Much of the modern global economy depends on sand. Most of it pours into the construction industry, where it is used to make concrete and asphalt. A smaller quantity of fine-grade sand is used to produce glass and electronics, and, particularly in America, to extract oil from shale in the fracking industry. No wonder, then, that sand and gravel are the most extracted materials in the world. A 2014 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates they account for up to 85% by weight of everything mined globally each year.
Sand often makes up the very ground that is built on, too. By virtue of dumping vast quantities of sand into the sea, Singapore is now over 20% larger than it was when it became independent in 1965. China and Japan have reclaimed even greater swathes of land, and China has outraged global opinion by building artificial islands on disputed rocks in the South China Sea. Elsewhere, reclamation has been an unhappy necessity: the Maldives and Kiribati have had to counter rising sea levels by taking sand from smaller islands or the seabed to shore up larger ones. As sea levels rise further, and urban populations swell—the UN predicts a rise of almost 1bn by 2030—sand will be even more sought after.
The Singapore stat is absolutely insane. 20%?!Read more...