Planning to Live By the Oceans: It’s Common Sense Or Is It?

By April 5, 2011 September 16th, 2011 Ocean News

If you are planning to leave along a Coast or near the Ocean make sure you consider the effects the Ocean may have on your living space. This statement doesn’t pertain to just residential places, but it pertains to all coastal activities, structures, and other matters that take place along a Coast or near an Ocean. The recent and ongoing tragedy in Japan made me think of the choices we make as a species to live by an environment that we know very little about and a recent post on Dr. Carl Safina’s blog made me want to write this post about the planning, or lack thereof, around human activities along the Ocean’s coast.

Over 30% of the world’s population live along coastal areas, which are often a little above, at, or below sea level. Some coastal areas are stable with coastal habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangroves, salt marshes, and wetlands stabilizing the soil and reducing the energy from the Ocean waves. Other coastal areas are highly dynamic meaning the physical appearance can change due to a high frequency of waves smashing on to land or lack of stabilizing coastal habitats present so the Ocean is in charge of shaping the coastline.

A portion of Dr. Safina’s post really made me think of how the tragedy in Japan could have been avoided or at least minimized. Dr. Safina recounted a conversation he had with a friend of his who stated about the disaster:

“Carl — I don’t agree with your diagnosis that in Japan the fault is purely geological. With the unfolding nuclear disaster it’s humans who were the problem, because the reactors were faultily planned in the first place. They knew they were in a seismic zone, they knew that there was a tsunami risk, and they knew that both could hit the reactors at the same time. The chain of events that led to the meltdowns was totally predictable — first, an earthquake knocks out the grid, so backup diesels kick in to run the cooling pumps; next a tsunami floods the diesels, which are conveniently located in the basement; and finally, they can’t hook up portable generators, because all the wiring is, where? Right, it’s in the basement. So they’re reduced to trying to flood the reactors with seawater pumped in with portable fire pumps, which then run out of fuel.

It’s a human-induced disaster all the way, and it’s ramifications are going to spread far more widely than the radioactivity that is right now wafting across Japan. It’s going global, because countries everywhere will now pull back on plans for new nuclear power plants, which are an essential component of any recipe which has a chance of getting us off fossil fuels any time soon. The Japanese (and GE) nuclear designers just made climate change worse.

The big shame in all this is that nuclear power could have been a terrific benefit to humankind, but it was mishandled from the start. Safe reactors are possible, waste can be handled safely… but that’s another story.

It’s all very sad, I must say. Ever since I learned the physics of the fission reaction I’ve been enchanted by the promise of this power of nature, but somehow we humans have managed once again to screw something up, and the promise was never fulfilled.


Of course, the Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami is not the fault of human activity (not that we know of anyway); however, wouldn’t you think that a country as sophisticated as it is, surrounded by water, and is known for frequent earthquakes would not build power plants that could blow up half the country if an explosion occurred that close to the Ocean where flooding could occur and Tsunamis have the possibility of wiping half of the plant out? I understand that nuclear power is cleaner than other power resources, but we need to remember the consequences when things go wrong.

I don’t mean to pick on Japan, especially at this point and time, or nuclear power for that matter. Other countries and industries are just as guilty. For instance, any country which allows oil and gas development runs the risk of a blowout and spill the size of last summer’s BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even worse is the unexplainable continuation of approvals for more oil and gas development in deep-sea environments. We know the consequences of our actions, but we take the risk anyways. Does that make sense?

We need to exhibit more common sense when planning out coastal activities and living areas. Development of the coast often requires and/or causes important coastal habitats to be destroyed and taken out to be replaced by buildings and houses. These habitats play a functional role in maintaining the coastline by securing it against erosion from the Ocean. I’m not saying that living by the coast is not environmentally friendly, I myself would love to live along the coastline; however, we must development with the nature’s functional process in mind. Maintaining natural features not only preserve’s species but it helps preserve the coastline.

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