Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Earth Science

We Are Running Out of Sand 264

HughPickens.com writes John R. Gillis writes in the NYT that to those of us who visit beaches only in summer, beaches seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains but shore dwellers know that beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. Today, 75 to 90 percent of the world's natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. The extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place (PDF) and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore. But the market for mined sand in the U.S. has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth's surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers.

One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don't adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia. Huge sand mining operations are emerging worldwide, many of them illegal, happening out of sight and out of mind, as far as the developed world is concerned. "We need to stop taking sand for granted and think of it as an endangered natural resource," concludes Gillis. "Beach replenishment — the mining and trucking and dredging of sand to meet tourist expectations — must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with environmental considerations taking top priority. Only this will ensure that the story of the earth will still have subsequent chapters told in grains of sand."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

We Are Running Out of Sand

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:36PM (#48326055)

    Selling sand to an Arab!! Hah, now I've heard it all.

    What's next? Selling snow to an Eskimo?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:46PM (#48326157)

      Selling sand to an Arab!! Hah, now I've heard it all.

      What's next? Selling snow to an Eskimo?

      Well, the snow where Eskimos live is much finer, smoother, and tends to blow away, so they have to import a better snow for their igloo needs.

    • Selling a Big Mac to an American? I don't get the joke.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Selling sand to an Arab!! Hah, now I've heard it all.

      What's next? Selling snow to an Eskimo?

      No. But Australia exports camels to the Arabs for racing stock.
      https://www.google.com.au/#q=a... [google.com.au]

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )
      Well, you joke, but fine sand is no fun at a beach. On Galveston's East Beach, for example, the sand is very fine. Up on the beach it is not bad, and the dry sand feels pretty good on the feet. If that same sand is wet though, it is no fun at all. It feels like ocean bottom ooze or muck. Fill up a bucket with this wet sand, and you can't pour it out no matter how hard you try. It has to be washed out of the bucket with large amounts of water, and even that isn't easy. It becomes almost like wet concr
  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:37PM (#48326061) Homepage Journal

    When God promised to make Abraham's descendents as numerous as the sand on the seashore, Abraham never thought to ask whether that meant he gets lots of descendents or that the sand on the seashore would be gone. As they say, when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

    • by turp182 ( 1020263 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:59PM (#48326299) Journal

      Maybe it was a proposition, based on the conservation of natural resources. Say, if Abraham's descendants were to protect the beaches, their numbers could be nigh limitless. But, if those descendants were to cause the destruction of the sand on the seashore, maybe god would go a little "Old Testament" on them.

      Further, I'm not sure of god's position on natural beach erosion and its effects on population.

  • That was close... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by creimer ( 824291 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:37PM (#48326071) Homepage
    I thought the article was about running out of sand for silicon semiconductors. Besides California falling into the Pacific Ocean after a big earthquake, a lack of sand would be the end of Silicon Valley.
    • I thought the article was about running out of sand for silicon semiconductors.

      And I thought the shortage was due to the steadily increasing popularity of silicone implants.

    • I thought the article was about running out of sand for silicon semiconductors. Besides California falling into the Pacific Ocean after a big earthquake, a lack of sand would be the end of Silicon Valley.

      No worries: silicon for semiconductors could be made from the fine, smooth, easily-blows-away desert sand.

    • I thought the article was about running out of sand for silicon semiconductors. Besides California falling into the Pacific Ocean after a big earthquake, a lack of sand would be the end of Silicon Valley.

      Or sand for construction. Sand is a major ingredient in cement, so running out of sand would be a big deal.

  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:43PM (#48326123) Journal

    Because the local sand was the wrong type for sandbags...

  • ignorant rubbish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:44PM (#48326137)

    The ocean floors have millions of square miles of sand. The planet earth will not run out of sand.

    • by Cardoor ( 3488091 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:51PM (#48326207)
      very little in the conservation of resources movement (if you want to call it that) is about 'running out' per se. it's about running out of economically viable sources of material. to wit, there is no 'oil shortage', but there is a shortage of oil that can be extracted and brought to pipeline for
      • somehow nixed my own sentence.. should read-----...
        for less than $75 a barrel.


        x = previous_message
        y = " less than $70 a barrel."
        print ( %s %s) %(x,y)
    • by nwf ( 25607 )

      I was under the impression that most of the ocean bottom is actually mud / silt / muck, not sand.

      • Look it up, some places like that, some places have sand

      • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @03:05PM (#48327493)
        Ask any scuba diver, they'll pretty much tell you that vast areas underwater are simply sand. There is no shortage of sand in the world.

        Where the sand shortage occurs is between the ocean and the very expensive homes built on/near the beach. Beaches move either due to build up or erosion. This greatly annoys the people who own said expensive homes hence the complaints of the "shortage" of sand.

        They do not like to have to pay, either directly or through taxes, to have the beach line and inter coastal areas maintained.

    • Any SCUBA diver can tell you that an abundance of sand is expelled from the vents of parrot fish, after they eat their favorite coral. Much of it is literally - fish poop.

  • Peak Sand! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:49PM (#48326189)

    Oh Noes! We've reached peak sand! Our grandchildren will live in a sandless world marked by misery and sharp rocks.

  • by GoddersUK ( 1262110 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:50PM (#48326199)
    TFS said

    As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia.

    But then I RTFAed (I know, it's /., no one RTFAs) and

    Perth's GMA Garnet will this month send a shipment of heavy mineral sand to Saudi Arabia for sandblasting... ...the special alluvial sand is suited for sandblasting because it is free of silica, which creates dust that can cause lung cancer and silicosis in workers

    Nope, no beaches. But wait, there's more:

    Another firm selling a sand-based product to the desert region is NT Prestressing, which has a type of concrete that can be laid quickly, speeding up building

    Still no beaches though. Guess I won't be going to Saudi for my beach holiday, I'll have to stick with Aus - and we all know what they think of us Brits...

    • Oh, and Dubai isn't in Saudi either... but at least the concrete is going to Dubai, so he got one thing half right!
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      Mod up! Good research!

    • by Zalbik ( 308903 )

      However, the referenced NY Times [nytimes.com] article does indicate:

      "As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia."

      However, I can't find any good references to back this up.

      Also, the NY Times article is an opinion piece from a history professor....additional evidence required.

  • Or even "BullSand!"

    The problem, if any, is idiots who think that the only possible type of holiday involves roasting to a crisp laying on a beach, then dying of skin cancer. Let them die roasting on pebbles - it means all the more mountains and forests and seas and lakes for the rest of us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, serves those idiots right for choosing leisure activities different than yours. Only moron would risk dying from skin cancer. Enlightened souls only go to the seas and lakes that don't have beaches and only risk themselves falling off cliffs, avalanches, drowning in rivers, and death from exposure.
    • OK, but for those of us who grew up in places that naturally had nice beaches to start with (hey, Florida has to have at least ONE nice thing!?) beach restoration doesn't sound so crazy. And the biggest factor now is not sea level rise as I understand it. The problem is that we change the way erosion happens with our development of coastline. The change is for the negative. I agree a vacation (or holiday, as you say) in the mountains beats a crowded beach any day. But remember not everyone just goes t
      • Beach restoration very rarely works on a timescale longer than a few years. Beaches are very dynamic environments, with sand flowing into them, along them and then off them. Most losses of beaches are not because (directly) of sea-level changes, but because the supply of sand has been interrupted somewhere upstream (and that can take decades to become visible, and decades to correct). whether that is because of dredging of the sand upstream for some industrial purpose, or re-alignment of a river (there are
  • That's all.
  • Yep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @12:52PM (#48326239)

    A relative of mine just became very wealthy after selling his farm to a sandmine. The sandmine's going to dig out all the sand... haul it off for Fracking, then turn the remaining pit into a lake/wetland and return it to the state after which it'll become a wildlife refuge. Something that was important to my very outdoorsy relative.

    They actually sent in geologists, took core samples, and did all sorts of tests to determine what the sand would be best used for. Certain sizes/grains/etc... are better for beaches, Crude oil, natural gas, etc... depending on what you have, the more money you get. He lucked out and had it all. The sandy soil that plagued him as a farmer for years actually made him rich in the end. As a joke I looked up how much he paid for the land back in the 80s... and figured out the price of Apple and Microsoft stock at the time... and proved to him that he made more money buying sand than he would have investing in either. He got a pretty big kick out that because when he bought it I was a kid and he said "If you're going to invest in anything, invest in land. It's the only thing they're not making any more of."

  • Okay, I could understand if we were losing topsoil or something we really need. But sand?

    So, I guess we'll have to wear shoes now at the beach. What a catastrophe!

  • Before someone responds to contradict an obviously correct point... stop. Step away from the computer... do something less likely to reveal you are an idiot.

    • Of course "sand" is a pretty generic term for a lot of stuff that is quite different when you look at it in detail. It is certainly possible for a specific type of sand to be in short supply while sand in general is not.

  • Where they weighed you on arrival at the planet, and on departure.. except now they'll make you pass your swimming costume over a sieve before leaving the beach.

  • by james_shoemaker ( 12459 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @01:18PM (#48326485)

    As someone who lives on a lake I see neighbors buying dumptruck-loads of sand every few years and laugh at them. Peach reservation is all about coutour and slope. My little piece of lakeshore includes a parabola shaped cove around 50' wide at the mouth and 50' deep with a gently sloping floor. I've been there 18 years and haven't had to buy any sand yet, the wave action washes the sand around my shore cleaning it naturally, but the shape of the shore keeps it in the cove, in fact my neighbor to the north bought 30Tons of sand and put it on his shore (that happens to be shaped like a peninsula. My beach gained 3' over the next few years as his sand washed into my cove. Anyone who wants a beach shouldn't be screwing up the shoreline that created and preserved the beach in the first place.

    • Clearly you should offer to sell him your excess sand that mysteriously builds up every year, at 3/4 the price...

  • I heard all kinds of stories about sand replenishment on beaches when I lived back east. The most interesting story involved dredging a few miles off-shore and dumping it on the beach. This had the unintended consequence of churning up the occasional sunken treasure. Visiting the beach shortly after such a replenishment operation, maybe you'll find a doubloon, but more likely an old nail or an interesting piece of sea-glass.

    California doesn't seem to have this problem. I'll hazard a guess that it has so

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @01:39PM (#48326709)
    Sand has a lot of uses but it's non-renewable. There's no way (yet) to manufacture it. If you mine the beaches you ruin the environment and end up with eyesores. The same thing happens if you go to your local desert and mine there. It is possible to strip mine a desert, take all the sand and sandstone, and then put a layer of sand back on top. That leaves the landscape looking mostly the same, albeit a bit lower in elevation than it was before, but it takes a _lot_ of work. I've heard of people doing massive underwater operations to strip mine the seabed of sand so that none of the easily visible above-water environments are damaged.

    ...wait, we are talking about Minecraft, right?
    • Sand has a lot of uses but it's non-renewable. There's no way (yet) to manufacture it.

      Can't you manufacture sand by repeatedly hitting a rock with a hard object?

      Or did I just miss out on the patent of a lifetime by publishing my idea in an open forum?

    • I live in a town with 3 commercial sand pits and another owned by the town. Deposits are typically strip mined about 50 feet down until a few feet above the water table. (Owners are required to replant the land and restore reasonable slopes when done.) There are a variety of grades of sand here. It's barely worth the effort of shoveling the stuff up, and there is no shortage. It looks like about a 50 year supply, and that's without opening new pits. The idea that there's a shortage, or that people would ste
  • I used to work at a beach-front hotel on Maui, a storm wiped out our entire beach in a couple days and started eating away at the grounds of the hotel, until they brought in truckloads of boulders to protect it. It was pretty amazing. I'm told most of the sand at Waikiki was shipped from another island, don't know if that's true.
    • by jmauro ( 32523 )

      No on the other island. It's dredged [hawaiimagazine.com] from just off shore. At one time it was shipped in from California, but that ended a while a go.

  • We are running out of a number of things which are more immediately critical. Let's chill out a bit here.

  • Sand is just ground up quartz. i.e. The second most common mineral in the earth's crust.

  • We need to stop taking sand for granted and think of it as an endangered natural resource

    And all the animals and trees said: back of the line, buddy!

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @02:42PM (#48327307) Journal

    I handled a shipment of sand from the US to Saudi Arabia. Seriously.

    Apparently it was for a golf course, and some specially beautiful white sand.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday November 06, 2014 @02:59PM (#48327435) Homepage Journal

    How many Dubai beaches are artificially constructed?

    And so should be expected to require a LOT of sand, and not be expected to last very long...

I program, therefore I am.

Working...