Chad Nelsen is no stranger to speaking up for what he cares about. As the Environmental Director for the Surfrider Foundation for the past 16 years, he’s been a part of hundreds of victories for healthier coastlines and cleaner waters, including the establishment of the Reserva Marina Tres Palmas in Puerto Rico and the massive campaign to save Trestles forever from being bulldozed by a six-lane toll road. He’s also pioneered the development of “surfenomics,” the science of understanding the economic value of surfing, which can be applied to preservation efforts of healthy coastal ecosystems.
Chad hopes to shift Surfrider’s approach from reactive to proactive, pushing conservation to stave off projects that are bad for the environment before they arise, instead of reacting to them when they do. His biggest goal as CEO of Surfrider? Tackling climate change. “I believe our biggest challenge is going to be adapting to climate change along our coasts,” he says. “Even if we stopped emitting carbon tomorrow, we are going to see 100 years of change due to the lag time for warming in the atmosphere. Sea level rise and ocean acidification are already having massive impacts on our coasts and those impacts are expected to accelerate.”
But he’s hopeful: “You can make incredible progress through our [democratic] system if you are dedicated to participating.”