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

People Displaced by Climate Change Need Our Help, But So Do Those Who Cannot Leave

The environment is already affecting patterns of human migration. On the island of Hatia, along coastal Bangladesh, 22 percent of households have migrated to cities as a coping strategy following tidal surges. A recent UK report has shown that a focus on populations migrating away from environmental change neglects 2 key groups of vulnerable people: the many millions who will actually migrate into areas of environmental threat, and those who will be trapped there by economic, social or environmental challenges.

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Microbial Oasis Discovered Beneath the Atacama Desert

Inform, News

Two metres below the surface of the Atacama Desert there is an ‘oasis’ of microorganisms.

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Tracking Toxic Chemicals in Oil Spills

News, Pollution

Does out of sight mean into the air or into fish? A study.

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Is Protecting the Environment Incompatible with Social Justice?

Inform, Pollution

Humanity’s challenge in the 21st century is to eradicate poverty and achieve prosperity for all within the means of the planet’s limited natural resources. Oxfam investigates the question of whether environment conflicts with development and social justice.

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Battling The Plastic Bottle: Students And Industry Face Off

News, Pollution

Bottled water is trickling away from college campuses nationwide, thanks to the efforts of student activists and non-profit groups that support them with campaigns like “Ban the Bottle” pushing schools to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. But that’s not going over too well with the International Bottled Water Association.

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The Eddy and the Plankton

The ocean has storms and weather that rival the size and scale of tropical cyclones. But rather than destruction, these storms, better known as eddies, are more likely to bring life to the sea.

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How Earth’s Next Supercontinent Will Form

Inform, News

The Earth has been covered by giant combinations of continents, called supercontinents, many times in its past, and it will be again one day in the distant future. The next predicted supercontinent, dubbed Amasia, may form when the Americas and Asia both drift northward to merge, closing off the Arctic Ocean, researchers suggest.

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EPA Bans Sewage Discharge From Cruise Ships

News, Pollution

Federal environmental regulators have given final approval to a rule that bans cruise ships and large cargo vessels from releasing all sewage into the state marine waters along California’s 1,624 mile coast from Mexico to Oregon and surrounding major islands, creating the largest Coastal No-Discharge Zone in the Nation. 77 percent of the State’s population lives on or near the coast and annually, over 150 million visitor-days are spent at California beaches.

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Fish Farms at Sea: The Ground Truth from Google Earth

The fishing industry is notorious for underreporting the number of organisms that are being fished out of the world’s oceans every year. A study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, is the first to estimate seafood production using satellite imagery. Researchers used Google Earth to count and measure the number of coastal fish farms in 16 countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

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Recent / Inform

Acid Oceans Demand Greater Reef Care

February 17th, 2011

The more humanity acidifies and warms the world’s oceans with carbon emissions, the harder we will have to work to save our coral reefs.

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Rising Seas Will Affect Major U.S. Coastal Cities by 2100

February 16th, 2011

Rising sea levels could threaten an average of 9 percent of the land within 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, according to new research led by University of Arizona scientists.

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If Greenhouse Gas Emissions Stopped Now, Earth Would Still Likely Get Warmer

February 16th, 2011

A new research, from the University of Washington, shows that even if all emissions were stopped now, temperatures would remain higher than pre-Industrial Revolution levels because the greenhouse gases already emitted are likely to persist in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

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No sand mining in fishing areas, India

February 15th, 2011

The State government cancelled all the sand mining leases in in coastal areas and would not be giving out new licences.

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Jetties Blamed For Beach Erosion, Montauk NY

February 14th, 2011

The next winter storm is threatening to wash away beach-side homes in Montauk. Concerned residents, however, are not blaming Mother Nature, but rather jetties built by the Army Corps of Engineers about 20 years ago.

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Raised Awareness on Illegal Sand Mining, St Kitts

February 13th, 2011

Illegal sand mining across St. Kitts, has become more pronounced with the boom in the construction industry. As a result, several problems have arisen and it became necessary, as a means of deterrence, to educate the general public on the negative effects of the unlawful activity.

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Whole coastline of Namibia is designated a national park

February 11th, 2011

Namibia has become what is thought to be the first country to designate its entire coastline a national park. Namibia designates its entire 976-mile coastline a national park, consolidating several existing preserves into the 26.6 million-acre Namib-Skeleton Coast National Park.

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Artist and scientist make a natural pair: united, they are an educational force

February 10th, 2011

World-renowned coastal geologist Orrin H. Pilkey and artist Mary Edna Fraser, an internationally recognized master of the textile art of batik, bring an understanding of coastal geology and global change to the public in a way that is scientifically astute and visually intriguing.

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Dirty Secrets Behind Jeans: China blighted by industrial pollution

February 10th, 2011

A Greenpeace report has called on the Chinese textile industry to clean up its processes after finding high levels of pollution in the southern industrial towns of Xintang the “jeans capital of the world” and Gurao.Toxic runoff from China’s textile industry has made its way into rivers and other waterways. Many are now heavily polluted with chemicals used for dying, printing, bleaching and washing.

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North Australia set to face more weather extremes, corals show

February 10th, 2011

Like pages in a book, near shore corals can help scientists go back in time by revealing years that were unusually wet or dry, and are providing another piece of evidence that maybe suggests that we are seeing some consequences already of global warming.

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