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.
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
San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) unanimously approved a 10-year mining permit for sand removal from San Francisco Bay, and from two other areas near Suisun. The amount of sand the permit requests is 15 times greater than the annual amount of sand that comes into the bay from the delta.
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A Dare County building inspector has put up “unsafe structure” notices on six oceanfront houses north of this town on Hatteras Island, NC. Most of the recent erosion seems to be in an area where owners had placed sandbags in front of the houses.
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The value of the ocean’s riches rivals the size of the world’s leading economies, but its resources are rapidly eroding. The value of key ocean assets is conservatively estimated to be at least US$24 trillion. If compared to the world’s top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh with an annual value of goods and services of US$2.5 trillion.
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Miami Beach’s condo boom is bubbling hot, with glass towers being built as fast as they can be—even as scientists say rising seas could swamp much of the storied city by the century’s end.
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Today, Earth Day isn’t just a national event; it’s a global phenomenon. It is now the largest secular event in the world.
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“Our world is worth saving and now is our moment to act. But to change everything, we need everyone…”
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Deepwater drilling is increasing in the Gulf. Oil companies say it’s safer now, but critics say spills are inevitable.
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The nation’s costly and dangerous dependence on fossil fuel continues to endanger the lives of U.S. workers, the health of our waters, the lifeblood of coastal economies, and the survival of wildlife. Five years later, NRDC looks back on the people and places that endured the worst of the disaster, and whose lives continue to be harmed by its impact.
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Soft sand shifting south will eventually mean cars will no longer be able to drive along the beaches in Volusia County. According to the study, ocean levels are rising every year, which means Mother Nature may eventually decide if cars should remain on the beach regardless of what the sand does. The report also states cities with limited beach driving have higher real estate values.
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