Special by Shelby Skrelunas
“Sand, sand is everywhere”, take a few steps outside and there’s sand right below your feet. Oh, it’s concrete? Yeah that’s sand too. Your phone? Melted sand. The road your vehicles drive on? Sand. Sand is the second most used natural resource, it makes the apartment buildings we live in, the shopping malls we love, the electronics you can’t get enough of, and the modern cities we flourish in.
Our world is covered in it and you might be wondering how in the heck we could possibly be running out and how it could even cause the slightest change in our environment. Well, it lies in the type of sand we are using, desert sand is round and smooth, we have so much of it, but because of its shape it is pretty much useless to anything we are building. Instead we use the sand that is found in our riverbeds, the bottom of our lakes, the seashore of our oceans. We need it so much and are using it up so much that these rivers, beaches, lakes are being stripped bare. Our planet is full of resources, it’s provided us with so much, but it also proves that if we use too much of something it can cause harm to the planet we call home.
We use, at minimum, about 50 billion tons worldwide of aggregate (sand and gravel) annually for just construction. Crushed rock, sand, and gravel account for the largest volume of extracted solid material worldwide. Although new sand is constantly being made by erosion, it is not being made nearly quickly enough to beat our use of it. Sand takes a long time to replenish itself, way longer than we are using it up.
So here’s why this is important, every year there are a growing amount of people moving from rural areas into cities, and we’re talking about billions more in the next couple of decades, our use of needed sand almost triples ANNUALLY and with more people moving in, more buildings are needed to be built, the larger amount of sand that is going to be needed and used.
So what harm exactly could possibly come out of loss of sand? A lot, actually. Coral reefs have been damaged from ocean dredging, it muddies water which can effect aquatic life, destroys marine habitat. Dredging rivers will also drastically destroy the rivers habitat, this can cloud up the rivers, not allowing sunlight to the vegetation under that is needed and suffocating aquatic life. River banks can also collapse, dragging down homes with it. It’s not only happening to our plant life, animal life, but our human livelihoods as well. China’s coastal wet lands have been wiped out, our water pollution is increasing due to sand mining in all forms of water systems, there are countries who actually import sand to extend their land to expand the people that they can hold. Our use of sand is becoming absurd, absolutely not needed, and we’re building at rates that our earth simply cannot keep up with. TOGETHER, we can always find ways to maybe not entirely fix, because let’s face it building is inevitable, but help this problem. We can reduce our unnecessary building and our sand mining, actually keep track and manage the sand we are using, more management is needed because right now it’s not really being managed at all.
We love our Earth and our Earth loves us, we need to find a way to take care of it better and cherish it more, because as of right now we’re not doing so well.