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Waves crashing against coastal cliff.

How do coastal communities up and down the West Coast prepare for and respond to extreme weather? What facilities, agencies, and infrastructure are needed to meet the challenge of climate change?

Coastal Resilience: Problems and Solutions to Extreme Weather Challenges on the West Coast

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This course will explore the resilience challenges that coastal areas in the American West must deal with in the face of climate change. These include problems such as projected sea level rise, flooding, land subsidence, drought-stressed water supply, pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, wildfires, and erosion. Solutions to these problems - such as sea walls, levees, and grey infrastructure like dams and reservoirs - are often controversial and the politics over them happens at all levels of government. Some of this controversy occurs along partisan lines, but even in the politically bluest areas adjacent to the oceans and bays, many communities have been slow to take on the planning and actions needed to protect people and property from future extreme weather challenges. Traveling up and down the West coast, this course will combine classroom instruction with visits to the communities, facilities and agencies involved in coastal resilience from the Canadian to the Mexican border. We will look at solutions like conventional desalination that have been debated and implemented for decades, but also novel possibilities such as wave-powered desalination. We will discuss the relative merits of creating more water storage through groundwater recharge and water recycling versus building more dams and reservoirs. And as we have done in the past with Bill Lane Center Sophomore Colleges, we will meet with relevant policy experts and public officials from governmental agencies, utilities, universities, and public interest groups. The course will conclude with group presentations by the students.

Meet the Instructor

Bruce Cain 

Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West
Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University
Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

Bruce Cain is an expert in U.S. politics, particularly the politics of California and the American West. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a prominent scholar of elections, political regulation and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. He is currently working on state regulatory processes and stakeholder involvement in the areas of water, energy, and the environment.

Prior to joining Stanford, he was the director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley from 1990-2007 and executive director of the UC Washington Center from 2005-2012.

Professor Cain was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000 and has won awards for his research (Richard F. Fenno Prize, 1988), teaching (Caltech, 1988 and UC Berkeley, 2003) and public service (Zale Award for Outstanding Achievement in Policy Research and Public Service, 2000).

Professor Cain received a BA from Bowdoin College (1970), a BPhil from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar (1972) and a PhD from Harvard University (1976).