The world is running out of – sand

An insatiable global appetite for sand, one of the world’s most important but least appreciated commodities, is unlikely to let up anytime soon. The problem, however, is that this resource is slipping away.

Our entire society is built on sand. It is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and an essential ingredient to our everyday lives.

Sand is the primary substance used in the construction of roads, bridges, high-speed trains and even land regeneration projects. Sand, gravel and rock crushed together are melted down to make the glass used in every window, computer screen and smart phone. Even the production of silicon chips uses sand.

Yet, the world is facing a shortage — and climate scientists say it constitutes one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

“Is it time for panicking? Well, that will certainly not help, but it is time to take a look and change our perception about sand,” Pascal Peduzzi, a climate scientist with the UN Environment Programme, said during a webinar hosted by think tank Chatham House.

Peduzzi, who is the director of UNEP’s Global Resource Information Database in Geneva, Switzerland, described the global governance of sand resources as “the elephant in the room.”

“We just think that sand is everywhere. We never thought we would run out of sand, but it is starting in some places. It is about anticipating what can happen in the next decade or so because if we don’t look forward, if we don’t anticipate, we will have massive problems about sand supply but also about land planning,” he added.

 

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