Rosanna Xia is an environment reporter for the Los Angeles Times, covering the California coastline. She writes articles that connect science and policy, and she previously reported on natural disasters. Before moderating a Zócalo/UCLA Downtown panel titled “What Will California’s Coastline Look Like in 2100?” at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, Xia spoke in the green room about autumn, the challenge of covering natural disasters, and what she’d do if she had one more hour in the day.
I read that you grew up on the East Coast. What do you miss about it?
I miss fall. That is a season that is not really replicated anywhere else. Apple picking. Apple everything. Apple cider. Just that feeling of change and being excited about it. I think we really miss that in L.A.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?
I read The Hate U Give recently. I thought it was just a really powerful fiction book that spoke so many real truths. Have you read Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann? It was just one of those books where he unearthed such history. It was about this Native American tribe in Oklahoma, and this web of murder and mystery that was covered up. So much has happened in our histories that we’ve never really learned about or knew about.
What recent story are you most proud to have reported?
I’ve been working on this piece for quite a while, looking at sea level rise adaption in California, and how different communities up and down the coast have been grappling with this undeniable fact: that the sea is rising but everything that we’ve built is [fixed] in place and not migrating inland with the water. The “what do you do about it?” part is so complex. Realizing that none of our choices are great, but that we have to make one is a really powerful and sobering story.
What’s one thing that the average person can do to help combat climate change?
Beyond the obvious of just being aware of your carbon footprint, really thinking about the things that you’re willing to change and sacrifice in your day-to-day life. … Adapting to climate change means changing a lot of the things that you’re comfortable with, and we as humans are not used to that.
What would you do if you had one more hour in the day?
Call my mom for more than five minutes between meetings. Read. Read a book, and just have meaningful conversations with the people in my life.
What Southern California beach could we find you at?
Oh, good question. I run a lot so I love, I think it’s called Toes Beach, technically, but that whole bike path from Marina Del Rey all the way down to Hermosa Beach. I really love that bike pathway; you will find me there running a lot.
How often do you swim in the Pacific Ocean?
I don’t like getting my hair wet, because it’s kind of a hassle to wash. So I don’t swim as much I’d like to—especially as someone who covers the coast. So not often, but when I do, it’s all in.
What did you have for breakfast today?
What was the most frustrating project you’ve ever worked on?
A lot of the stories and issues that I take on are about disasters that haven’t happened yet. And I would say that the challenging part of doing those stories is your inclination is to start with death, and destruction, and calamity. That’s usually what happens when an earthquake happens, when Katrina happens, when Superstorm Sandy happens, you don’t have the emotional details, components, the tension, to draw the reader in. I would say that these issues—earthquake preparedness, and sea level rise—are all incredibly important, but how do you tell that story of getting people to think about it before the disaster happens?
What keeps you up at night?
I’m constantly asking myself: Do my stories mean anything and are they impactful?