to start documenting these rising tides and more severe king tides, those are the highest tides of the year. So, that's the first step.

Serge Dedina: The second step, obviously, is to do this impact study, sea level rise or climate change impact study. The third step is to really identify the economic impact of that. And then the fourth step that we've taken is now we're incorporating that impact analysis into our general plan, or in California, [inaudible 00:49:01] local coastal plan. We're incorporating that into the legal underpinning and planning underpinning of our city. That's a big step and we're engaged in that now. I think those are really the tangible steps. Every city can do that. Every entity can do that. It doesn't have to be as painful as people think. If we get around, really, it's a hazard study. It's a natural risk study, from the risk of fire, flooding, seal level rise, and obviously now mudslides.

Quinn: Sure. One would think, once all that is complete, you can take a pretty good step back and say, "Well, we can either afford this or we fucking can't, and someone is going to have to pay for it. Even if we can afford it, should we be the ones paying for this? And is it going to get exponentially worse?" If I'm a voter in one of these towns, and again, we kind of encourage people to either go to your first city council meeting and if they don't listen to you, run for city council yourself. But, how would you specifically encourage citizens to go and talk with their mayors and city councils? How are they going to start these conversations at a meeting if it's not happening from the authority side?

Serge Dedina: I think that the most effective way of doing it is saying, "Hey, look, we have a situation of changing climate, climate instability. We've seen these record floods. We've seen these fires. We've seen these mudslides. Do we have a strategy for addressing it, and more importantly, how are we going to pay for it? I think framing it that way is a way that becomes an inclusive strategy of, hey, let's help, how are we going to prepare for the future? And then, number two, how are we going to pay for it?

Serge Dedina: I would argue that most mayors and most city councils, like me, are pretty obsessed, at least if you live in an area that's surrounded by nature and impacted by climate and subject to these natural hazard risks, is that you're probably spending a lot of time focused on things like this, or you're at least, like me, you're worried about it all the time. I'm not worried about what ExxonMobil's going to do for us legally. I'm sure worried about the dam upstream in Tijuana that could break or, frankly, giant storms with 15 to 25-foot surf and six foot of storm surge. That's what keeps me up at night is worrying about that.

Serge Dedina: I think that is probably one of the most effective strategies, so that it becomes, really, about a policy process. It's something that people can get behind, rather than, hey, I'm really worried about climate change, and what are you going to do about it? But more about, hey, these other cities and entities are doing this type of process. Can we think about that here?

Brian: Yeah, the more specific the better, certainly, and especially if we can point to your neighbors and say, "Hey, look."

Quinn: Sure, and that seems to be one of the places where, hopefully, we can find common ground. We had a whole series of conversations with the rare white fox conservative climate activists, who are coming at it from different levels and why they want to do it and why it matters, but the point is, they're onboard with the science at this point and trying to make the hardest fight, and we're very thankful for them, to convince that last contingent that it matters. We've come to the opinion here that whatever the means are that justify the end at this point, whatever the hell gets people onboard. It does seem to be making it specific, and it does seem to be saying ... Mitch Hescox said, go back to the Bible. He said, "It specifically tells us to take care of the earth, so we need to do that."

Quinn: Or, it could come down to your principles on regulations versus taxes, but the point is, is the more specific you can make it to these folks, and again, dialing it down to the level of looking around in your community and saying, or even looking around in that meeting and saying, how many of us are affected by what's on this slide and what we've seen? Or, what preparations have we made to deal with mudslides? For river overflows? Gosh, there was an incredible study that came out a couple months ago about the river system in the US and how many are going to be prone to flooding in the next 50 years, and it's just shocking. So, anybody who's in middle America who thinks they're not going to be affected by climate change is just wrong. There are these great, vast bodies of water that are going to be fucked.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, and I think what it comes down to is most folks who spend time outside. You know, I'm outside all the time. I'm like an animal on the beach sniffing changes in the air-

Brian: You're a big surfer, right?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, surfers are. We detect with our noses and our eyes micro-changes in swell and wind and more importantly, seasonal changes. Things are all over the map. Everyone's saying, nothing is like it used to be. I'm sure that's the same for farmers, ranchers, fishermen. People who are outside on the ground, deer in the Rocky Mountains. You can see the changes in forest cover and you can feel the temperature changes. I was just down in Oaxaca in southern Mexico on a surf trip, where I work professionally with WILDCOAST. You talk to farmers there and fishermen, and they just know that everything's changed there in terms of when the rains come and when they don't come and temperature. I think folks are starting to feel those changes.

Serge Dedina: I try to be an optimist, but if people don't get the response they think they should have, then they should run for city council. That's why I ran. I was discouraged by our former administration and the person that was running our city and said, "I think I can do a better job and can bring people together around a lot of common things and work together," and so I ran a grassroots campaign and knocked on 5000 doors and won by 43 votes. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and it's been a significant, positive change for our community, because we've gotten people engaged in the governing process and helping to make decisions about these tough questions that we're asking.

Quinn: Yeah, and there seems to be a pretty great tie to that, and some many organizations, and again, we've said it before here, which is the current administration and everyone they've brought onto the team, if they've actually brought anyone onto their team, is a nightmare, but in some ways, has been this incredible catalyst for so many groups and folks to spring up that have never before interacted or acted in any way with the system. Whether it's the female-led group Run For Something or 500 Women Scientists or 314 Action. There just seems to be a big communal rally, but also a sense of, and what we're desperately trying to encourage a lot of folks to just say, "I didn't get the answer I wanted? Fuck it, I'll do it myself." And you know, if that's the mantra that gets it done, then that's what we've got to do.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, and I think the more that people can be collaborative, consensus-driven, and at some point, in terms of making things happen, it isn't easy to deal with people who don't believe in infrastructure or even solving problems and use government to actually dismantle things. That's not an easy process to be a part of, and that's why they have to help create that change at the local level. At the local level, people want representatives who care about their neighborhoods, who can communicate with them in a respectful way, and I'd say people are generally less ideological. I think that's a good platform for people who have a very sober view of, "Hey, let's all plan for the future and let's think about how we can do that together." I tend to be idealistic, but that's my job, is to be a professional optimist, otherwise I wouldn't get anything done.

Brian: Mayor, what are the biggest obstacles that you're running into? What should folks who want to fight the good fight watch out for and prepare for?

Serge Dedina: I think you're going to have a lot of folks out in the community that are professional pessimists, who say there is nothing you can do. You can't fight these powers. It's too risky. A lot of folks in government now, I've just noticed this whether in bureaucracies or elected officials, are sort of paralyzed by fear. We've got to get beyond that. I think we've recognized now that if you want to get anything done, government has to be a lot more innovative. It has to be able to move a lot more quickly, and that goes against the grain of what, in many times, local governments and agencies stand for. But the future is changing so rapidly that you have to move with it instead of against it.

Brian: Yeah, you can't afford not to.

Serge Dedina: Really, to sort of just be able to move beyond the professional pessimism and to start saying, "Okay, we've got these issues. How are we going to address them?" They're not going to go away just by people making arguments saying climate change doesn't exist, it doesn't work anymore, because everyone knows that the climate is changing. They can see it. They can see these unstable climate patterns happening and these weather events that just, frankly, haven't happened before.

Quinn: Sure. They've just become very exasperated. This is a good moment to mention, because it's been highlighted so much across so many issues lately, thoughts and prayers aren't cutting it anymore. We just can't rely on that. We've got to take action at some point, even if it starts with basic questions and basic explorations.

Brian: Yeah. All right, we're getting close to time here. Really appreciate you being here, Mayor. Thank you very, very much. Anybody else we should talk to?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, I think [crosstalk 00:58:23].

Quinn: Who inspires you, who's getting it done, or who should we challenge?

Serge Dedina: I like the folks in Marin and San Mateo. It'd be interesting to talk to San Francisco. New York City's doing some interesting things. They're looking at some pretty massive adaptation measures they have to take to prevent the coastal flooding. The kind of storms that my nightmares are about happened recently with these nor'easters in Massachusetts and the whole Eastern Seaboard. When I see what's happening there, I cringe to think, oh my God, we haven't had those types of storms since El Niño storms in the 1980s and maybe 1990s, but they're coming. I think it'd be interesting to talk to those folks, and folks on the Gulf Coast or even Puerto Rico about what they're experiencing and how they're going to deal with that, or not deal with it. I think maybe Houston would be a sobering analysis about how we're very willing to spend billions of dollars to reconstruct but very little to prevent.

Serge Dedina: I think those are the types of things that I'm looking at, and even more so, folks in the military who are engaged in sea level rise adaptation and climate change planning. They won't call it that, but the military's very engaged in addressing sea level rise and risk assessment, and addressing their infrastructure to deal with it in a very practical way. I live very close [inaudible 00:59:46] Navy, we're surrounded by Navy bases, and there's a $1 billion special warfare complex for the SEAL team being built on the north edge of our town. They're moving operations out of a very flood-vulnerable area in Coronado, California, and moving it to this area that's the highest area on the coast. They're not putting anything in the flood zone. The only thing they have in the flood zone is one building that's actually built to withstand flooding. They won't call it sea level rise adaptation, but they definitely are prepared for climate change and coastal flooding.

Quinn: All right, so let's summarize, and you've done an excellent job of doing that for us, so thank you, what our listeners and progressives in general and everyone needs to, can do to take action. So, as a citizen, it's look yourself. Don't put your head in the same. Look yourself, and then talk to your community and your leaders about the other devastating impacts that are happening everywhere else. There's such a wide variety of them now, like you said. Things that weren't happening before or things that have been exacerbated. Like they've said, the hurricanes are just wetter than they've ever been before.

Quinn: Number two is, asking your leaders, do we have a strategy when these things come to town, once you've identified what your biggest risks might be? And then three, how are we planning to pay for it? And then, as a city council member or mayor, do an initial exploration of potential impacts. Like you said, it's a hazard report. It might not be sea level rise, it's coastal flooding. Get a technical advisory committee, get folks involved in the study who can specifically contribute, leaders in your area or at least your region who might know it better than most.

Quinn: And ID key models and things to look about. Help folks understand that we for the first time have to look ahead 50, 100 years, which humans are just not necessarily good at. Again, frame it as coastal flooding versus sea level rise. Less about the science, more about the tangible impacts, and then the plans and what we can do about them. Look at specific things like king tides that have been proven now to be getting worse. And then explore the economic impact. Like you said, everything from pipes to electrical to infrastructure, which is standard in most cases, and then you start to run into places, like you said, San Diego or Norfolk, which are obviously just exceptional situations. Such an international impact.

Quinn: And then, ID projects that you would carry out if funded, which could be tens of millions of dollars. How many communities can afford to do that or should afford to do that? And what are, at the same time, the most cost-effective measures you can take in the meantime? And overall, just make it personal, make it tangible, make it something that is necessary now. Did I do a good job there or did I mangle that? Is there anything else I'm missing?

Serge Dedina: No, I think it's a great summary. At some level, yeah, you've got to get the infrastructure geeks and the weather geeks and the climate geeks involved in this, in the sense of understanding that hey, they can actually have a big impact in learning to work collaboratively, learning to find common ground with people. We're all attuned to threats. We learned to communicate as humans based on discussing threats. That was the initial sort of ways that we communicated, and so I think this is good practice for the future and more importantly, we can't afford not to do it. The more that we practice doing it, the more we try to do it, the more success we'll have.

Brian: Rock and roll, sounds awesome. All right, we have a last few questions for you. It's a little bit of a lightning round that we do with everybody. Sound good?

Serge Dedina: Sure, sounds great.

Quinn: Okay, so the first one is, and you've certainly gone into this and it goes back into your family history, because you guys have been taking on the man for centuries, it sounds like-

Brian: Damn the man!

Quinn: When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful personally? And you can't just rely on your grandma here. I'm talking about you.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, you know, we moved to Imperial Beach, California, in 1971, and we fell in love with the Tijuana Estuary, and then quickly realized that it was going to be turned into a marina and high-rise condos. I wrote my first letter to the newspaper at the age of seven, calling, really, and saying that I really valued this place, and we should preserve it. I think that was the first real action I had ever taken. That initiated a lifelong obsession with trying to make a difference and making the world a better place.

Brian: Hell yeah, awesome. All right, question number two, how do you get your news? How do you consume the news?

Serge Dedina: I'm online. I'm getting everything online from The New York Times, The Washington Post, different blogs, and email newsletters in English and Spanish. I work in Mexico and Latin America, so just consuming a lot of mainstream news, and then more fine-tuned climate-related stuff. I follow a lot of folks on Twitter who either work with NOAA or the National Wildlife Service or climate scientists. I love the Blue Carbon folks in Australia doing some really innovative research on blue carbon. That's my geeky-ism, and I do biodiversity conservation for a living, so I'm following folks that are doing some interesting science based on biodiversity research and more importantly, climate adaptation and especially blue carbon now.

Brian: Nice, awesome. I want to run back to that last question real quick. I realized I should have asked you this. What happened with that letter that you wrote the paper about the estuary?

Serge Dedina: Yeah, it was published in our local paper back when there were three newspaper in our small city. That was really part of a moment that culminated when I was 15 or 16 in helping preserve the Tijuana Estuary, so my entire childhood was spent writing letters and at one point sitting in front of bulldozers and getting beat up, but involved with a political process to help save a place that me and my family loved.

Brian: Awesome, all right. We love this one, Serge. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would that book be?

Serge Dedina: It's Homo Deus. I'm reading it recently. It's Homo Deus, which is a really interesting book, really about really trying to think about the origins of this nature/people split.

Quinn: Oh, yeah, no, it's a fantastic book.

Serge Dedina: Yeah. Yuval Noah, so it's really interesting.

Quinn: Same guy who wrote Sapiens.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, and obviously, I read Sapiens as well, which also started getting me to think about this idea of, and you mentioned, obviously, storytelling and the way we communicate and how we communicate. I think it's been really, really important. And obviously Donald Trump doesn't-

Brian: Read.

Serge Dedina: ... Read, so maybe some sort of reality show. I think a reality show set in a bayou with all kinds of interesting people and then all of a sudden there's a flood and climate change. Maybe that's the way to do it, is reality TV.

Quinn: Yeah, like I said, whatever the means are to get to the end, we'll do it. Whatever the thing is.

Serge Dedina: Yeah, a fake Fox News network that all the sudden is onboard with climate change.

Quinn: Right, it's like our Argo, basically. Mayor, we can't thank you enough for your time here. You've said so much, and we appreciate you fighting every day. If there's anything else you want to say to our listeners, speak truth to power, that you want to get out there and inspire these folks to put their iPhone down and stop listening to a podcast and go run for city council, what would that be?

Serge Dedina: There's nothing more impressive than persistence, than dogged persistence and patience, and willing to just keep moving forward. That will get you across the finish line, and at the end of the day, that's what makes change. It's not sexy, it's not on Twitter, it's not social media. It's the power of human relationships and really getting people to work together for a common goal. I very, very much believe that that's the approach we have to take and the approach that's going to win.

Brian: Rock and roll. Hey, where can we follow you online? Where can our listeners follow you?

Serge Dedina: @SergeDedina.

Brian: That's Twitter, yeah?

Serge Dedina: Yeah. That's the best place.

Brian: Rock and roll.

Quinn: Mayor, thank you so much, again. We really appreciate both your time today and for all that you do in the world. We hope you keep kicking ass out there. Look forward to meeting you soon. We're just north of you up in LA most of the time here, so we'll have to get it on the books. Again, yeah, thank you. We are depending on you, and thank you for leading the way in this fight.

Serge Dedina: Great, thank you so much. I really had a really nice time with the conversation.

Brian: Awesome. Yeah, glad we made this happen. Thank you very much.

Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dish washing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species.

Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @ImportantNotImp. So weird. Also on Facebook and Instagram at ImportantNotImportant, Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. Check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this, and if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcasts. Keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn: Please.

Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website,

Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jammin' music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day.

Brian: Thanks, guys.

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