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Picture the gorgeous beach you spent a week on this summer.
Now picture that same beach next summer, destroyed. Perhaps it eroded so much that there's barely room to spread out a towel. Maybe a colossal concrete hotel is being built where the sand dunes used to be. Maybe it has been coated with a slick of spilled oil. Hopefully, your slice of paradise will remain well preserved. But at many beaches around the world, nightmares like these are coming true (just ask anyone who lives on the Gulf Coast).
We've selected seven beach destinations around the world in danger of disappearing forever due to forces such as erosion, pollution, rising sea levels, reckless overdevelopment, and sand mining. But there are hundreds more. If we don't curb global warming, insist on sustainable development, and protect the world's beaches against pollution and mismanagement, the idyllic shorelines we cherish will be preserved only in memory.
Published in August 2010; pictured Phu Quoc, Vietnam.