Calamity Calling: Imagine a world without beaches from GlobalPost on Vimeo.
CANCUN, Mexico Sipping outsized cocktails and peering gingerly at the sparkling turquoise waters from behind sunglasses, the partiers sprawl on deck chairs, recovering from the night before.
Vendors walk barefoot through the sand, offering cut-price shawls, coral plucked from the seafloor, and rides on inflatable bananas towed by speedboats.
Just behind us is the wildly popular Coco Bongo nightclub, one of the highlights of Cancun’s central strip and an iconic part of the multi-billion dollar investment that has made this the Caribbean’s most successful resort.
Off to the horizon stretches the legendary ribbon of fine, white sand without which there would be neither tourists nor the bars, restaurants, boutiques and discos that relieve them of their hard-earned cash.
Cancun’s perfect tropical beach is its principal selling point. Made from the remains of long-dead corals, it famously stays cool even on the most scorching days.
Yet the only reason the resort still has a beach is thanks to a $70 million project in 2010 to replenish it by dredging up more than 1 billion gallons of sand from the seabed.
That was a response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which overnight swept away eight miles of Cancun’s prime beach.
Although scientists are wary of attributing specific weather events to climate change, most agree that warming seas in the Caribbean have already made devastating hurricanes like Wilma not to mention Katrina and Sandy which respectively ravaged New Orleans and New York increasingly frequent.
It was just rock. You couldn’t do anything. You couldn’t work. It was really ugly, says Eduardo Jimenez, 65, who sells parasailing rides from the beach, and remains awed by the official effort to rebuild the beach.