A world in a grain of sand

This article was taken from Issue 77

As resource scarcity continues to hit headlines and resource security gains political prominence, certain facts are increasingly entering the collective consciousness: the world is headed for peak oil, for example, and clean water is becoming ever scarcer, while there are mounting pressures on farmland to produce food and fuel for a growing (and more affluent) population. Many will also be aware that the manufacturing sectors require certain critical raw materials that suffer from supply chain risks: rare earth minerals, platinum group metals, cobalt, and so on.

And yet there’s a resource out there that very few people have been talking about until now – a resource that’s found in everything from the food we eat and the technology we use to the roads we drive on and the buildings we live in. Combined with gravel, it’s the most commonly mined material in the world, and its extraction can cause negative side effects ranging from biodiversity destruction to livelihood loss and even the disappearance of whole land masses. Believe it or not, I’m referring to sand.