S A N D : Essential . . . Unregulated . . . and Dwindling

Sand Mining in Quarry Lake, Tahirpur, Bangladesh (by Hasin Hayder on unsplash).

“Sand is the foundation of human construction and a fundamental ingredient in concrete, asphalt, glass and other building materials. But sand, like other natural resources, is limited and its ungoverned extraction is driving erosion, flooding, the salination of aquifers and the collapse of coastal defences…” – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) • • • […]

“Dr. Beach” unveils his Top 10 Beaches in the US – CNN Travel

Beach at St. George Island State Park (by Rachel Kramer CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

Florida’s St. George Island State Park earns the top slot. The barrier island park offers nine miles of pristine beaches along the Gulf Coast. With nature trails for biking and hiking, plus birding, fishing, boating and camping…excellent swimming and sunbathing. It’s also a prime spot for stargazing with limited light pollution and an observation platform for night sky exploration. The beach has “some of the whitest, finest sand in the world,” said (Stephen) Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach)…“The water is crystal clear and clean, far from any sources of pollution on this offshore barrier island…”

The Jury is Out: Has the Supreme Court Just Shredded the Environmental Policymaking Safety Net?

Equal Justice Under Law - the pediment of the Supreme Court bulding, Washington, DC (by Thomas Hawk CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

Remember what it was like as a kid when a grownup told you “Because I said so”?

Well, a newly constituted majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has recently flexed its ideological muscle, upending 50 years of precedent guiding its decisions, and basically told us “Because I said so.”

This quiet revolution by an activist majority, deciding cases based on primarily political grounds rather than on the constraints of facts and legal precedent, will have grave impact on environmental policymaking – as well civil rights, healthcare, safety, education, elections, technology, finance, and economics…

Increasing Rate of Warming of Oceans + Earth . . .

Rising temperatures in the world's oceans: Average surface temperature in 2011 - 2020 (degrees C) compared to 1951 - 1980) source: ECMWF ERA5 via BBC

A troubling study appeared last week indicating that over the past 15 years the Earth absorbed as much heat as it had during the prior 45 years, and most of that excess energy went into warming the ocean…

“Recycling” Glass Back to Sand … For Beaches?

There have been several recent proposals and some projects actually underway to grind up glass bottles and use this ground glass to replenish beaches. Along most shorelines, other than in tropical environments, the dominant mineral making up the beach sand is quartz, which is silicon dioxide (SiO2), the same elemental composition as glass. While this may initially seem like a good solution for replenishing or nourishing disappearing or narrow beaches, this concept is not a sustainable or effective approach.

Initially derived from silica sand glass is a valuable resource that is already in a pure form that can most effectively be recycled or melted down to make more glass, rather than being put on the beach where it will be lost to the ocean over time as it is carried offshore or alongshore…

Global Weather Patterns and Coastlines

Coasts are sensitive to sea level rise, changes in the frequency and intensity of storms, increases in precipitation, and warmer ocean temperatures. In addition, rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing the oceans to absorb more of the gas and become more acidic. This rising acidity can have significant impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems.

The impacts of climate change are likely to worsen problems that coastal areas already face. Confronting existing challenges that affect man-made infrastructure and coastal ecosystems, such as shoreline erosion, coastal flooding, and water pollution, is already a concern in many areas. Addressing the additional stress of climate change may require new approaches to managing land, water, waste, and ecosystems…

Rivers in the Sky

A powerful storm formed above the Pacific Ocean battering the U.S. West Coast seen by a weather satellite in January 2023. (image courtesy of Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere - CIRA - between Colorado State University and NOAA via Space.com).

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow…

Coastal California is Ravaged by Multiple Atmospheric Rivers

An atmospheric river interacting with an area of low pressure is bringing heavy rain to California. (Image credit: NOAA via SPACE.com)

People tend to have a short disaster memory…What this storm is telling us is it’s time to think a little more long-term and make some decisions…We’ve been Band-Aiding things together for a long time.” – Gary Griggs

Gallery images courtesy of Shmuel Thaler / Santa Cruz Sentinel, Kim Steinhardt, and Gary Griggs

Science Denial Has Impacts

Speech by the NATO Secretary General at a Joint Meeting of the US House of Representatives and Senate 2019 (by NATO CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, made a wonderful statement some time ago, that is worth sharing – “The good thing about science is that it’s true, whether or not you believe it”. Science is really not an option. Whether biology, chemistry, physics, oceanography, geology or astronomy, scientists in these disciplines over centuries of research, conducting experiments, collecting evidence, and testing and examining their ideas have gradually developed an understanding of how the Earth and its life works. And much of our everyday lives depends on the application of that science…