Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Last Beach

The Last BeachThe Last Beach by Orrin H. Pilkey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Exactly 20 years ago this fall, I was introduced to the work of Orrin Pilkey when, as a college senior raised in a land-locked state, I chose coastal erosion as the topic of my honors thesis. In those days of Silver Platter and Gopher, Pilkey had a talent for translating complicated scientific concepts into language a journalism major who'd taken all of 2 undergraduate science classes could understand. And the picture wasn't pretty, even then, particularly on the East Coast of the United States, where the barrier islands that had protected the shore for centuries had been filled with condos and amusement parks and where the measures to protect property had just accelerated the damage or moved it to a different community.

In The Last Beach, Pilkey (and co-author Andrew Cooper) brought me up to date on what's been happening since. And, as the word "last" might indicate, the picture isn't pretty. Not only do they talk about the corruption of natural processes, but they also address solely manmade phenomena, such as digging up beaches so the sand can be sold to make concrete. You can hear the authors' frustration and desperation as they recount one horror after another. The Last Beach almost reads like a message in a bottle, one last act of hope that someone might hear their cries. Don't expect any easy answers, as none exist. Also, consider moving inland.

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