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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

Root of the Matter: Mangrove as Lives Saver When Natural Disaster Strikes

Countless people clung to life in the branches of mangrove trees hemming the shorelines during the deadly 2004 tsunami that killed more than 230,000 coastal residents in Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

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Ban on Sand Dredging by Machines Suggested in Coastal Konkan, India

News, Sand Mining
Oct
25

After refusing to lift the stay to sand mining in Maharashtra, Bombay High Court suggested that the government may think of banning sand dredging by machines in the coastal Konkan area.

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Costa Rica Recognized for Biodiversity Protection

“We are declaring peace with nature,” said Mario Fernández Silva, the ambassador of Costa Rica. The nation wins 2010 Future Policy award for pioneering legal protection of natural wealth. The EU and Canada lead the way to extinction, with China and Brazil close behind,” noted the CBD Alliance.

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Battling Flood issues, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

The coastal city of Port of Spain, was built on mud flats and reclaimed lands from the sea. At high tide, with virtually a drizzle, the city is prone to major flooding.

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Arctic Report Card 2010

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the annual Arctic Report Card, which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century to monitor the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic, also called the “planet’s refrigerator.”

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Measuring sea-level rise in the Falklands, 19th-Century Benchmarks Reveal

Sea levels around the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic have risen since the mid nineteenth century and the rate of sea-level rise has accelerated over recent decades.

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India Creates a National Green Tribunal to Try Environmental Cases

News, Pollution
Oct
19

It is the third country to set up a separate judiciary for environmental cases, after Australia and New Zealand.

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PBS Kids to Launch New Web-Based Series About Sustainability

The Story of Stuff’s founder teams up with PBS KIDS to launch a new web-based series about sustainability. The goal is that as kids look at objects and activities in their daily life, they will begin asking: Where does it come from? What is it made of? What happens to it when it’s thrown away?

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Underwater Robot to Explore Antarctic Ice Shelf

Ice shelves are floating platforms of ice that cover almost half of Antarctica’s coastline. Until recently, scientists have had limited ability to access ice-covered waters, and the research team’s use of a high-tech robot aims to change that.

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