Inform

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

Sea-level rise ‘could last twice as long as human history’

Huge sea-level rises caused by climate change will last far longer than the entire history of human civilisation to date, according to new research, unless the brief window of opportunity of the next few decades is used to cut carbon emissions drastically.

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Mavericks Competition: Why Surf Spot Has Monster Waves

Celebrate, Inform
Feb
12

Right now, the world’s best surfers are riding the monster waves at Titans of Mavericks, an elite surf competition that pits big-wave riders against the monster swells at a Northern California Beach. Waves this year were slated to reach 50 feet (15 meters) tall, with winds of 46 to 75 mph (40 to 65 knots). But just why do the waves get so big at this particular time and spot?

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Window to reduce carbon emissions is small, scientists say

At the rate humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere, Earth may suffer irreparable damage that could last tens of thousands of years, according to a new analysis published this week.

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Toxic chemicals found in beached pilot whales in Scotland

Scientists have found clear evidence that whales are absorbing high levels of toxic heavy metals, with cadmium found in the brains of pilot whales which washed up in Scotland.

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A Judicial Affirmation of the Public’s Common Law Right to Use All of North Carolina’s Dry-sand Beaches

Inform
Feb
10

In Nies v. Town of Emerald Isle, Nov. 17, 2015, the North Carolina Court of Appeals unqualifiedly held that the “ocean beaches of North Carolina … are subject to public trust rights.” Until this decision, no North Carolina court opinion directly addressed the question of whether all dry-sand beaches of the State were, in fact, open to public use.

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Penang’s land reclamation may harm coastal communities, Malaysia

Environmental NGO says such projects could also harm the environment and cause erosion, as well as loss of coastal resources.

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Californians Fight Over Whether Coast Should Be Rugged or Refined

The California Coastal Commission, created 45 years ago, has been one of the most powerful governmental agencies in the nation, with sweeping powers to determine what gets built, or does not get built, on the 1,100 miles of cliffs, mountains and beaches along the Pacific Ocean. It has mediated the often clashing agendas of two of the most influential forces that help to define this state: environmentalism and the drive for growth.

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Living Shorelines: Better Than Bulkheads

More than 14,000 miles – 14 percent of continental U.S. coastline — has been armored with hardened structures. Hardened structures cause elevated rates of erosion on the shoreward side of the structure.

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Human-made underwater sound may have wider ecosystem effects than previously thought

Underwater sound linked to human activity could alter the behaviour of seabed creatures that play a vital role in marine ecosystems, according to new research.

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Recent / Inform

Could a Titanic Seawall Save This Quickly Sinking City?

December 10th, 2015

Jakarta, Indonesia’s fast-growing capital of 10 million people, is embarking on one of history’s biggest seawall projects—to be shaped like a Garuda, a mythical bird-like creature.

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New research sheds light on mercury pollution in estuaries, food chain

December 9th, 2015

Mercury, which is transformed into methylmercury in water, is a global pollutant that damages human health. Most people are exposed to mercury by eating fish, particularly from open ocean and coastal fisheries. Estuaries act as a repository for methylmercury, storing toxic particulates in both the sediment and water column.

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Saving Shore Communities a Risky, Expensive Proposition

December 9th, 2015

The sea is rising. The land is sinking. Entire mid-Atlantic communities are anchored in between, bookended by certain disaster unless a way is found to turn back the tide and save the shore. No one knows how to fix the fix we’re in, as climate change and sea-level rise continue to assault our shores.

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Coral reefs could be more vulnerable to coastal development than predicted

December 9th, 2015

For years, many scientists thought we had a secret weapon to protect coral reefs from nutrients flushed into the seas by human activity. But a new study sheds doubt on that idea, underscoring the importance of sustainable growth in coastal areas.

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White sand, black gold: when oil derricks loomed over California beaches

December 8th, 2015

As California population boomed in the decades following the gold rush of 1849, there was a rapidly growing demand for petroleum. By 1920, California was producing 77 million barrels of oil a year, and vast stretches of the state were occupied by derricks, and refineries. In coastal places such as Venice, oil derricks ran right up to the shore, mingling with residential neighborhoods and pristine beaches.

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Stealing Turtle Eggs Got People Shot, But The Thievery Continues

December 8th, 2015

Olive ridley sea turtles are a threatened species, and the Mexican government has made it illegal to harvest their eggs from Pacific beaches. Mexican marines patrol those beaches, and violators have been prosecuted. Yet sea turtle eggs continue to be harvested, sold in the market.

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Bangladesh’s Kutubdia island losing battle to stem climate tide

Sundarbans

December 7th, 2015

Although around 100,000 people still reside on Kutubdia, few have any illusions they are living on borrowed time, with Coast – a Bangladeshi NGO – warning the whole island could disappear underwater within 50 years. Tens of thousands have already left for good, mainly heading to the teeming capital Dhaka.

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Column: The future of Florida’s beaches and the public’s right to know; Op Ed. by Orrin Pilkey

December 7th, 2015

“The state of Florida has a very weak coastal management program and has carried out no realistic planning about how to respond to sea-level rise. In fact, leading politicians of the state, including the governor, deny global climate change and have forbidden their lieutenants from even mentioning the seven words “climate change, global warming, sea level rise…”

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Records Fall in 2015 Cyclone Season

December 5th, 2015

The 2015 hurricane season in the Atlantic, eastern Pacific, and central Pacific basins ended on November 30, according to the meteorological calendar. It was a year that brought many storms that defied usual expectations and destroyed parts of the record books.

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Higher Levels of Fukushima Cesium Detected Offshore

December 5th, 2015

Scientists monitoring the spread of radiation in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear accident report finding an increased number of sites off the US West Coast showing signs of contamination from Fukushima. This includes the highest detected level to date from a sample collected about 1,600 miles west of San Francisco.

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