The coastline has inspired and awed humanity always. It is the interface of the human habitat with the element in which we cannot naturally survive. The ancient Hebrews feared the sea as symbolic of chaos and disorder; whilst other pre-modern civilizations found ways to cross thousands of miles of ocean harnessing the wind, and using the stars for navigation.
Storm surges, flood-tides and tsunamis continue to act as a powerful reminder that the coast is a place of particular human vulnerability, where the wildness and freedom of the elements remain unconstrained by human effort. Yet the very vastness and apparently limitless power of the ocean may have contributed to the carelessness of humanity towards the coast and the sea in modern times – the false belief that since the ocean is so big our trash and waste products can be dumped in it with no repercussions.
Our society’s thirst for oil and for plastic is the most obvious culprit of sea pollution and coastal degradation, when the oil is spilled and as plastic litters our beaches and finds its way into the tissues of marine life. But the greenhouse effect of releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by our burning of fossil fuels has a more widespread, if virtually invisible, devastating effect on the oceans.
Global warming leading to increases in seawater temperature causes the body of the sea to expand , one of the factors leading to the rising sea-level. And secondly, the absorption of additional carbon dioxide is causing sea water to become more acid, leading to the destruction of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Rising sea levels ultimately threaten many of the major concentrations of human population especially people who are poorest and, without help, have least resources to adapt.
Coastlines are home to special and beautiful creatures sustained in unique ecosystems . Today’s photograph depicts cliffs on the southern coast of the Isle of Wight. As chalk these formation are themselves the product of the deposition of marine creature over millions of years. The British Isles is one of the richest areas in the world for seabirds with an estimated 8 million birds. For example it is home to 60% of the world’s Great Skuas.