________________ CM . . . . Volume I Number XII . . . . September 1, 1995

The Living Beach

Needham Gate Productions Ltd., 1994. VHS, 48 minutes.
Distributed by: Needham Gate Productions Ltd.,
P.O.Box 105, Falmouth, Nova Scotia, BOP 1L0 (902) 798-8777

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Lorrie Andersen.

The Living Beach is a well-constructed video useful in several curricular applications, including geography, language arts, environmental studies, science, and social studies. The film covers the topic of beaches from many angles: it interweaves commentary, excerpts from famous pieces of literature, expert opinions from various viewpoints, and glimpses of serious and playful uses of the beach, with the story of human successes and failures in managing the waterfront.


With this video the viewer learns that even though it may shift and change position, the beach remains the same; "beach erosion" should really be called "shoreline retreat." Even though the video shows examples of engineering feats in, near, and around the water, the production makes the point that in the end we have to let the beach do what it wants to do, because attempts at engineering are ultimately expensive and ineffective.

The beach moves and shifts by the action of storm and wave. Human interaction with the beach comes with management schemes such as the Sebastian Inlet Commission, which successfully manages an environmentally sensitive area in Florida. The Living Beach also shows (with the aid of diagrams) what sea walls accomplish in preserving the beach -- as opposed to soft solutions that involve replenishing the sediments that the oceans have redistributed.

Between 70 and 80 percent of Americans live within a one- or two-hour drive to ocean or Great Lakes beaches. The resulting pressures on this natural resource are intense, coming from recreational, residential, industrial, and commercial demands. The Living Beach ends with the comment that these beaches are sacred areas -- things we can destroy but cannot create.

There are serious messages here, but also delightful quotes from literature, ranging from Shakespeare to Robinson Crusoe, with dashes from Mathew Arnold, Homer, Lord Byron, and even the famous Second World War German field marshal Erwin Rommel. And there are tidbits of useless, but nice-to-know information such as the ancient law in Greenland regarding beachcombing. There's something on beaches for all tastes here!

Although the producer is Canadian, the content is slanted almost entirely to the United States, except for an example of an eroding drumlin (a mound of glacial drift) in Nova Scotia, and the discussion on the role of summer cottage life as a place for inter-generational family interaction.

The Living Beach is not ideal for classroom use because of its length, but it would be a good purchase where there is a need for materials on "the way beaches grow and shrink and change" and about "the human relationship with beaches -- why we love them, how we harm them, and how they can harm us."


A librarian by training, Lorrie Andersen is Collection Development Consultant, Instructional Resources, for Manitoba Education and Training.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364