The famous white sands along Florida’s Emerald Coast comes from the erosion of quartz way up in the Appalachian Mountains.Take Action ↓
When you’re asked about vacation, what’s the first place that comes to mind? For many people, vacation is synonymous with fleeing to the nearest coast.
Similar to salmon and blue whales, people around the world participate in a great seasonal migration to the seashores. Whether it’s to surf, fish, swim, or watch the unobstructed sunset, millions of people find peace in the sandy gatekeeper of our ocean. Currently, more than 80% of all global tourism takes place in coastal regions. Our gravitational pull towards the beaches is nothing new. Since the beginning of civilization, humans have flocked to the shores for a source of nourishment, livelihood, trade, and adventure. Today, one in two people live within 60 kilometers of a coast, with over 61% of the world’s total GNP coming from areas within 100 kilometers of the ocean.
“Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.” Loren Eiseley
Unfortunately, their popularity is also putting beach ecosystems at risk. Unsustainable coastal development, agricultural and industrial pollution, ocean trash, and climate change threaten the very existence of our wonderful beaches. Studies have shown that beach sand contains 100 times more fecal matter than adjacent, contaminated ocean water due in large part to proximity to human settlements, coupled with the absorptive nature of sand. In the U.S. alone, over 14,000 miles of natural coastline have been covered by concrete walls— with an estimated 33% hardened with man-made structures by 2100. The degradation of beaches puts us all in danger.
Easily the most recognizable of all marine habitats, beaches are far from the simple expanses of pure sand we often see in photographs. Rather, beaches support a complex array of flora and fauna, from nesting sea turtles and wispy grasses to scuttling crabs and talkative seabirds. A beach’s sands and shape are both the unique products of millennia of wind and wave movements. The famous white sands along Florida’s Emerald Coast come from the erosion of quartz way up in the Appalachian Mountains, while the red and black sand beaches in Santorini, Greece get their rare color from the eroded lava cliffs. In their many unique shapes and forms, beach ecosystems all provide essential protection to both our coasts and our ocean. It’s about time we step up and protect them too.