Book Review: Serge Dedina’s Wild Sea: Eco-Wars and Surf Stories from the Coast of the Californias
The South Bay is a cultural oasis for artists and activists, particularly due to its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. The border conjures up images of cultural clashes, barriers and even, if you take some truth from the fictional TV series THE BRIDGE, crime.
Day-to-day living along the border is an experience exactly opposite these stereotypes. The South Bay is an amalgamation of peoples with its own unique culture. The Southern Division of the SDPD will tell you the South Bay ranks as one of the safest areas in the entire nation. Serge Dedina will also tell you that it’s one of the most ecologically rich places on earth.
It always irritates me when I hear recent transplants to Southern California complain about the lack of “seasons” here–as if anyone could fail to tell the difference between waves created by Baja California hurricanes, southern ocean storms, and the thumping powerful northwestern Pacific swells that pound California beaches during the late fall and winter.
Serge Dedina co-founded Wildcoast ten years ago and remains its executive director. An environmental activist organization that seeks to protect the natural ecology of the region, the office is located along Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach.
Dedina grew up in Imperial Beach. His Jewish father was from France and escaped the Nazi’s in 1939, although many of his relatives died in concentration camps. His father met Serge’s mother when he was in the American Air Force stationed in England. Together, they settled in Imperial Beach where Serge’s mother went on to become a lawyer and a judge. His father was a filmmaker and writer who received a USAID grant that took the whole family to El Salvador for one year when Serge was young.
Serge went to Mar Vista High School, was a lifeguard at seventeen and loved both surfing and civic engagement. He was on the Youth Commission at fifteen and after college served on the Coastal Tidelands Advisory Committee. Passionate about preserving the shorelines along the U.S.-Mexico border and down toward Baja, his book Wild Sea is a tribute to the battles he and other activists have fought to make sure developers will not destroy ocean habitats.
As much as Imperial Beach has problems, it is an oasis of peace in a border region filled with poverty and violence. Walls, not waves, divide surfers who ride the same swells, suffer from the same pollution, and cross the artificial border both ways in search of clean waves.
Serge firmly believes that surfing can make the world a better place. In particular, when people surf, they inspire others to stop the worldwide push to replace wild coastline with marinas, toll roads and breakwaters. To that end, he has worked on a grassroots level to address beach pollution as well as government and business corruption on both sides of the border.
In his book, he describes the “Baja Boom” when con men, speculators and multinational corporations began to buy and develop the coastline of the Baja California peninsula from 1995 to 2008. He also describes spending time with the fishermen who live a simple life in the mangroves of Magdalena Bay.
He wants to protect the Mexican as well as American environment and explains that preserving nature is intimately intertwined with preserving and respecting culture.
He advocates for cost-effective and long term policies of coastal retreat, dam removal and wetland and watershed restoration. All these can help revitalize coastal resources. He admits, however, that land developers and lobbyists tend to have large budgets and therefore strength in getting their way of turning coasts into golf courses and desalination plants. Activists need to be persistent against all odds.
He ends his books saying:
And no matter whether it is in the United States or Mexico, an army of activists and coastal residents will have to battle the pirates who would destroy the last refuge and escape we have–our wild sea.
Serge has also published Saving the Gray Whale and has a forthcoming book on surfing.
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