Are you ready for life sans sand?

Jim Redwine

Just when it looked like it might be safe to leave the beach and go back in the water the beach is disappearing.

After more than a year of masks and isolation, Peg and I finally got our second Pfizer shots last Friday. We just need to avoid all human contact for one more week. We were anticipating a return to a normal life. Then I read of an alarming new and totally unexpected world crisis: A sand shortage? Yep, that was the cautionary tale screaming from the Internet.

I know I should not use my iPhone for anything but ordering from Amazon, but I find it impossible to ignore the AOL pop-ups in my email. I know better but still click on the cleverly worded come-ons beseeching me to read about global warming, COVID-19, politics, sports or even Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex. This morning, as the sun rose, I was dinged with an exposé about our planet’s disappearing sands.

Had I been aware of the situation, I wouldn’t have recognized it even was a problem until I read the CNBC article shouting out the impending catastrophe of sans sand. So, Gentle Reader, just in case you might not have been panicking over this issue either, let me share my newly found angst.

Until this morning, about my only concern in regard to sand was Peg’s complaint that I traipse it into our cabin after I have been out walking on the sandstone-covered prairie. Peg demands that I leave my boots at the door and slide around in my socks on our bare floors. Now I can tell her I am helping to save the planet when I accumulate sand on her clean floors. She just needs to start bagging it up. Anyway, here’s what the Internet says is as significant to the world as fighting the pandemic.

According to an article on CNBC by Sam Meredith, sand is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and it is, “… an essential ingredient to our everyday lives.” In a “coals to New Castle” type comment, the article goes on to say the United States government is hauling in countless tons of sand to protect Florida’s beaches that have been decimated by global warming. Apparently this is a worldwide dilemma, and just as some people blame China for COVID-19, China’s overuse of sand in massive construction projects accounts for almost 60% of the world use of sand, as it is mixed into cement. It takes 10 tons of sand to produce 1 ton of cement.

You, as did I, might think that with such deposits as the Sahara Desert or Death Valley or the front yard of JPeg Osage Ranch, we would never run out of sand. However, it turns out that not all sand is created equally.

Desert sands, those created from wind instead of water, such as by the seas and rivers, are too smooth to be used for construction, so we are depleting our “good” sand too rapidly. There is even a huge illegal enterprise in sand excavation in some countries that has led to mafia-type activity, or so says CNBC.

As for me, I have resigned myself to continuing to pour cement into fence post holes and hope there will be enough to circle our new barn. If Peg does her part we might be able to make it stretch.

Jim Redwine, a native of Pawhuska, is a retired Indiana state judge and author. He and his wife, Peg, have retired to a ranch outside Barnsdall.