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

“The Earth Is What We All Have In Common”


It’s not enough to have Earth Day once per year. The “Earth Day” phenomenon needs to become a way of life

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Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone


In May 2013, it was big news when, for the first time, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million. Now, researchers say that number has been consistently above 400 for the last month…

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Earth Day 2014: How It Became a Global Environmental Event

Celebrate, Inform

More than a billion people around the world will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2014—the 44th anniversary of the annual day of action, during which people engage in various activities in honour of the Mother Earth pledging to do something to protect the environment.

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Four Years after BP Oil Disaster Many Lessons Remain Unlearned


The BP oil spill, often called the worst man-made environmental disaster of our time, first began four years ago today, on April 20, 2010. The oil that spewed into the Gulf was an unprecedented environmental disaster that continues to devastate local communities. It will be years before we understand the full extent of the damage…

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Painting with Islands and Sunglint

Celebrate, Inform

Sometimes the imagery is remarkable simply for its beauty. When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite looked down on the Lesser Antilles, the combination of sunlight, islands, and wind painted a beautiful scene on the surface of the Caribbean Sea.

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Arctic Oil: It Is Madness to Celebrate a New Source of Fossil Fuels

News, Pollution

After months of delays, Russian state-owned oil and gas company Gazprom has announced that the first ever shipment of oil from offshore Arctic waters has begun the journey to Europe.

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Japan Will Conduct Pacific Whale Hunt In Wake Of Court Ruling


Japan said it would conduct a sharply scaled down form of its annual Northwest Pacific whaling campaign this year despite an international court ruling last month against the mainstay of its whaling program in the Antarctic.

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Keep Shell Oil Out Of The Arctic!


Be the change: Keep Shell Oil Out Of The Arctic! A NRDC call to action, supported by Robert Redford.

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Saving Caribbean Tourism from the Sea


Faced with the prospect of losing miles of beautiful white beaches, and the millions in tourist dollars that come with them, from erosion driven by climate change, Barbados is taking steps to protect its coastline as a matter of economic survival.

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Recent / Inform

Drought Stressing California’s Plantscape


February 13th, 2014

Persistent dry weather has grown more worrisome in the American West, with nearly two thirds of the region experiencing some level of drought. By most measures, the state of California is suffering through the worst of it.

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Pharrell Debuts Denim Line Made From Recycled Ocean Plastic


February 13th, 2014

Singer-songwriter, in collaboration with G-Star Raw, will create jeans made with plastic-based ‘bionic yarn’, from recycled ocean plastic. With growing concern over ever-growing garbage patches of floating plastic in the world’s oceans, any product that can take advantage of such waste is helpful.

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Killing Whales by Design and Default


February 13th, 2014

While countries such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland often are criticized for their commercial whaling practices, WHOI marine biologist Michael Moore points out how the majority of nations are also complicit in killing whales by deploying commercial fishing gear.

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DRC Mega-Dam to Be Funded by Private Sector, Groups Charge


February 12th, 2014

Watchdog groups here are warning that a deal has been struck that would see Chinese investors fund a massive, contentious dam on the Congo River, the first phase of a project that could eventually be the largest hydroelectric project in the world.

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A Look Back and Ahead at Greenland’s Changing Climate


February 11th, 2014

Over the past two decades, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise. The waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, which surround southern Greenland, are presently the warmest they have been in the past 100 years.

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Fossil Fuel Subsidies Dampen Shift Towards Renewables


February 10th, 2014

Despite evolving public awareness and alarm over climate change, subsidies for the production and consumption of fossil fuels remain a stubborn impediment to shifting the world’s energy matrix towards renewable sources.

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Europe’s Oldest Footprints Uncovered On English Coast


February 10th, 2014

The earliest human footprints outside of Africa have been uncovered, on the English coast, by a team of scientists.

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Study Finds High Levels Of Pollutants In Guánica Bay


February 9th, 2014

The pollutants measured in the sediments of Guánica Bay, Puerto Rico, in a new NOAA study were among the highest concentrations of PCBs, chlordane, chromium and nickel ever measured in the history of NOAA’s National Status & Trends, a nationwide contaminant monitoring program that began in 1986.

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Winter Haze over Bangladesh


February 9th, 2014

According to a study based on data from ground-based air quality sensors, about one third of the fine particulate pollution comes from motor vehicles, one third from brick kilns, and the rest from winds blowing dry soil and road dust. The brick industry, which mainly operates in the winter, is a major source of particles because most brick makers in the region rely on inefficient fixed-chimney kilns.

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New Fiery-Red Coral Species Discovered in Peruvian Pacific


February 8th, 2014

In the clear waters off the coast of Peru, researchers have found a stunning new red coral species that was not previously described by scientists.

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