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The health, beauty and ecosystem of our beaches is under threat

The driving cause for most of these problems is overdevelopment and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline, there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

Coastal Care Introduction

“Beach sand: so common, so complex, so perfect for sandcastles; and now it is a precious and vanishing resource.”

—Orrin H. Pilkey

Beaches are the most visited natural attraction on the planet. The coast attracts millions of vacationing people each year. People love the sand, the surf, the sea breeze, and the vacation ambiance so much that many come to the beach to stay. There is a magical feeling living near the ocean, but human migration towards the coast comes with a high environmental price tag.

A majority of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the coast and the projections are 75% by the year 2025. This strip of land represents only 3% of the total land mass of the planet. In this context, it is easier to understand the environmental impact. Over 70% of the earth is covered by water and with so many people living on the coast, we are polluting a major source of food, the oceans.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

The loss of life and economic impacts of major storms – cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes – and tsunamis would be reduced drastically if beaches were not developed. Unfortunately, recent examples of the problem are numerous: 1999 Indian cyclone Orissa (over 10,000 dead and $5 billion in damage), 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani (over 250,000 dead), 2005 Hurricane Katrina (over 1,800 killed and $80 billion in damage), and 2008 Hurricane Ike (over 30 killed and $30 billion in damage).

Today, the health, beauty, and ecosystem function of the world’s beaches are under threat and the driving causes for most of these problems are over-development and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

It is important to distinguish between erosion and erosion problems. Erosion refers to the landward retreat of the shoreline. Most of the world’s shorelines are eroding, a very few are building out (accreting). There is no erosion problem, however, until someone builds something next to a shoreline. All over the world in remote areas, shorelines are slowly retreating and no one cares. In a global sense, our continents are slowly shrinking, and in a very real sense, erosion problems are man made. On a high-rise, condo-lined shoreline like those in Spain and the Florida coast, erosion is a huge problem and will only worsen in the future as sea level rise accelerates. Sea level rise will accelerate erosion of the shoreline and have a dramatic impact on our infrastructures, our economies, and our way of life.

Sea level rise is one of the most important causes of global shoreline erosion. If the coastline is developed, shoreline armoring is often used in an effort to save the buildings from the eroding shoreline. Once this begins, the beaches will degrade and eventually be lost. In the long-term, however, these armoring efforts are in vain. The ocean will continue to rise as the rate of sea level rise is expected to increase as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continue to degrade. The situation is made worse now because beach houses and condominiums are being built closer to the ocean than they were 25 years ago. Many of us are familiar with images of large beach houses about to fall victim to the oceans simply from daily erosion accelerated by the ever rising sea.

The work of the Santa Aguila Foundation will emphasize the impacts of sand mining and shoreline armoring: the first because the effects of sand mining have been largely ignored on a global scale and the latter due to its overwhelming negative impacts on the world’s beaches.


Surfing in / Inform

Coastal Conservation Plan Sparks Fight Over Sand

Beach communities that rely on dredging to replenish protective dunes object to expanded federal protections. Environmental advocates are pushing back with warnings about the possible ecological damage from beach replenishment projects that they call sand mining.

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The Destruction of the Environment: An Unfolding Tragedy for Humanity

The 2019 Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum identified “Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (terrestrial or marine)” as both one of the most likely and most serious global risks with “irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humankind as well as industries.”

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Thirty years after Exxon Valdez, the response to oil spills is still all wrong

Inform, Pollution
Mar
26

Chemicals used to clean up spills have harmed marine wildlife, response workers and coastal residents. The EPA must act

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Will large protected areas save the oceans or politicize them?

How can we save the oceans? They cover two-thirds of the planet, but none are safe from fishing fleets, minerals prospectors, or the insidious influences of global warming and ocean acidification. In the past decade, there has been a push to create giant new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). They now cover nearly 9.7 million square miles.

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The Rising Trend of Zero Waste Lifestyles

Inform, Pollution
Mar
23

A “zero-waste lifestyler” is someone who actively reduces their waste consumption, designing their life to avoid acquiring things that will end up as trash – especially disposable and non-recyclable products and packaging.

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9 of the 10 Worst Global Risks are Linked to Water

Of the 1,000 most severe disasters that have occurred since 1990, water-related disasters accounted for 90 per cent. With extreme water and weather events increasing in both frequency and severity in the wake of climate change, floods and droughts are set to strike harder and more often in the years to come.

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New tsunami evidence along one of Earth’s largest faults, the Alaska-Aleutian megathrust

Inform
Mar
21

Recent geological studies of a key section of the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska suggest Aleutian tsunamis may occur more frequently than previously understood.

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Plastic pollution: can the ocean really be cleaned up?

Inform, Pollution
Mar
21

The idea of attempting to “clean up” the ocean is a quixotic one. Can these projects really make a difference? The answer is yes, but not as expected.

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Dead whale found with 40 kilograms of plastic bags in its stomach

A young whale whose carcass washed up in the Philippines died of “dehydration and starvation” after consuming 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plastic bags, scientists have found.

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Recent / Inform

Why don’t U.S. nuclear regulators acknowledge the dangers of climate change?

March 15th, 2019

When America’s fleet of nuclear reactors was designed some four-plus decades ago, few people had ever heard the phrase “climate change.” Today, the global threats of worsening weather patterns and natural disasters are well recognized, commanding concern and responses across the board. Except, apparently, at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Coca-Cola admits it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year

March 14th, 2019

Coca-Cola has revealed for the first time it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute – as a report calls on other global companies to end the secrecy over their plastic footprint.

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Fatal horizon, driven by acidification, closes in on marine organisms in Southern Ocean

March 11th, 2019

Marine microorganisms in the Southern Ocean may find themselves in a deadly vise grip by century’s end as ocean acidification creates a shallower horizon for life. The steep drop, which could happen suddenly over a period as short as one year in localized areas, could impact marine food webs significantly and lead to cascading changes across ocean ecosystems.

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Is This the End of Recycling?

March 10th, 2019

Americans are consuming more and more stuff. Now that other countries won’t take our papers and plastics, they’re ending up in the trash.

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Microplastic pollution revealed ‘absolutely everywhere’ by new research

March 9th, 2019

Microplastic pollution spans the world, according to new studies. Humans are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the possible health effects on people and ecosystems have yet to be determined.

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Violent battle playing out to save the last 22 vaquitas, the world’s most endangered porpoise

March 8th, 2019

Experts said that at most only 22 vaquitas remain in the Gulf of California, where a grim, increasingly violent battle is playing out between emboldened fishermen and the last line of defense for the smallest and most endangered porpoise in the world.

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Fish diversity linked to Caribbean coral reef health

March 6th, 2019

The health of coral reefs can be impacted as much by the diversity of fish that graze on them as by the amount of fish that do so, according to a new study. In the paper, the researchers untangle and unveil the powerful effects that biodiversity has on Caribbean coral reefs.

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Rate of plastic pollution will double by 2030 as report calls for end to single-use plastics

March 5th, 2019

Since the year 2000, we’ve used more plastic than in all the years before. On average, we each use 53 kilograms of plastic a year and generate a collective total of more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste. By 2030, this is predicted to double, with the brunt of the impacts expected to hit our oceans.

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Living Shoreline Permitting Made Easier

March 4th, 2019

The state of North Carolina is well on its way to making it easier for property owners to build living shorelines.

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Huge sunfish washes up in northern waters for first time in 130 years

March 4th, 2019

A giant sunfish has washed up on a beach in Santa Barbara, California, the first time this particular species of the animal has been sighted in the northern hemisphere in 130 years.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
One Percent