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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.


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Slow clean up for Argentina’s worst environmental stain

News, Pollution
May
3

The Matanza river, also known as Riachuelo or little river, defines the southern boundary of Buenos Aires and according to a number of studies it is one of the most polluted places in the world. The area has become a dumping ground for industrial, chemical and household waste.

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Seas could rise up to 1.6 meters by 2100: New Report

Quickening climate change in the Arctic including a thaw of Greenland’s ice could raise world sea levels by up to 1.6 meters by 2100, an international report showed on Tuesday. The study is yet another reminder of how pressing it has become to tackle climate change.

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Shell to submit Arctic offshore drilling plan

News, Pollution
May
2

Shell Oil will apply to drill 10 wells off Alaska’s Arctic shore over the next two years under an exploration plan headed to federal authorities.

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Fukushima Parents Protest Over New Permissible Radiation Levels

Japanese children can now be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible. The new regulations and new standard of 20 millisieverts a year, equivalent to the annual maximum dose for German nuclear workers, have prompted outcry.

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Sea Level Rise Could Turn New York Into Venice

Higher sea levels will give severe storms much more water to funnel toward the city. A lot of New York City is less than 16 feet above mean sea level,” he said. “Lower Manhattan, some points are five feet above sea level. These areas are vulnerable and New York City knows it.

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Nauru use UN spotlight to confront developed world over climate change

The smallest nation in the UN is about to take the AOSIS chair at a time when low-lying coastal countries are gravely threatened. Nauru is among the islands most threatened by rising sea levels and its economy has been almost wholly dependent on phosphate, which has led to environmental catastrophe on the island, with 80% of the nation’s surface having been strip-mined.

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Japan’s irradiated waters: How worried should we be?

For the oceans, this is the largest accidental release of radiation we have ever seen.

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Coastal Dunes in Spain Threatened by Poorly Designed Infrastructure

Although the dune ecosystem is unusual, fragile and is protected by the “habitats” directive of the network Natura 2000, its conservation is very vulnerable to the proliferation of car parks, nearby buildings and inadequate boardwalks.

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The Man That Has Been Picking Plastic From Beaches For 7 Years

beach-plastic-pollution

Francis Picco arrived in Easter Island, Chile, from France for a vacation 15 years ago, and never left. The reason was a local woman who became his wife, and a new found peace he couldn’t trade for anything else. Picco, who has adopted the native name Tutuma, has been recovering plastic garbage from Easter Island’s coastline for over seven years now.

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