The Weekender: Are we running out of sand? We won't have cities (or smart phones) without it.
The Weekender features a longer form publication or multimedia production from a reputable source. We select articles or things to watch or listen to that discuss issues and opportunities we deem just off the radar for many business people, students, and faculty. We aim to expand the mind, broaden the heart, and sharpen the analysis. Have a great weekend.
One of Barry Commoner's famous Four Laws of Ecology is "there is no such thing as a free lunch." Everything must come from somewhere. There is always a price to pay. Like many truths, it is obvious, common sensical and therefore deceiving in its simplicity. Modern humans have treated many resources like a "free lunch" and exploited fisheries, forests, water, metals, minerals and even the atmosphere itself. It has been an "all you can eat" buffet and, Commoner points out, eventually the bill comes due. And so it is with sand, that makes up 26% of concrete and is a key ingredient to many things we enjoy from smart phones to solar panels. This is a fun and fascinating telling of the "peak sand" story from the Planet Money podcast.
Illegally mining sand in India (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)
"A few years ago, an entire beach in a remote area of Jamaica vanished. Thieves dug up hundreds of tons of sand and hauled it away in dump trucks in the middle of the night. The sand--white, powdery, Caribbean sand--was worth about a million dollars.
It was an early sign that the world was facing a growing problem. Sand is a key ingredient in all kinds of things. It's in concrete, in glass, in your cell phone. But there isn't enough sand in the world for everyone, and we're starting to run out. So people are stealing it, smuggling it, and getting killed over it."