Preface. Sand Primer:
- Without sand, there would be no concrete, ceramics, computer chips, glass, plastics, abrasives, paint and so on
- We can’t use desert sand because it’s too round, polished by the wind, and doesn’t stick together. You need rough edges, so desert sand is worthless
- Good sand is getting so rare there’s an enormous amount of illegal mining in over 70 countries. In India the Sand Mafia is one of the most powerful, will kill for sand. It’s easy to steal sand and sell there.
- This has led to between 75%-90% of beaches in the world receding and a huge amount of environmental damage.
- By 2100 all beaches will be gone
- Australia is selling sand to nations that don’t have any more (like the United Arab Emirates, who used all of their ocean sand to make artificial islands)
- Sand is a big business, sales are $70 Billion a year
- concrete is 40% sand
How Much Sand is needed?
- 200 tons Average house
- 3,000 tons Hospital or other large building
- 30,000 tons per kilometer of highway
- 12,000,000 tons Nuclear Power Plant (that’s equal to nearly 250 miles of highway)
Half of all sand is trapped behind the 845,000 dams in the world.
Fountain, H., et al 2019. Melting Greenland Is Awash in Sand. New York Times.
Glaciers grind rocks into silt, sand and gravel. Greenland hopes that there’s enough sand for them to become a sand exporter, if the environmental damage isn’t too high.
That won’t be easy. Nearly all sand is mined within 50 miles of its destination because it costs too much to move it more than that. So Greenland would have to find a way to make moving sand profitable.
A way to find the sand is required as well, since much of what the glacier produces is a fine silt that isn’t suitable for concrete.
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