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Sand mining: The High Volume – Low Value Paradox

sand-mining
Illegal beach sand mining, Moroccan coast. Photograph: © SAF

By Kiran Pereira

Water does not exist in isolation. It is an integral part of any ecosystem and as such, every major change to this ecosystem has hydrological impacts which then lead to sociological, economic and other environmental consequences. The world’s freshwater resources are under threat from a wide variety of factors. Many of them such as over-abstraction of water from rivers and aquifers, pollution from point and non-point sources, changing patterns of precipitation are popularly known, debated and discussed widely. However, there are other crucial factors with significant social, environmental and economic impacts that are less known. One such threat is an activity known as ‘sand mining’ also referred to as dredging or gravel mining.

… Contrary to literature that says sand mining is not as environmentally damaging as other kinds of mining, it may be even more so because of its insidious nature and the fact that its effects often take decades to surface.
—Kiran Pereira

Sand mining has several negative impacts.

It poses a threat to water security in several ways. Dredging results in lowering of the alluvial water table which, in turn, directly affects groundwater storage capacity (See Kondolf et al., 2001). Excessive dredging allows for saline intrusion into groundwater (Viswanathan, 2002). The lowered water table implies a rise in water costs, thus restricting access to only those who can afford it (Hoering, 2008). It results in habitat loss including destruction and fragmentation of fragile, endangered ecosystems and reduced species richness (See Myers, 1999, Global Witness, 2010).

Sand mining also causes increased shoreline erosion rates, especially when mined unscientifically (Byrnes et al., 2000) and decreases protection from sea water especially during ocean disasters (Myers, 1999). It also poses a threat to critical infrastructure such as bridges, roads, railway tracks (Kondolf et al., 2001). Sand mining has also been known to cause loss of livelihoods in several instances (See Hoering, 2008, Young and Griffith, 2009 and Viswanathan, 2002). Other macroeconomic impacts have also been observed such as changes in land use patterns (Myers 1999) and increased public health costs (Myers & Muhajir I997, Mensah, 1997).

The demand for sand is fuelled by numerous factors. It appears that sand has long been commoditized and is now entrenched in global trade. Table 1 below illustrates the high trade value of this commodity. Despite the high value of this trade, or perhaps because of it, the activity is surprisingly depoliticized except when there are public concerns in specific areas.

Table 1: Global Trade in Stone, Sand and Gravel

table1-sand-mining
Compiled from UN Comtrade, United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database

It is no surprise that sand is indispensable for many economic development activities such as road building and concrete production. It also has other familiar uses such as in glass-making for window panes, glassware, glazing for pottery, lenses, television tubes, mirrors, fibreglass reinforcement, lamps, stained glass art, lasers, insulators, telescopes, bottles and containers for alcohol, soft drinks, and food items like jams, pickles (USGS, 2011). However, it is also used in several concealed ways such as hydraulic fracturing applications (Scienceviews.com, 2003-2010), in the making of semi-conductors that are used in almost every electronic device today ranging from notebooks to mobile phones and even in cars. Sand is also a source for strategic minerals such as Silica, Garnets, Thorium and ores such as Titanium, Uranium, Zirconium, Ilmenite which are in turn used in applications too numerous to list here. Nonetheless, two examples can be given to illustrate the breadth of use:

a) Titanium is used in ‘Production of lightweight alloys, aircraft components (jet engines, aircraft frames), automotive components, joint replacement (hips ball and sockets), paints, watches, chemical processing equipment, marine equipment (rigging and other parts exposed to sea water), pulp and paper processing equipment, pipes and jewellery [sic]’ (IIED and WBCSD, 2002).

b) Heavy Minerals such as Rutile, Sillimanite and Monazite are also sourced from sand. They find use in in the paint industry, welding electrodes, ceramics, foundry and also various applications like plastics, sun screen, food colouring and biomedical applications (Corpwatch, 2007). The most astounding use in terms of volume however, is the creation of ‘new land’. For e.g. Around 500 million m3 of sand was reclaimed (from the ocean bed) for the Palm Island II (Jebel Ali) and Waterfront projects on the coast of Dubai. ‘This equates to a row of trucks encircling the Earth about 22 times’ (Jan De Nul Group, 2009).

Given this demand situation, let us explore the supply side of the equation which exhibits a great spatial and temporal mismatch.

Although sand is more than abundantly available in deserts, this sand is not popularly considered a ‘resource’ because the physical morphology of such sand is not considered suitable for construction and other industrial activities. For such uses, ‘good quality’ sand is sourced primarily from relatively limited sources. Marine and terrestrial deposits are the two main sources. Marine (offshore) and terrestrial deposits are the two main sources. Offshore dredging is far more expensive, requires specialized equipment and special environmental permits. Offshore dredging is far more expensive, requires specialized equipment and special environmental permits. It is consequently used mostly by developed economies such as the US and Europe. As for terrestrial sources, river channel deposits, residual soil deposits and floodplain alluvial deposits are the most usual ones (Gelabert, 1997 in Cambers, 1997). Although continuous excavation can deplete sources in decades, some sands are said to be laid down from around 115 million years ago (The Greensand Trust, 2010). With a rapidly urbanizing world, such a perpetual demand vis-à-vis a limited supply of an easily available resource such as sand creates a rather complex situation with many winners and losers. Problems associated with sand mining have been reported across many regions of the world (Young and Griffith, 2009).

… Although continuous excavation can deplete sources in decades, some sands are said to be laid down from around 115 million years ago.
—Kiran Pereira

Some examples include Australia (Ratcliffe, 1997; Stoltz, 2011), Cambodia (Global Witness, 2010), Ghana (Mensah, 1997), India (Hoering, 2008; Padmalal et al., 2008; Sekhar and Jayadev, 2003; Sreeba and Padmalal, 2011), Namibia (Hartman, 2010), Tanzania (Nyandwi, 2001), United States (Brynes et al., 2000; Brynes et al.,2004; Femmer,2002; Kondolf et al., 2001), Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay (Halweil, 2000), Bosnia (Clancy, 2004). Island states in particular feel the acute tension between ‘development’ and the need to protect the coast. Numerous examples can be found in many of the Caribbean Islands such as Puerto Rico, Grenada, Tobago, Montesserat, British Virgin island and others (Cambers, 1997), Jamaica (Farrant et al., 2003), Sri Lanka (Gunaratne and Jayarooriya, n.d.), Indonesia (Kamis, 2011, The Jakarta Post, 2007) and Maldives (PTI, 2008, Jacob, 2010).

In terms of sheer volume, aggregates of construction minerals (such as sand and gravel) account for the largest material volumes mined in the world where the global production in 2000, was estimated to exceed 15 billion tonnes per year (IIED and WBCSD, 2002). The irony of this situation is that despite being extracted at such gargantuan rates, sand is classified as a ‘low value’ resource (Ibid) and also a ‘minor’ mineral resource even in legislation in many countries such as India (See MAC, 2007).

illegal-beach-sand-mining-2
Illegal beach sand mining, Moroccan coast. Photograph: © SAF

There is also literature that explicitly states that sand mining is not as environmentally destructive as other kinds of mining. For e.g. The United States Geological Survey (2011) states ‘Except for temporarily disturbing the immediate area while mining operations are active, sand and gravel mining usually has limited environmental impact.’ This paradigm is only a partial truth and needs to change because it robs science and politics of the incentive to explore alternatives.

… In terms of sheer volume, aggregates of construction minerals (such as sand and gravel) account for the largest material volumes mined in the world.
—Kiran Pereira

The author researched this topic further through a case study based in India. Three villages Mahad, Toradi and Bankot were selected. These villages lie along the Western Ghats of India, a region that is one of the world’s ten ‘hottest biodiversity hotspots’, with at least 325 globally threatened species occurring there (Myers et al.,2000). The region is also a very important watershed region for India. Rampant sand mining, often illegal, with high degree of political involvement, has wreaked havoc in the area. In the current scheme of things, neither the environment nor the local people seem to have voice in the matter. Dredging in the area has been going on for the last 20 years and was initially welcomed because it brought a new form of employment. However, with mechanical dredging, several problems have surfaced over the last 10 years and locals have been demanding a stop to this activity. Locals and the NGO working with them have each used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to obtain reports of resolutions of various gram panchayats (local governments) that confirm this popular protest. Yet, sand mining continues unabated and most of the dredged sand is sent to Mumbai, the financial capital of India.

Several ill-effects were noted in the region and they far outweighed the positive impacts on the region. The negative impacts of sand mining in the region are given below:
As per law, no dredging was allowed during the night, but in reality it was said to continue non-stop over 24 hours, every day of the year. The constant noise of mechanised dredging all day and all night was a major inconvenience to the residents because it also hampered sleep and the functioning of primary and secondary schools in the area.
Several landslides with much casualty have been reported in the region and official reports attribute it to heavy rains. However, locals believe sand mining to be the root cause. As one person said, ‘It is like this, if you make a heap of grain and you will remove grains from the bottom, the grain at the top will naturally fall. The base of the mountain is in the river. When you remove sand from the river, what else will happen?’

Both Mahad and Toradi faced similar challenges in that they were located downstream from an industrial estate run by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) which was said to discharge untreated and hazardous industrial effluents into the river, leading to massive fish kills. It also made the water unfit for agriculture.
The deep dredging had worsened the problem. Locals claimed that ancient wells had begun to run dry because of falling water tables. Removal of the sand had also removed the last barrier to the leaching chemicals dumped in the river (as mentioned above), thus allowing the chemicals to seep further inland making groundwater unfit for domestic consumption. A report on water quality by the government Primary Health Centre confirmed the worst suspicions of the locals with ‘4 hoi and 38 nahi’ (4 yes and 38 nos) on various parameters.

Fishing was also affected because it was seasonal and fishermen could not fish during monsoons. They did not have an alternate means of livelihood, especially during the off-season. Therefore, the rest of the 8 months of work completely determined their quality of life. One person said, ‘In the past, 5 people depended on one boat but today one boat can support only 1-2 people – can’t give wages. It is difficult to maintain families’. Another said, ‘No bank is willing to give us a loan. We need to educate our children but we can’t afford it.

Sand barges often damaged fishing nets and reduced their catch. There had also been occasions of collision with fishing boats but ‘no one was willing to register complaints.’ They spoke of barges shifting sand and clay which resulted not only in nets going under soil because of disturbance but also disturbed navigational channels which then hampered local fishing operations especially during low tide.

The constant noise and disturbance of breeding grounds was also changing the kind of fish that can survive in the river. Consequently, the high-value catch for the local fishermen has diminished. They also felt their life was ‘under pressure’ and they were constantly ‘afraid of being dashed by the barges’. Official statistics too confirm this trend of declining fish stocks, though they do not attribute it to sand mining. See Table 2 below.

Table 2: Estimated Annual Marine Fish Production – Raigad and Ratnagiri

table2-sand-mining
Source: Department of Fisheries, Government of Maharashtra (India) (Compiled from Fish Production Reports across the years).

Given the rapid rate of urbanization and the current rate of extraction of sand and the silent devastation left behind in its wake, the modern process of assigning value, economic or otherwise to resources seems sadly inchoate and needs to be re-evaluated. In matters of food, clothing and other activities, we are influenced in many ways by the physical setting in which we live – coastal, desert, mountainous or forest regions. But we are also proficient at changing the environment ‘with unprecedented speed and effect’ (National Academy of Sciences, 1969, p26).

… Despite the high value of this trade, or perhaps because of it, the activity is surprisingly depoliticized except when there are public concerns in specific areas.
—Kiran Pereira

With globalization, there is a tendency for infrastructure, especially urban ones to be similar across geographies (ibid). Roads, bridges, airport runways are soon becoming ubiquitous. Availability of sand or the lack thereof thus directly or indirectly affects all who partake in this cup of modernity. The immediate effects of the lack though are felt most by the local community. Contrary to literature that says sand mining is not as environmentally damaging as other kinds of mining, it may be even more so because of its insidious nature and the fact that its effects often take decades to surface. Mining for iron ore or bauxite may cause alteration of the landscape so violently that its ill-effects are impinged on the viewer’s consciousness instantly whereas the gradual transformation of sand into bridges, roads, houses, paints, glassware, and other things that are taken for granted in modern urban lives is almost imperceptible. To the non-local spectator, nothing seems to be lost in the process beyond the inconvenient depletion of sand and the creation of visible craters in some instances. Sand mining has an undeniable impact on water resources and the people dependent on them, especially when carried out in an unscientific manner.

The paradox of this ‘high volume – low value’ resource needs to be explored further, particularly by those in academia and policy circles.

sable
Photo source: ©© Nwardez

About the Author: Kiran Pereira
Kiran Pereira would like to describe herself as a water warrior of sorts. She recently completed an MSc Environment and Development at King’s College, London. Her dissertation was titled ‘Sand: A Scarce ‘Symbol of Abundance’? Tracing the Contested Mindscape around Sand Mining‘. She has experience in capacity building, CSR, writing sustainability reports and the like. She worked for 10 years in the corporate sector before embarking on a master’s programme.

Article Originally published by: AquaKnow


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Byrnes, M.R., J.S. Ramsey, R.M. Hammer, and E.A. Wadman (2000) ‘Assessing Potential Environmental Impacts of Offshore Sand and Gravel Mining’. Final Report to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Coastal Zone Management, 43 pp.

Cambers, G. (ed.), 1997 ‘Managing Beach Resources in the Smaller Caribbean Islands’ Papers presented at a UNESCO – University of Puerto Rico Workshop, 21- 25 October 1996, Mayaguez, Peurto Rico. Coastal region and small island papers, No.1, UPR/SGCP-UNESCO, Mayaguez,269 pp.

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Farrant, A. R., Mathers, S. J. and Harrison, D. J. (2003). ‘River Mining: sand and gravel resources of the lower Rio Minho nad Yallahs fan-delta, Jamaica’, British Geological Survey Commissioned Report CR/03/161N. 24pp
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Jacob, S. (2010) ‘Bangladesh sand to help keep Maldives afloat’, Business Standard; Available: Business Standard India (accessed 31 July 2011).

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See Myers, 1999, Myers, G. (1999) ‘Political Ecology and Urbanisation: Zanzibar’s Construction Materials Industry’, ‘The Journal of Modern African Studies’, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 83-108.

Sekhar, L. K. and Jayadev, S. K. (2003) ‘Karimanal (Mineral Beach-Sand) Mining in the Alapuzha Coast of Kerala – A People’s Perspective’, in Martin J. Bunch, V. Madha Suresh and T. Vasantha Kumaran, eds.,Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Environment and Health, Chennai, India,15-17 December, 2003. Chennai: Department of Geography, University of Madras and Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. Pages 470 – 488.

Sreeba,S. and Padmalal, D. (2011) ‘Environmental Impact Assessment of Sand Mining from the small Catchment Rivers in the Southwestern Coast of India: A Case Study’ Environmental Management 47:130–140.

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Response To Patrick Michaels Editorial

point-de-vue
Photo source, the midway journey : ©© Manuel Maqueda

By Orrin Pilkey, Professor Emeritus, Duke University

Patrick Michaels is a long time (and very effective) denier of the importance of global climate change. He provides the ammunition for those who are predisposed to ignoring Mother Earth’s realities. Michaels has written several books and many Op Ed pieces on the subject, like the one in the Oct 1 edition of the Raleigh News and Observer from Raleigh North Carolina.

There is nothing wrong with pointing out uncertainties in the science of global warming and rising sea levels. There are indeed many uncertainties in projecting future changes but one can characterize these in various lights depending upon one’s view of the big picture of the totality of evidence concerning climate change. Michaels and other deniers cherry pick their uncertainties and interpret them in a fashion to belittle climate change and sea level rise.

… The relationship between temperature change and sea level rise is anything but linear.
—Orrin H. Pilkey

I well remember in Michaels book Climate of Extremes (written with Robert Balling) in which they characterize the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) sea level rise prediction of a sea level rise of up to 22 inches as having a caveat. The so called caveat is the expected huge contribution from the melting ices sheets in Antarctica and Greenland which the IPCC believes will be the principle contributors to sea level rise over this century. Michaels and Balling ignored the IPCC’s warnings about the ice sheets. That’s cherry picking.

There are many such “almost true” statements in the Op Ed. For example he says the North Carolina Coastal Resources commission scared everybody by predicting a 38-inch sea level rise by 2100. He neglects to point out that the estimate came from a panel of well qualified scientists and that the estimate is essentially the same as the estimates emanating from at least a dozen science panels from coastal states around the US and other such panels on the international scene.

He notes that here in NC we are adjusting to sea level rise by stabilizing the dunes and building new homes on pilings. He fails to understand that the impact of sea level rise will be retreat of the shorelines. Building dunes and elevating buildings responds to storms – not retreating shorelines. We respond to retreating shorelines with very costly beach nourishment.

He argues that the IPCC projections of temperature “tend to predict a constant rate of warming.” But there are huge tipping points in the future of sea level rise. The relationship between temperature change and sea level rise is anything but linear. For example if some of the glaciers in Antarctica melt to the point they will become unhinged from the bumps on the sea floor they are now attached to, their melting rate will accelerate sharply. As the Arctic Ocean ice cover shrinks more and more every summer, the dark sea water will absorb heat that was once reflected back from the ice cover. This warming of the Arctic will accelerate the melting of permafrost in Siberia, Canada and Alaska as well as the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Michaels is focused on barrier islands (as are most of us) but of more immediate importance is the problem of the impact of sea level rise on the lower most coastal plain where a 1-foot sea level rise could push the shoreline back for more than 2 miles and where storm surges will be higher and penetrate further inland due both to sea level rise and the expected intensification of hurricanes.

… Michaels is supporting the continuing development of beachfront and low elevation coastal plain property, putting off the response to sea level rise to the next generation. It is the height of irresponsibility.
—Orrin H. Pilkey

Hundreds of small towns are at risk here and individuals building or buying homes here need to consider the future Sea Level Rise in whether to build with higher stilts or perhaps to move to higher ground.

The bottom line is that Michaels, and by projection his Cato Institute and the John Locke Foundation sponsors, is supporting the continuing development of beachfront and low elevation coastal plain property, putting off the response to sea level rise to the next generation. It is the height of irresponsibility.

The longer we delay the more costly and difficult the response will be.

Orrin H. Pilkey is James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He authored, co-authored and edited many books, including, “The Rising Sea”, co-authored with Rob Young, Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and Professor of geosciences at Western Carolina University, and most recently, “Global Climate Change: A Primer” and “The World’s Beaches: A Global Guide To The Science Of The Shoreline”

“Coming To A Beach Near You” by Eddie Jarvis

strike-one
Photo source : ©© Irargerich

By Eddie Jarvis

The beaches of the Pacific Northwest are being invaded by stowaways from a nuclear catastrophe that would have made Dr. Strangelove flinch. Local politicians are pleading to Congress for help. Scientists are monitoring the Pacific Ocean and scanning the beaches with Geiger counters for signs of radiation. A dock, boat and even a Harley-Davidson have floated 5,000 miles from the radioactive disaster-zone known as Japan to beaches all over the Pacific Northwest.

No, this isn’t the plot of a new James Cameron movie. This is the fallout from the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan, and it’s coming to a beach near you.

Although radiation has not been detected among the tsunami debris so far, scientists admit it is possible, although unlikely, for some of the debris to be contaminated by the very ill placed Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Luckily, most of the debris crossing the ocean was already out to sea by the time the reactor melt down occurred, and any lingering radiation will have dissipated during its journey across the Pacific.

The already costly endeavor of disposing of the debris on our beaches is made even more formidable with the ensuing threat of invasive species wreaking havoc on our ecosystem.
—Eddie Jarvis

However, some blue fin tuna caught in California five months after the Fukushima meltdown contained small amounts of radioactive cesium from the reactors, but officials said the levels were too slight to pose a health threat. Despite the reassurance, it’s safe to say that any amount of radiation is enough to make you think twice before going out for sushi.

The larger concern is over the various types of invasive species that unwillingly made the journey from Japan on a 66 foot long dock which washed ashore June 5th on the Oregon coast. The 130 ton dock was weighed down even more by the 1.5 tons of marine life that was attached to it. I’ll say it again: 1.5 TONS. You know what also weighs 1.5 tons? Your typical car, an average blue whale, or one very robust hippopotamus.

“This is a whole, intact, very diverse community that floated across from Japan to here,” quipped John Chapman, a research scientist at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. “That doesn’t happen with a log or a thrown-out tire. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Among the various types of invasive species clinging to the dock were infamous expatriates such as the Northern Pacific star fish and an algae known as wakame, both of which can be found on the list of 100 worst invasive species. These immigrants usually hitch a ride in the ballast water of ships, making their journey on the dock somewhat of a surprise. And no, these depraved invertebrates have not mutated into Godzilla-like creatures hell bent on destruction, they are after the bread and butter of Northwest culture and livelihood: our seafood.

The Northern Pacific star fish is also known as a “voracious predator,” two words I never thought I would hear describe a star fish. Apparently, these well-traveled pests will eat anything it can get their tentacles on, including various types of shellfish. In the Derwent River Estuary in Tasmania, Australia a few stowaways turned into an infestation. It may seem unlikely that something as benign as a star fish could inflict so much damage on an entire ecosystem, but as any middle school science student can tell you, any disturbance to natural order of the food chain can cause the quintessential domino effect There is now an estimated 30 million Northern Pacific star fish in the estuary which isn’t surprising since the females can lay almost 20 million eggs a year.

Another of the docks most notorious passengers was seaweed called wakame, otherwise known as the main ingredient in Miso soup. Worst case scenario you have the ingredients for a traditional Japanese meal in your own backyard, right? But wakame grows far too quickly to harbor any delusional ideas about harvesting it. This hyperactive plant can grow up to one inch a day and has already entrenched itself in San Francisco harbor where it has driven out the native kelp that shelters marine mammals and other denizens of the deep.

Besides having a bottomless stomach and a remarkable growth rate, invasive species can introduce deadly pathogens into their adopted environment. Last October, a deadly and highly contagious virus known as Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) was discovered for the first time in the Pacific salmon population in British Columbia. The disease was brought to the frigid waters of North Pacific by transporting Atlantic salmon eggs to fisheries on the West coast. A similar strain of the virus in Chile decimated the local salmon population, killing over half of the stock and costing billions of dollars in recovery. Needless to say, a similar outbreak could be devastating to a region as dependent on fishing as the Pacific Northwest.

So far, the invasive species found on the dock have proved to be an anomaly among tsunami debris. A 20 foot boat which washed ashore near Cape Disappointment in Washington State had 3,000 pounds of marine life clinging to its hull, but none of which was considered a threat.

“Most of the organisms that we have found appear to be fairly common to the Pacific Northwest,” Washington State Fish and Wildlife Officer Carl Klein said during the cleanup of the hull. However, with much more debris expected to wash ashore over the next few years, the danger is not over yet. The Japanese government estimated that there was 25 million tons of rubble caused by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami but it is unclear how much of that was washed into the ocean. The debris is too small to be accurately tracked by satellite so NOAA is using computer models to estimate where and when the debris will come ashore. Current models suggest that the debris will wash ashore on the beaches of Alaska, British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and possibly California. Still, much of it is a guessing game.

As the political groveling continues, tsunami debris continues to wash ashore and with no comprehensive plan of action in sight it is impossible to predict how this situation will unravel.”
—Eddie Jarvis

“We’re preparing for high amounts of debris, but we’re also preparing for little to nothing,” said Dianna Parker, a spokeswoman with the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

A beneficial side effect of the tsunami debris is the unexpected increase in tourism. By mid-June word had spread that some bona fide tsunami debris had made its way to the Oregon coast. After the public was assured that there was no radiation lingering on the massive dock, 80,000 curious onlookers descended into normally quiet Agate Beach State Park to get their photo taken next to the displaced ruin from the Far East. By this time the volunteers had scraped the dock clean of any marine life, invasive or not and unceremoniously buried it under eight feet of sand.

Disposing of the dock would prove to be substantially more challenging than scraping off the unlikely immigrants. After receiving several bids, the Oregon Parks Department awarded an $84,155 contract to remove the dock to Washington State based Ballard Diving and Salvage, which leads to the question of who is going to pay to remove all this junk?

So far the states have footed the bill for cleanup and disposal, but this had created some contention among state officials and the federal government. “The cost of the debris cleanup is going to be unknown at this point,” Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire recently stated. “The primary financial responsibility for the cleanup lies with the federal government.”

Gregoire recently released $500,000 in emergency funds on top of $100,000 that the Washington State Department of Ecology had already set aside for clean up. But as debris steadily trickles onto shore, the costs are mounting. “We don’t have the resources at the state level to do what we’re going to have to do here,” Gregoire announced at a recent news conference.

David Kennedy, assistant administrator for the NOAA’s National Ocean Service, told a U.S. Senate panel that in most cases debris removal decisions will fall to individual states. Alaskan Senator Mark Begich has dismissed Kennedy’s claim and has asked for $45 million dollars for local community groups to conduct the clean-up efforts. Instead of the $45 million he requested, the federal government authorized $250,000 to be divided among five Western states, a sum Begich calls “woefully unacceptable.”

Some communities are taking matters into their own hands. A recent beach cleanup effort in Pacific City, Oregon, volunteers were enticed to come out with promises of a wine tasting and free concert organized by the Surfrider foundation. This is certainly the best solution I have heard about so far.

It has even been suggested that the U.S. should send the Japanese government the bill for the cleanup. The State Department had dismissed this desperate idea, more than likely because nobody wants to be the guy that has to deliver that unfortunate piece of news to the Japanese who are still reeling from the widespread destruction of their country, but surprisingly the Japanese government was more receptive. According a report from the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, government officials will introduce a plan to pay back Canada and the United States for debris cleanup by the end of September.

As the political groveling continues, tsunami debris continues to wash ashore and with no comprehensive plan of action in sight it is impossible to predict how this situation will unravel. The already costly endeavor of disposing of the debris on our beaches is made even more formidable with the ensuing threat of invasive species wreaking havoc on our ecosystem.

One thing is for sure, the costliest natural disaster the world has ever seen isn’t over yet.

How India’s cities came to drown in sewage and waste


Cliffs of garbage, Varkala, Kerala, India. Photo source: ©© Happysleepy

Excerpts;

Sewage and waste infrastructure has failed to keep up with urban expansion, leaving India to ‘drown in its excreta…’

Almitra Patel, a civil engineer by qualification, says she was first alerted to India’s huge problem of inadequate waste disposal when she noticed that the frogs in the marshlands near her farmhouse, on the city’s outskirts, had stopped croaking…

Read Full Article, Guardian, UK

India’s Waste-To-Energy Plan Could Mean Bad News For Trash Pickers. Huffington Post

Climate Crisis: Why Business Must Do More To Protect Children’s Rights

next-generations
Photo source: ©© Fontplay

Excerpts;

The effects of climate change have a disproportionate impact on children and place an ecological debt on future generations.

In the wake of the continuing negotiations on climate change in Bangkok last week, businesses need to take action to improve the outcomes for future generations.

Number seven of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles launched by Unicef earlier this year is related to the environment. This has global relevance for all businesses, since all business activities impact directly or indirectly on the world that our children will inherit…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

Should We Put a Price On Nature If We Are Going To Save It?
For decades campaigners have fought for the protection of nature for its own sake, and while there has been notable progress, the overall trends have not been encouraging. It seems that the moral argument has gained insufficient traction, and that in the absence of new frames continuing population and economic growth will cause more damage.

The Sixth Extinction Menaces The Very Foundations Of Culture

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Photo source: ©© Baban Shyam

Excerpts;

Human activity endangers entire species, yet human culture is profoundly rooted in nature. The loss of a species is also a loss of the images, stories, symbols and wonders that we live by, to call it a cultural loss may sound too cerebral: what we lose when we lose animals is the very meaning of life.

The range of animals and plants threatened by the sixth extinction is such that it menaces the foundations of culture as well as the diversity of nature. We are part of nature and it has always fed our imaginations. We face the bare walls of an empty museum, a gallery of the dead…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

The world’s extinct and endangered species – interactive map, Guardian UK
Over the past 500 years, human activity is known to have decimated 869 species.

Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forests lose key species

Study Links Biodiversity and Language Loss

Ecosystems Cope With Stress More Effectively the Greater the Biodiversity, Science Daily

The IUCN Red List Of Endangered Species

Sea-level Panel’s Mainstream Report

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Beach Erosion at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Photo source: ©© SoilScience

By Dr. Robert S. Young, director, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines and Professor of coastal geology at Western Carolina University

It has been frustrating to watch the discussion over the issue sea-level rise here in North Carolina. Numerous members of the legislature have indicate that in their view the science panel that advises the Coastal Resources Commission is either ideologically biased or incompetent (that is, including only bad science in its report).

I serve on the science panel that advises the state Coastal Resources Commission. Two years ago, the commission solicited a report from the panel that would summarize the state of the science regarding sea-level rise and recommend the expected increase that planners should consider when looking down the road to 2100.

Our report included a detailed review of the published literature. It was externally peer-reviewed by out-of-state scientists. It contained no alarmist rhetoric or nightmare scenarios. The final recommendation was for the state to plan for 39 inches of sea level rise. This number corresponds well with expert reports produced in other states.

No one has suggested an end to coastal development or an evacuation of the coast. No one is even considering regulations that would slow coastal development. More and more, this just seems to be devolving into an attack on science and scientists.

Many of those quoted in the media would like to believe that our projections are “dogmatic.” Let me assure you that the North Carolina science panel is anything but dogmatic. The members include engineers and a variety of scientists. We have significant representation from former and current employees of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These are not climate alarmists.

We were asked to produce a report on the state of the science. We did. Suggesting that there was political motivation behind the report may serve purpose of argument for those who don’t like our report, but it is completely unfounded.

We were asked to produce a report on the state of the science. We did. Suggesting that there was political motivation behind the report may serve purpose of argument for those who don’t like our report, but it is completely unfounded.

There have also been many who have alleged that those who research sea-level rise are driven entirely by the desire to secure research funding. Robert Dean, a University of Florida engineer and coastal consultant, was recently quoted by the journal Nature clearly stating exactly that. He suggests that his one paper on sea-level rise is the only one of thousands that was written completely without bias. This is a statement so absurd that one hopes he was misquoted.

Organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union and many others have all issued strong position statements supporting the idea that the rate of sea-level rise will be higher in the future than it was in the past. Yet a very, very small percentage of their members conduct funded climate change research. Rather, these diverse groups of scientists have examined the evidence and, based on the facts, found it to be convincing enough to produce scientific statements regarding the need for public action and continued research.

If it is true that these policy statements will lead to an increase in the funding for global change research, then all of the other scientists in these organizations have just “shot themselves in the foot.” There is only so much research money to go around. If it is all going to climate change, then the other scientists in these many organizations are likely to have less funding available for their particular research interest.

A far more likely scenario than a conspiracy to get funding is this: The scientists and engineers in these organizations looked at the peer-reviewed literature and concluded that global change is real, and that an expectation for an acceleration in the rate of sea-level rise is reasonable.

I have grown weary of hearing our legislators suggest that what we need is a new scientific report on sea-level rise with better science in it. I am told that this is the likely outcome of the compromise being worked out between the state House and Senate.

I have a better suggestion. You have a report that was written by the state’s finest scientists and engineers (at no cost to the state, I might add). If the legislature is really interested in finding the best science, than simply send our report, along with any other reports you like (including those from NC-20) to the National Academy of Sciences for review.

This is a cheaper and faster option than commissioning a new report. Let the chips fall where they may.

Original Article, News Observer

Genuine expert speaks up on sea-level rise
Geologist Dr. Rob Young of Western Carolina University wrote an op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer, that ought to be required reading for the state lawmakers who’ve decided to listen to the global warming deniers/pseudo-scientists on the matter of sea-level rise.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies; the Answer Lies in the Gulf

pump
Pump. Photo source: ©© Tashland

Excerpts;

This week, much of the globe’s attention is focused on the United Nation’s Rio +20 Earth Summit, where thousands of international delegates and NGO representatives are gathering to hammer out solutions to an increasingly stressed out, warmed-up world.

As the slow-burn of climate change spreads across the four corners of the globe, governments are fanning the global flames by dishing out a trillion dollars of fossil fuel subsidies each year, creating a perpetual pollution-pumping machine that’s poisoning the planet with ever-greater intensity.

This needs to change if we’re going to pull out of the environmental death-spiral we’re zooming toward. As NRDC’s Jake Schmidt reports from Rio, the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde couldn’t have said it better:

Many countries continue to subsidize polluting energy systems. These subsidies are costly for the budget and costly for the planet. Countries should reduce them. But in doing so, they must protect vulnerable groups by tightly focusing subsidies on products used by poorer people, and by strengthening social safety nets.

NRDC and a variety of NGOs are demanding that world leaders stop coddling the fossil fuel industry and focus instead on promoting rapidly developing clean energy technologies to protect our natural resources and maintain a sustainable planet. As Jake Schmidt put it, it’s not rocket science. But there are powerful special interests standing in the way…

Read Full Article, by Rocky Kistner, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Shoot the Messenger: Carolina’s Costly Mistake on Sea Level Rise

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Beach Erosion at the Outer Banks of North Carolina . Photo source: ©© Soil Science

By Dr. Robert S. Young, director, Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines / Western Carolina University

The North Carolina Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit the state from considering projected sea level increases in its coastal management strategy. But a scientist involved in the debate argues that ignoring these projections will wind up costing North Carolina — and the rest of the U.S. — far more.

The state Senate in North Carolina voted overwhelmingly last week to pass a bill on sea level rise that has been widely reported in the national media. This bill prevents all state and local agencies from developing regulations or planning documents that consider the possibility of a significant increase in the rate of sea level rise in the future. In other words, when looking for guidance on how to protect the coastal economy and environment over the next century, the state’s planners may only look backward to historical data, not forward to expected changes in the Earth’s climate dynamics,

This bill has been widely ridiculed in many news outlets and science blogs, culminating with a biting satire of the proposal by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report. Personally, the whole thing just makes me sad.

The commission decided to ignore our report and recommended doing nothing about sea level rise.

I serve on the science panel that advises the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC). Two years ago, the CRC solicited a report from the panel that would summarize the state of the science regarding sea-
level rise and recommend the expected increase that planners should consider when looking down the road to 2100. Our report included a detailed review of the published literature. It was externally peer-reviewed by out-of-state scientists. It contained no alarmist rhetoric or nightmare scenarios. The final recommendation was for the state to plan for 39 inches of sea level rise. This number corresponds well with expert reports produced in other states.

The reaction to our report was rapid and effective. NC-20, a group purporting to represent North Carolina’s coastal counties, attacked both the integrity of the science panel members and the body of sea level rise literature that was reviewed.

beach-erosion-ry4
Photo source: ©© Soil Science

The rebuttal consisted largely of oft-repeated arguments pulled from the climate skeptic blogosphere, along with an adamant assertion that predicting the future is impossible. To the great surprise of those of us on the state’s science panel, these tactics have worked.

Following tremendous political pressure from NC-20, the Coastal Resources Commission decided to ignore our report and recommended doing nothing about sea level rise at this point. One would think that victory would have halted the debate, but it then prompted a state Senate committee to approve the legislation that passed the full Senate last week. The bill now moves on to the North Carolina House of Representatives.

All relevant, major scientific organizations in the United States — including the National Academy of Sciences, the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, and others — have issued statements indicating that the rate of sea level rise during the next 100 years is going to be considerably higher than that of the last 100 years, which was roughly 8 inches.

Assertions that talk of sea level rise will ruin the coastal economy are absurd.

North Carolina became the first state to directly contradict that overwhelming, peer-reviewed scientific consensus and to tie the hands of localities that would like to plan pro-actively for these changes. Virginia followed suit last week, with lawmakers there voting to fund a study on the state’s coastline only if references to climate change and sea level rise were expunged.

I have received many emails and phone calls from other scientists over the last two weeks pledging their assistance and volunteering to “come help educate the senators” in North Carolina. Sadly, I don’t think it will help. Quite frankly, those fighting the need to plan for accelerated sea level rise in coastal North Carolina do not want to be “educated.”

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Coastal Erosion at the Outer Banks. Coastal storms, improper site management, and poor land use decisions can lead to catastrophic beach erosion. Photo source: ©© Soil Science

They assert that talk of sea level rise will ruin the coastal economy, impact insurance rates, and deter coastal development.

This is absurd.

First of all, the insurance industry is well aware of the science behind global climate change and the prevailing projections of sea level rise. They have funded much research into the science, hazards, and risks associated with sea level rise, coastal erosion, and storms. Nothing in the science panel’s report comes as a surprise to the insurers.

Second, the real and immediate threat along the North Carolina coast remains property damage resulting from storms, which may increase in intensity this century as the world warms. Some areas of the U.S. have experienced multiple storm impacts, yet their coastal economies continue to thrive.

The best way to prepare for sea level rise is to do a better job preparing for major storm impacts.

Dauphin Island, Alabama has been nearly wiped off the map several times in the last 30 years. Each time the barrier island was rebuilt, and the economy there chugs along. One might question whether this is good policy. But it is hard to imagine that something as abstract as a 100-year projection for rising sea level is going to impact the coastal economy when the reality of storm impacts has not slowed coastal growth.

No one has proposed evacuating the coast. If you are building a single-family home, or a subdivision, you probably don’t need to do anything other than what’s required by federal flood insurance — account for major storms and elevate new construction on pilings. In many respects, the best way to prepare for sea level rise over the next two to three decades is simply to do a better job of preparing for major storm impacts.

Some existing homeowners in low-lying areas do need to be concerned about future sea level rise. So does government at all levels. If you are building major infrastructure, a large port facility, or planning storm water runoff for a city, it would be foolish not to take the potential for sea level rise into consideration. Many governments, from the local to the federal level, are already doing so.

Why should anyone else care about this issue? Because poor coastal planning costs us all. Coastal communities receive a variety of federal and state subsidies that offset the risks associated with building in areas vulnerable to storms and sea level rise. These subsidies include post-storm disaster assistance, subsidized insurance, funds for beach nourishment and coastal protection projects, and many others.

Even in the near term, rising sea level is going to make maintaining coastal infrastructure more expensive. Over the long-term, these costs will only increase. Significant portions of the risk are born by all taxpayers. We once took this fiscal responsibility seriously in North Carolina.

Not any more.

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Beach Erosion at the Outer Banks. Photo source: ©© Soil Science

Original Source, Yale 360

The Rising Sea, A Book by Orrin H. Pilkey and Robert S. Young