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What Everybody Ought to Know About Sand

There are 4 points that ought to be general knowledge:

  1. Sand is NOT a renewable resource
  2. Though it may seem hard to believe, our demand for sand far outstrips the supply 
  3. Indiscriminate extraction of sand has dire consequences
  4. We made it a resource and we can also 'unmake' it as a resource

Many people, if not most, perceive sand as a renewable resource while in reality it isn't. Well, technically speaking, it does get renewed by nature. But only as sloooooooooowly as other non-renewable resources such as petroleum. We're talking about geological timescales here i.e. millions and even billions of years. Sand is formed not only from mountains and rocks through erosion but also from sea weeds, shells and the action of other living organisms. 

While nature's factory takes millions of years, humans have become adept at using up sand in a region within decades. Many industries and products are built on the assumption that sand is an abundant (hence cheap) resource. However, we're beginning to see reports about shortage of sand across the world.

                                                                                                                            © Kiran Pereira

                                                                                                                            © Kiran Pereira

Today, we are using way more than our fair share. We inhabit this world with many other life forms but we use sand like it's only meant for our comfort and convenience. Don't get me wrong here. I do not advocate a return to the stone age. However, we must all know that this lopsided view and way of consumption is beginning to impact even our own safety and well-being, although the impacts take many decades to manifest. 

So far, innovation in science, policy and industry has meant that we've found ways to make products cheaper by using sand. Going forward though, real innovation will be where we find alternatives to sand even if they're a bit more expensive. Can you imagine concrete without sand? glass without sand?  electronic chips without sand? This is pure fantasy right now. But I'd like to believe in our collective imagination. After all, we only need to peel back our blasé attitude to see that so many common things in our life today were inconceivable only a few decades ago. 

Kiran Pereira