Building Coastal Resiliency With Janelle Kellman and Center for Sea Rise Solutions

There’s a lot of talk about rising sea levels. Global ocean warming leads to melting glaciers and ice sheets and eventually rising sea levels. More than 30 percent of the United States population living in coastal areas is vulnerable to rising seas and that is a big problem. Most people know this, hear this and even speak about it. That’s the issue here: all we’re doing is talking about it. But the Center for Sea Rise Solutions (CSRS) is taking the words and putting them into action to make impactful change and save coastal communities worldwide.

“There’s a lot of talk and a lot of planning, but often communities are still left going, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ ” says Janelle Kellman, the CEO and founder of CSRS (although you may recognize her as the former mayor and a current councilmember of Sausalito). CSRS, based in Sausalito, provides innovations, resources and connections for coastal communities to stimulate global action against rising sea levels and the detrimental effects they cause. CSRS members have held local events in Sausalito, but have also traveled to Savannah, Georgia; Tampa, Florida; Providence, Rhode Island; and all the way to France, including Paris and Biarritz.

“It is amazing because even if you don’t speak the same language or have the same culture, we are all dealing with the same issue,” says Kellman. “The water doesn’t care about jurisdictional boundaries. We’re really all in it together.”

The problems are multifaceted and sometimes hard to see. “Sunny day floods” occur when the high tide causes flooding even on a perfectly clear day. Coastal erosion causes beaches and infrastructure to disappear. Flooding increases the flow of salt water into estuaries and groundwater aquifers. Low-lying lands become permanently flooded, affecting important activity like agriculture.

With a global focus, CSRS connects local communities with each other, experts and the latest strategies, giving them the knowledge they need to start action in their community. These workshops also focus on the new green economy and how developments that solve problems also create new jobs locally. Each workshop leads to new ideas and solutions for the next one.

The concept of turning local ideas into larger community solutions is evident in Kellman’s own life, too — she recently announced her candidacy for California Lieutenant Governor, in which climate change would be her major focus.

“This is how I amplify voices on this issue,” she says about her run. “My philosophy is how do we take action? How do we help communities today plan for the future? I don’t want to just talk. I want to actually do something.”