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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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If an island state vanishes, is it still a nation?

No country has ever physically disappeared, and it’s a real void in the law. The Marshallese government faced with set of issues unique in the history of the system of nation-states associated with sea level rise impacts that are not adequately addressed in the international legal framework, seeks advice from the Center for Climate Change Law at New York’s Columbia University. Legal scholars worldwide have been asked to assemble at Columbia, next May to begin to piece together answers.

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National monument status urged for Arctic refuge

anwr-usgs
News, Pollution
Dec
5

The US President is being urged to bestow national monument status on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for its 50th anniversary in what supporters say would finally put the refuge’s coastal plain beyond the reach of oil companies. National monument status could put an estimated 11 billion barrels of recoverable oil beyond the grasp of oil companies forever.

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55 Percent of Venice Under Acqua Alta, Italy

Three main factors have worsened the high water in Venice, experts say; the rising floor of the lagoon caused by incoming silt, the subsidence of the city by the extraction of methane gas in the sea off Venice, and the worldwide increase in sea levels caused by global warming.

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Cancun’s Beaches: Vanishing Sand and Wasted Money

In a major restoration project last year, millions of cubic yards (meters) of sand were dredged from the sandy bottom of the Caribbean and pumped ashore in Cancun. The project created a seven-mile stretch of beach some 40 to 70 yards (meters) wide, at a cost of about $70 million. It is already washing away.

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Sand Mafia Fill 600 Trucks a Day, Thane District India

The district administration does not have manpower to control highways and look out for the sand mafia.

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Many Coastal Wetlands Likely to Disappear this Century

Many coastal wetlands worldwide, including several on the U.S. Atlantic coast, may be more sensitive than previously thought to sea-level rise projections for the 21st century.

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Charging for Plastic Bags Cut Bag Consumption by Half in China

News, Pollution
Nov
29

An environmental-economic evaluation of the Chinese ordinance against free plastic bags shows that people in China, the number one consumers of plastic bags in the world, reduced their consumption of plastic bags by half when stores were forced to charge consumers for the bags.

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Norfolk, Virginia, Tackles Rise in Sea

Like many other cities, Norfolk was built on filled-in marsh.

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The Last house of Sinking Chesapeake Bay Island

The story was strange enough to be a child’s fable: In an isolated section of the Chesapeake Bay, there was a two-story Victorian house that seemed to emerge directly from the water. And, scurrying around it, there was a retiree, trying to keep the house from falling in.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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