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People in Florida should read this

Indian Rocks after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Indian Rocks after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.

5

November

John R. Gillis, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers, author of The Human Shore, on A19 of this morning's New York Times:

To those of us who visit beaches only in summer, they seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. But shore dwellers know differently. Beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. During big storms, especially in winter, they can simply vanish, only to magically reappear in time for the summer season.

It could once be said that "a beach is a place where sand stops to rest for a moment before resuming its journey to somewhere else," as the naturalist D. W. Bennett wrote in the book Living With the New Jersey Shore. Sand moved along the shore and from beach to sea bottom and back again, forming shorelines and barrier islands that until recently were able to repair themselves on a regular basis, producing the illusion of permanence.

Today, however, 75 to 90 percent of the world's natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. Many low-lying barrier islands are already submerged.

Yet the extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore. Keep reading.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 8:37am]

    

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