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

Beach Sand Mining Detrimental Effects Explained, Saint- Louis, Senegal


Environmental expert Babacar Gaye explains how gravely coastal erosion is affecting Senegal, notably underlying the detrimental consequences of sand mining in Saint-Louis’ region (Barbary Tongue).

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A Siege of Salt and Sand, Official Trailer


Caught between the corrupting sea and the hungry desert, Tunisia today faces a catastrophic convergence of climate chaos… Filmmakers Radhouane Addala and ST McNeil are traveling across Tunisia to visualize the fallout of climate change today in North Africa.

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Sentinel Satellite Spies Ice Cap Speed-Up


One of the largest ice caps on Earth has experienced a dramatic speed-up, according to new satellite pictures.

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Great Barrier Reef’s Unprecedented Threat From Dredging, Dumping


The impact of dredging and dumping sediment on the Great Barrier Reef has been far greater than the mining industry has claimed, with nearly 150m tonnes of new dredging set to take place in the reef’s waters, a study shows.

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70 Million Plastic Bags Thrown Away Annually in Iceland

News, Pollution

A new report published by Iceland’s Ministry for the Environment has found that the annual number of plastic bags discarded in the country has reached 70 million per year, a significant increase from last year’s figure of approximately 50 million.

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Myanmar Wakes Up to Climate Change


Between 2008 and 2013, when Myanmar remained largely closed off to the rest of the world, it suffered a terrible toll at the hands of nature that remained largely unknown.

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The Folly Of Poorly Executed Beach Renourishment


“Folly’s beach $30 million dredging/renourishment project is a fiasco that eclipses the 2009 dredging of live artillery onto the beach during a project in Surf City, N.J…” By journalist Chris Dixon.

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Illegal Sand Mining Stopped, South Africa


Ethekwini Municipality has secured a high court order, shutting down what it says is an illegal sand mining operation in an environmentally sensitive area in Cato Ridge, near Durban.

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Melting of a Small Ice Volume On East Antarctica’s Shore Could Trigger Persistent Ice Discharge Into Ocean


The melting of a rather small ice volume on East Antarctica’s shore could trigger a persistent ice discharge into the ocean, resulting in unstoppable sea-level rise for thousands of years to come.

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Recent / Inform

Sand Wars: Premieres At Washington DC Environmental Film Festival


March 19th, 2014

Sand Wars movie: Premieres At Washington Environmental Film Festival, on March 20th. Discussion with filmmaker Denis Delestrac and geologist and “sandman” Michael Welland follows screenings.

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Has The Time Come For Floating Cities?


March 18th, 2014

From schools at sea to a city that perpetually sails the oceans, is climate change creating a bold new era of floating urban design..?

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West Africa Scores High In Disaster Risk


March 18th, 2014

West African cities, both the large and the small, are expanding rapidly and face specific challenges related to infrastructure, zoning and spatial planning, which directly contributes to an increased risk from flooding. In coastal countries, such as Guinea and Sierra Leone, soil erosion and land degradation were the priority perceived threats.

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Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration


March 17th, 2014

From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not…

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Northeast Greenland Ice Loss Accelerating, Researchers Say


March 17th, 2014

The last remaining stable portion of the Greenland ice sheet is stable no more, an international team of scientists has discovered. The finding will likely boost estimates of expected global sea level rise in the future.

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Voyage of Discovery : An Art Exhibit Explores Polar Transformations


March 16th, 2014

A new AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) exhibition takes gallery visitors on an imaginary journey to a polar region in the throes of climate change.

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The Danube Carries 1,500 Tons Of Plastic Litter Into The Black Sea


March 16th, 2014

Researchers from Vienna University have found shocking results when examining samples from the Danube’s water: there are less fish larvae in the river than drifting plastic items. On average, there are 317 plastic items while only 275 fish larvae in 1,000 m³ of water. Even the researchers were surprised by the results.

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A Potential Replacement For Hormone-Scrambling Plastics ?


March 15th, 2014

A new compostable material abundant in nature: Chitin – the stuff of shrimp shells, insect armor and butterfly wings – maybe a promising new form of bio-plastic…

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Is Weird Winter Weather Related to Climate Change?


March 15th, 2014

Scientists are trying to understand if the unusual weather in the Northern Hemisphere this winter, from record heat in Alaska to unprecedented flooding in Britain, is linked to climate change.

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Protect and Restore Goleta Beach, California


March 14th, 2014

Goleta Beach is one of Santa Barbara County’s most popular parks. But imagine going to Goleta Beach Park and finding no beach. Seawalls cause sandy beaches to disappear forever. The unpermitted seawall at the west end of Goleta Beach is no exception; it must be removed to preserve Goleta Beach…

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