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

Rising Seas Threaten Coastal Lifestyle


Facing the reality of rising seas: Western Carolina University’s Robert Young talks about the way buildings impact coastal erosion.

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Tyre Mayor, Residents Fight Sand Mining Project, Lebanon

News, Sand Mining

The municipality of Tyre is teaming up with civil society groups and environmental activists to launch a campaign to stop sand mining in the basin of Tyre’s Resthouse, a publicly owned resort property that is rented out to investors.

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Le Havre, France


The port city of Le Havre sits at the confluence of the Seine River and the English Channel along the northern coastline of France (Upper Normandy region).

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UN Climate Chief Calls on Coal Industry to Change


The U.N.’s chief climate diplomat on Monday urged the coal industry to diversify toward cleaner energy sources and leave most of the world’s remaining coal reserves in the ground.

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Safety In Numbers? Not So For Corals


A new study revealed that global changes in climate and ocean chemistry affect corals whether scare or abundant, and often it is the dominant, abundant corals with wide distributions that are affected the most.

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French Islanders Face Rising Seas


The 130 inhabitants of Île de Sein, a tiny island off the coast of Brittany, are survivors… now facing a new threat.

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China’s Children May Become The Drivers Of Environmental Change

Inform, Pollution

The world’s eyes on China’s pollution will continue to act as a key force in influencing how bold government policies to cut pollution are in the future, but internal discontent will ring louder and resonate more.

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Watching The Rising Tides Along North Carolina’s Coast


Professor Robert Young with North Carolina Public Radio host Frank Stasio, discussing the consequences of climate change and how rising sea levels have a strong effect on the beaches of North Carolina.

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Coastal States Are Preparing The Most For Climate Change: A Study


The Columbia Center for Climate Change Law released a report showing that land-locked states are doing the least to prepare for climate change, while many coastal states vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges are doing the most to prepare.

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Recent / Inform

Fossil Record Shows Crustaceans Vulnerable as Modern Coral Reefs Decline


September 24th, 2013

Many ancient crustaceans went extinct following a massive collapse of reefs across the planet, and new University of Florida research suggests modern species living in rapidly declining reef habitats may now be at risk.

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Surfer Goes to head-to-head With Pod of Dolphins as He Takes on Australian Waves


September 24th, 2013

Even more incredible is that the moment was captured back on land by a photographer who was lining up his last shot of the day while experimenting with a new lens.

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Making Local People Stewards of the Earth


September 23rd, 2013

The lack of land rights is a crisis not just for local people but for all of humanity, warned organisers at an international conference here.

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Rising Seas Not the Only Culprit Behind Kiribati’s Woes


September 22nd, 2013

Scientists say dredging, building causeways and natural climate variations are largely responsible for the flooding events that many officials in Kiribati point to as evidence that climate change-induced sea-level rise is shrinking and destroying their tropical Pacific island.

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International Coastal Clean Up, 2013


September 21st, 2013

Over the last 25 years, Ocean Conservancy has been bringing together passionate ocean lovers and helping them contribute to a vision for trash free seas. Join the biggest volunteer day on the planet to remove pollution and unnatural debris on beaches, coasts and inland locations!

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After the Storms, a Different Opinion On Climate Change


September 20th, 2013

Extreme weather may lead people to think more seriously about climate change, according to new research, published in Psychological Science.

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Surveying Ice and Fire: The First Map of All of Iceland’s Glaciers and Subglacier Volcanic Calderas Released


September 20th, 2013

For the first time, all of Iceland’s glaciers are shown on a single map. Iceland has about 300 glaciers throughout the country, and altogether, 269 glaciers, outlet glaciers and internal ice caps are named. The glaciers that lack names are small and largely newly revealed, exposed by melting of snow pack due to warmer summer temperatures.

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Coastal Communities Stand on Local Climate Action, Virginia


September 20th, 2013

Like so many cities along the Atlantic coast, Virginia Beach is at the frontlines of climate change, experiencing impacts like sea-level rise and recurrent coastal flooding.

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Climate Science: Rising tide


September 19th, 2013

Researchers struggle to project how fast, how high and how far the oceans will rise.

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Trinidad Cracks Down on Destructive Shrimp Trawling


September 18th, 2013

As far back as 1996, the U.S.-based World Resources Institute was warning that shrimp trawling was comparable to dynamite fishing in terms of sustainability.

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