Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.
Humans and Coastlines
Humans have always had a thing for being near the water. In ancient history, many of the greatest civilizations used seas and oceans for trade and conquest. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean opened the idea of globalization for all people. More recently, coastlines have been transformed into high-priced real estate.
However, this has all come with quite a bit of impact. In this lesson, we are going to look at the impact of humanity on the coastlines of the world. We will see how our interest in that thin strip of surf and sand has in many ways endangered its survival, as well as some of the steps that we are now taking to solve those issues.
Every year, millions of people go to the beach. If you're like me, it's all about the seafood! But I guess there's something to be said about lying on the sand and getting sunburned. Regardless, places like Daytona Beach in Florida and the Costa del Sol in Spain transform into sunning grounds for those who just need some time to get away from it all.
However, the huge numbers of visitors have many impacts on beaches. Litter is the most obvious impact, as many people are not exactly considerate when it comes to disposing of their waste. Still, other impacts are less evident. People also have the potential to disrupt fragile processes, like sea turtle births and sand dunes.
For example, artificial lighting near beaches can hurt the chances of survival for sea turtle hatchlings because it disorients them, making it harder to successfully reach the ocean. Also, sand dunes are hills of sand shaped by wind and found along some shorelines. They act to protect the inland from abnormally high tides all while harboring their own delicate ecosystems, but they cannot do so nearly as well after being trampled by beachgoers.
To stop all this from happening, many beaches are starting to take action. Littering fines have been raised, as have protections for marine life. Stretches of beach are often closed when sea turtles are laying eggs and when those eggs are hatching, so as to not impede on other life. Sand dune ecosystems are also gaining significant protections - in some jurisdictions, even walking on protected areas of the dunes is illegal.
Still, more people live in cities on the waterfront than ever visit the beaches. Simply put, a waterfront is part of a city that borders a large body of water. From Shanghai to New York, many of the world's largest cities have waterfront properties. For years, this meant that coastlines suffered.
The idea of 'out of sight, out of mind' governed many cities' approach to how to get rid of waste, and dumping it into the ocean seemed to be the perfect idea. Also, as transportation across the waves grew into a bigger practice, there were more waste products near the water. Finally, with the construction of large factories, some businessmen simply dumped hazardous chemicals onto the shoreline.
Now, things in most places are very different. Strict rules govern what can go into the water. Cities get publicly ranked on water pollution, and citizens are unlikely to stand for a smelly waterfront. Also, cities grew to embrace their shorelines as a place to be proud of. Today, you'll often find some of the nicest buildings of a city along its coastline.
From beaches to waterfronts and everywhere in between, a constant worry along coastlines is erosion. Coastal erosion is the removal of land along a coastline. Remember those sand dunes being protected? It wasn't just that the sand dunes kept water from flowing inland, but they also stopped eroded materials from going out to sea. While it may sound harmless, all that dirt could really mess up the coastline, not allowing any fish to live out there because the water was too dirty. On the other hand, in places where the shoreline was not well taken care of, a strong storm could simply wash it away, leaving houses and businesses that were once safe very vulnerable to the next storm.
To this end, defeating coastal erosion is now on the top of many people's agendas. Sand dunes remain a very valuable tool in order to keep erosion from happening. However, it's not just the height of the sand dunes that helps reduce erosion. Sand dunes have many grasses and shrubs, and even sometimes trees, growing on top of them. These help secure the sand, making sure that it can do a better job of guarding against erosion. This also reduces the chances that a shoreline will be washed away. The layout of the beach may change, but the sand dunes provide a wall against further change.
In this lesson, we looked at how humans interact with coastlines. Beaches are a popular place to relax but can become vulnerable to change without proper protection. Many cities have a waterfront: a part of a city that borders a large body of water, and human activity along these waterfronts impacts their coastlines.
We have improved how cities interact with coastlines, but one of the biggest challenges is reducing coastal erosion: the removal of land along a coastline. Erosion is something that can really damage coastlines. Sand dunes are hills of sand shaped by wind and found along some shorelines, and they can help limit the effects of erosion by securing sand.
- sand dunes: hills of sand shaped by wind and found along some shorelines
- waterfront: part of a city that borders a large body of water
- coastal erosion: the removal of land along a coastline
Plan to achieve these goals as you progress through the video lesson:
- Describe the interactions humans have with the coastline whether on beaches or in cities
- Comment on the ways in which humans are trying to stop coastal erosion
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