Coastal erosion is such an ongoing problem in Louisiana that we might easily assume the issue is ours alone. But John R. Gillis, in a recent New York Times opinion column, reminds us that coastlines in other parts of the country are having their own challenges.
In “Why Sand is Disappearing,” Gillis, a historian who’s studied the role of shorelines in human history, notes that because of human development in many coastal areas, beaches are more vulnerable to erosion. Sand washes away each year, forcing those who rely on beaches as tourist attractions to haul in tons of replacement sand. The problem has caused a spiraling demand for sand, pressuring a marketplace that already uses the stuff for glass and concrete.
“The sand and gravel business is now growing faster than the economy as a whole,” Gillis tells readers. “In the United States, the market for mined sand has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior machining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers. But as demand has risen — and the damming of rivers has held back the flow of sand from mountainous interiors — natural sources of sand have been shrinking.”
That reality underscores the need for coastal residents everywhere to do a better job of protecting the shoreline. It’s work in which Louisiana has a natural and long-term stake.