World Is Running Out Of Sand — Why There’s Now A Black Market For It
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World Is Running Out Of Sand — Why There’s Now A Black Market For It

– [Narrator] I’ll try to make this quick since we don’t have a lot of time. The world is running out of sand. Crazy, right? We have literal tons of it on beaches, deserts, and under the ocean. But we’re using it up faster than the planet can make it. (light music) We use sand way more than you’d expect. Worldwide, we go through 50
billion tons of sand every year. That is twice the amount produced by every river in the world. After air and water, sand is our most-used natural resource. We use it even more than oil. We use it to make food, wine, toothpaste, glass, computer chips, breast implants, cosmetics, paper, paint, and plastics. So where does it all come from? Well, let’s ask Vince Beiser. He wrote a book on it called The World in a Grain. – [Vince] So the sand
we use is what’s called marine sand, it’s the sand that you find at the bottom of rivers, and on beaches, and at the bottom of lakes and oceans. – [Narrator] I know what you’re thinking, and no, we can’t use sand from the desert. Wind erosion makes the grains too round for most purposes. What we need is angular sand that locks together
like pieces of a puzzle. You know, like sand broken down from mountain rocks as they’re pelted by rain, wind, and rivers for 25,000 years or so. The major player for
sand usage is concrete. Okay, just to be clear. Cement is the lime and clay based glue that sticks everything together. And concrete is the final result that you walk on, drive
on, and live inside. Concrete is made of 10% cement, 15% water, and 75% sand. The concrete required to build a house takes, on average, about 200 tons of sand. A hospital uses about 3000 tons. And a mile of highway
requires 15,000 tons. It makes sense that the world makes over 4 billion tons of concrete annually. We need more every year. The number and size of
our cities is exploding, especially in the developing world. This change is most noticeable in China, now home to the largest
urban area in the world, the Pearl River Delta. Between 42 and 60 million people now call the delta home. China now has 102 cities with a population of over a million. Europe has 38. All those growing cities,
they need a lot of concrete. Between 2011 and 2013,
China used more concrete than the U.S. did in
the entire 20th century. Again, in three years, China built the equivalent of every highway, road, and bridge in the U.S.,
and the Hoover Dam. So it’s not outrageous to hear that China out-paces the world
in cement production, by a lot, 2500 metric tons every year. All that cement is gonna need a lot of sand to make concrete. Most of it comes dredging Poyang Lake. An estimated 236 million cubic meters of sand is taken from it every year, making it the largest single
sand mine in the world. But concrete isn’t
China’s only use for sand. They’re also using tons of it to build-up islands in the South China Sea, expanding its foothold in the region. And China’s not the only nation building islands from nothing. You’ve seen these before. The Palm Islands and The World are major island-building
projects in Dubai, and required 186.5 million meters of sand. This depleted the sea floor
around the United Arab Emirates, leaving importing sand from Australia as the only option while constructing the world’s tallest
building, the Burj Khalifa. It’s no surprise then that sand extraction is a 70 billion dollar industry. – [Vince] The easiest and cheapest and best-quality sand
actually comes from riverbeds. It’s very easy to get. You just send a boat out into the middle of a river with a big suction pump on it. It’s just basically like a big straw that you drop down to
the bottom of the river. (slurping) Suck all that sand
right up off the bottom. – [Narrator] Problem solved? No. The ocean floor isn’t miles of sand deep. It’s a thin layer over rock. And that layer is home to microorganisms which feed the base of the food chain. Collecting all that sand disrupts fishing in the area and the landscape on shore. When removing sand from the seabed, the shore above the water
slides into the valley to even itself out. This still leaves shore communities open to flooding and erosion. – [Vince] The recent floods in Houston were actually made worse by sand mining in the San Jacinto River. The San Jacinto is one of the rivers that borders Houston. It’s also an excellent source of sand. It’s been mined very heavily for sand for the last 10, 20 years. – [Narrator] Up to 90%
of the world’s beaches have shrunk an average
of 40 meters since 2008. If you haven’t noticed the change in your favorite beach, you’re not alone. Popular shores replenish
their dying beaches with even more sand
imported from elsewhere, usually at taxpayers’ expense. And if we keep it up, almost 70% of Southern California’s
spectacular beaches could be completely eroded by 2100. Governments worldwide
have begun to regulate and restrict sand mining
and concrete production. So now, problem solved, right? Actually, it’s caused
an entirely new problem, the black market of sand. Over 100 billion tons have been stolen over the past few decades. Illegal sand mining has led
to the rise of the sand mafia, India’s strongest criminal organization. This interconnected group of businessmen, drivers, and criminals use intimidation, and if that fails, violence and murder to keep the sand flowing. Illegal sand generates 2.3
billion dollars a year, employing 75,000 of India’s impoverished to dive for sand in rivers. Divers work 12 hour days,
diving up to 200 times and only making $15.00 a boatload. Many suffer from bleeding
ears and headaches. Drownings go unreported. Worldwide, illegal sand mining has destroyed entire islands. Two dozen Indonesian
islands have disappeared around the same time Singapore imported 17 million tons for its
massive 50 mile land expansion. It wasn’t until 2010
that dozens of Malaysian officials were charged
with accepting bribes and sexual favors for
importing the illegal sand. – [Vince] The first thing
that we’re gonna see in this country, the sort-of
canary in the coal mine that will really let us know that things are starting to get bad, is prices. I believe that this is one of the reasons that housing costs have gone up so much in pretty much all of
America’s big cities, because the price of sand has about quintuples in the last 30, 40 years. And that’s one of the
critical inputs, of course, whenever you’re building a house, is sand for the concrete. – [Narrator] We do have some alternatives. While crushing rocks and
recycled concrete is expensive, it can be used to create
concrete-quality sand. Glass bottles can be ground up to make recycled glass sand to replenish beaches. Yes, it’s totally safe, and no, it’s not gonna affect you. Finally, U.N. environmental
programs suggest better pricing and taxing on sand mining in order to encourage these alternatives. They also recommend an immediate need for creating regulations in all countries as well as international waters. – [Vince] The question isn’t
how can we use less sand, it’s how can we use less of everything. Trees, water, fish, we’re
overusing all of those things. And sand is just one
thing that we should be adding to the list. Well we’re on track to be a planet of at least 9 billion people
in the next 20 years. Most of them are gonna
wanna consume resources the way that we do in the western world, and that is just physically impossible. – [Narrator] The best move you can do is just to use less. The less we need to make,
the less resources we use. So if we all want to keep
enjoying these things, while still enjoying this thing, we need to protect this thing. Before we run out of time.

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100 thoughts on “World Is Running Out Of Sand — Why There’s Now A Black Market For It

  1. Isn’t sand just fine crushed rocks? Can’t we just crush rocks to make sand for things like paper computer chips, and leave the beach sand where it is?

  2. I'm confused, all of the thanos jokes. I haven't watched the movie with him in but all I know is he snaps and deletes people. Why are people saying thanos needs to snap etc

  3. What about taking sand to normal beaches
    They will mix
    And the black market won’t be able to use it if they take it cuz there round sand molecules will mess with the jagged beach sand

  4. How can we continue at this rate? we're burning the world out of resources and people are making jokes about it. Oh well. I'll get the last laugh when y'all are the first ones starved to death.

  5. Just a suggestion (and an uneducated one); what if we learn to use desert sand like the way we use ocean floor sand? That's not solving any problem, but gives us more time.

  6. Make use of desert sand! Try making something that will make it angular. Its sole purpose is to form sandstorms, which is not great.

  7. I just hope I'm dead by the time the leaders of the world have used up all the resources and plunge the world into chaos.

  8. ok, imma just make a company that makes fine sand. Mine rocks, deliver rocks to factory, crush rocks, make sand, sell sand, make $$$

  9. But when the tiniest bit of sand gets in your shoes it feels like there’s an infinite amount so just put sand in your shoes 😂

  10. Just like the oil now their going to lie that we are running out of sand………what's next were running out of air?????……..Government propaganda to let the government tell us how to live.

  11. i have an idea how about make a machine that recycles plastic to sand i mean not like we have 100 million more or less plastic in da ocean and anywhere else ;-; problem solved with plastic and sand xD

  12. Don’t worry guys, we’ll nuke each other’s to death before we run out of any resources. Just sit tight and be patient.

  13. RIP, I was working at the Amsterdam Aiport Schiphol for making a new platform for cargo planes… Don't gonna tell you how much concrete and foundation sand we used….

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