“Why does this dude write an article about consciousness and suddenly talks about sand?”, some will probably think. Finally, sand is everywhere, in some countries it is even freely available in nature. However, what most people are unaware of is, that sand is – after water – the most important resource for humanity. We use it in the construction industry and glass-making. Two branches of business that are growing steadily and devouring more raw materials. The problem is, that the crushed rock undergoes chemical connections, that are virtually insoluble within a reasonable period. Besides, sand is not necessarily sand. Desert sand, for example, is not suitable for mixing concrete, at all.
Many people are aware that water could become scarce. Hardly anyone thinks of sand, though the exploitation of the planet happens right in front of our eyes and is actually easily recognizable.
The biggest consumer of the raw material is the construction industry. As the population explodes, people move more and more into cities. Those have to keep up and expand enormously. Therefore, the required amounts of sand gets bigger. By the way, thousands of houses are empty, but new ones are often built as capital investments – a market that is difficult to regulate. Dubai (!) has reached a point, where they hat to import sand for the construction of the Burj Khalifa from Australia. Incidentally, the trade volume worldwide amounts to about $70 billion a year. Sand is available globally, but there are no estimates of how much exists on our planet. Therefore, its consumption is not regulated and (mainly in India) sand mafias have formed, smuggling the precious good across borders, stopping at nothing.
Our glass consists of 75% of (quartz) sand. Old glass is given new life by recycling, whereby the process is even more energy-efficient than the production of fresh glass. However, turning this glass back into sand is a lengthy process, that is done by the sea and rivers in nature. The movement of the water causes stones to collide, whereby the glass is rubbed back into its particles. The problem is, that this process takes thousands of years, and we extract more raw material than is naturally produced. Meanwhile, there are even machines that grind or crush the glass into sand again. Here, however, we speak of vanishingly low quantities, that are globally not noticeable.
Since sand consists mostly of silicon dioxide (SiO2), it is found in countless products in which you would hardly suspect it: microchips, which are installed in almost every high-tech device, are only one application. The raw material is also used for the production of paper, detergent, plastic and steel as well as cosmetics of all kinds. But this is only an extremely rough encircling of the application areas. In the end, we constantly have the material surrounding us, just like the air we breathe. This is hardly known by the masses.
Sand is often extracted from the seabed. Unfortunately, this destroys the habitat for countless animal species. As soon as the living creatures are missing in the underground, this triggers a chain reaction, which is reflected on larger animals. Namely, we destroy the food source of other species, while destroying their habitat. In addition, you notice the suction on the nearby beaches. There, the sand slips into the ocean – the beach vanishes.
The degradation also destroys coral reefs, leading to the disappearing fish. In Indonesia, for example, fish is the food base for a huge part of the population. If they are missing, people will lose everything. Additionally, the excessive degradation can alter ocean currents, which has a negative impact on fisheries and more far-reaching consequences. The madness with the sand even goes so far, that Indonesia blames Singapore for the disappearance of 25 (!) islands.
This article contains the word sand 24 times – for a reason: There is no synonym. This is probably similar with a substitute material. Therefore, we have to get along with what is available and spare enough for the generations to come – or find a fitting way of recycling.
I wrote this article for one reason: In my opinion, the sand is a prime example of so much that´s going wrong in our society. Right in front of our eyes we can clearly see, how more and more houses are built, bigger buildings are realized, etc. Where the sand comes from and what is accepted to get it – hardly anyone thinks about this.