Gary Griggs on What We Must Do to Save Our Coasts



While Gary Griggs has lived near the coast of California most of his life, visits to the coasts of 46 nations helped shape his latest book, Coasts in Crisis: A Global Challenge. The distinguished professor of Earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, writes on how coral reefs provide shelter, food and breeding grounds for about one-third of the world’s species of marine fish, as well as coastal protection from major weather events. Most coral reefs are now besieged by pollution, overfishing, sedimentation, coastal construction, tourism and global warming.

Approximately 3 billion people—nearly half our planet’s total population—live in coastal areas. He cites that hurricanes have caused more U.S. fatalities than any other natural hazard, and the driving forces behind rising sea levels will increase future vulnerabilities unless effective actions are taken now.

Griggs, who also wrote Introduction to California’s Beaches and Coast and Living with the Changing California Coast and co-wrote The Edge, today recaps the history and assesses the current status of coasts worldwide. He suggests ways in which current negative trends might be reversed or improved.

How can we better deal with rising sea levels?

There are now about 200 million people living within three feet of high tide. Both mitigation and adaptation will be required. We need to do everything possible to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, but that’s not going to stop rising sea levels anytime soon. We need to start adapting right away.

We can elevate structures, but that’s limited. Historically, we’ve used armoring, including seawalls, levees and rock revetments, which work for awhile, but have endpoints. Ultimately, it’s going to take relocation, or what we call “planned retreat”, moving back when the sea nears our front yard. The more we reduce or mitigate the emission of greenhouse gases, the less adaptation will be needed to cope with climate change.  

Why are coral reefs so vital to the global ecosystem?

In the tropical latitudes, coral reef ecosystems have formed the basic biological, geological, economic and cultural framework of area coastlines and island nations for centuries. Today, fisheries and tourism anchor those economies. Millions of people depend on these local ecosystems for their protein supply.

About 50 percent of coral reefs are in poor or fair condition, and most are in decline. Whether from pollution, dredging, filling or overfishing, virtually all of those reefs are under significant threat.

Have researchers seen any overfished species rebound?

A 2013 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that about two-thirds of U.S. commercial fish species that had been seriously depleted had made significant recoveries—28 of 44 fish stocks, including Atlantic bluefish, flounder and black sea bass—primarily due to better management practices. We now have fisheries restrictions and marine-protected areas in place. To realize some long-term success, we need to limit fisheries in certain areas and for certain species.

California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes a Seafood Watch Consumer Guide card specific to regions; it color codes which species are safe to eat and which ones no longer can provide a sustainable harvest, so we know which ones to ask for at grocers and restaurants.

What might mitigate the environmental impact of what you term “coastal megacities”?

Eight of the largest metropolitan areas worldwide—Shanghai, Mumbai, Karachi, Tokyo, Dhaka, Jakarta, New York/New Jersey and Los Angeles—are along shorelines. Coasts in Crisis looks at the hazards of hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons and tsunamis that their residents are exposed to—along with long-term sea level rise.

These incredible concentrations of people not only fish heavily, they discharge large volumes of waste and wastewater. You can’t put 10 million people on a shoreline and not expect impacts. We need to get all of these discharges cleaned up and under control. Shorelines are very delicate biological environments.

We also must get global population under control to make a much softer footprint on the planet. It would take four planet Earths to support the present global population if everyone indulged in America’s current consumption habits (FootprintNetwork.org).

Sustainability is what we must work toward, whether it’s food, water or energy. Currently, we’re mining the planet for all its resources, which can’t go on for much longer. We need to recognize this and return to equilibrium with what the planet can supply.


Freelance writer and editor Randy Kambic, in Estero, FL, is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.


This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

News Briefs

Separate Workshops Help Parents and Clinicians Work with Multi-Problem Teens

Separate Workshops Help Parents and Clinicians Work with Multi-Problem Teens

August 3 and 4 and August 26 to 30
Conflict Resolution Program Seeking Workshop Facilitators

Conflict Resolution Program Seeking Workshop Facilitators

Workshop facilitator training August 9-11
Annual Tuckahoe Summer Fest Set for August 24

Annual Tuckahoe Summer Fest Set for August 24

10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at Depot Square
Erica Garcia to Offer Interdisciplinary Yoga Teacher Training

Erica Garcia to Offer Interdisciplinary Yoga Teacher Training

The program incorporates Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga as well as aspects of life coaching.
Rhodella Hughes Completes Veterans Yoga Training

Rhodella Hughes Completes Veterans Yoga Training

“I’m honored to join their mission of supporting our veterans, families and communities.”
Screen Time Can Affect Children’s Vision and Learning

Screen Time Can Affect Children’s Vision and Learning

“Screen-related near-point work can trigger problems with eye teaming, focusing control, eye-tracking skills and a tendency towards tunnel vision.”
Intermittent Fasting Works—If It’s Done Right

Intermittent Fasting Works—If It’s Done Right

Intermittent fasting has been touted as the answer to just about every health problem imaginable.
All-Natural ‘Vegan Freeze’ Facilitates Cell Regeneration

All-Natural ‘Vegan Freeze’ Facilitates Cell Regeneration

“I’ve used Vegan Freeze for animal rescue and in my therapeutic massage practice, and it’s exceeded my expectations.”
Séance and Paranormal Investigation Return to Angel Aura Boutique

Séance and Paranormal Investigation Return to Angel Aura Boutique

6:30 p.m., August 9
Oddstock Music Festival in New Milford

Oddstock Music Festival in New Milford

August 23 and 24, from 1pm - 3:30am
Island Intimacy Retreat Set for October

Island Intimacy Retreat Set for October

October 11 to 13 on the Caribbean island of Vieques
Co-housing Community Underway; Green Homes for Sale

Co-housing Community Underway; Green Homes for Sale

Cohousing is a proven community design with more than 165 neighborhoods established throughout the United States and construction of another 140 underway.
Free Film Screening of Paris to Pittsburgh in Scarsdale

Free Film Screening of Paris to Pittsburgh in Scarsdale

7 to 9 p.m. on September 11
Soul Alignment Coaching Program Offered in August

Soul Alignment Coaching Program Offered in August

“I believe that when we consistently vibrate at the frequency of our higher self, everything else follows.”
CranioSacral Therapy Can Ease Back-to-School Anxiety

CranioSacral Therapy Can Ease Back-to-School Anxiety

Children and teens often have increased anxiety and could benefit tremendously from CranioSacral Therapy’s gentle balancing of the central nervous system,
Popular Non-GMO Corn at Three Feathers Farm

Popular Non-GMO Corn at Three Feathers Farm

Open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wassaic Project Summer Festival  Showcases Emerging Artists

Wassaic Project Summer Festival Showcases Emerging Artists

August 3, starting at noon, at the Luther Barn Field, in Wassaic.
Hudson Valley Expo Returns to Peekskill August 3

Hudson Valley Expo Returns to Peekskill August 3

1 to 10 p.m.

Race Two of Westchester Corporate Cup Set for August 15

All proceeds go to the Hope Community Services, a New Rochelle-based organization that’s become the largest emergency food pantry and soup kitchen in the region.
Planetwatch – August 2019

Planetwatch – August 2019

Stony Kill’s Annual Butterfly Festival Set for July 27

Stony Kill’s Annual Butterfly Festival Set for July 27

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 27
Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to New York City

Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to New York City

10 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 28
Integrative Nutrition Wellness Coaches Join Katonah Podiatry

Integrative Nutrition Wellness Coaches Join Katonah Podiatry

“We work with clients to help them create happy, healthy lives in a way that is flexible, fun and self-fulfilling, through nutrition and lifestyle changes."
New ‘Medical Medium’ Book Focuses on Celery Juice

New ‘Medical Medium’ Book Focuses on Celery Juice

"It’s become clear that drinking celery juice to improve health is no passing fad."
Organic Hair by Helen Adds New Color Lines

Organic Hair by Helen Adds New Color Lines

She chooses products that use natural ingredients and create natural-looking results.
Spirit Festival Announces Presenter Lineup

Spirit Festival Announces Presenter Lineup

September 13 to 15
Live Sound Healing Concert at Golden Prana in Katonah

Live Sound Healing Concert at Golden Prana in Katonah

from 7 to 9 p.m. July 10
Next ‘Food Truck Friday’ Set for July 19 in Pound Ridge

Next ‘Food Truck Friday’ Set for July 19 in Pound Ridge

Add your comment: