Friday, April 04, 2014

Heads in the Sand

You will no doubt be aware of the major pollution episode we have been having here in the south of England and in particular London. Apparently the winds of change will be bringing in fresher air later today, Friday 4th April. Part, but only a part, of the recent problem was sand caught up in windstorms being blown over here from North Africa. There has been much ado on social media about the comments made by the Prime Minister and the absence of any comment at all from the Environment Secretary or the Mayor of London. But what nobody seems to have mentioned is this:

Sand is the new Oil

Sand Wars was screened last Wednesday on the new UK TV channel PBS America and focused on one of the most consumed natural resources on the planet which has now come to the attention of the criminal fraternity (yes, there really is a black market for sand and there are sand pirates smuggling it).

To most of us, sand is simply the stuff that we find on the beach when we go on holiday. We take its presence for granted, but are we right to do so? Denis Delestrac's film suggests otherwise.
Sand is one of the most consumed natural resources on the planet. As a raw material, it is of huge importance to the building and construction industry -- indeed, houses, skyscrapers, bridges, airports, and pavements are all partially composed of sand. Melted and transformed into glass, it features in every window. It is also the source of silicon dioxide, a mineral found in our wines, cleaning products, cosmetics and an astounding variety of other products that we use on a daily basis. As demand rises in an increasingly industrialised world, however, the planet's reserves of sand are coming under threat. It is estimated that three quarters of the world's beaches are in decline and likely to disappear. Such is the demand for the material that sand has even attracted the attention of the criminal fraternity, who have taken to plundering beaches and rivers for what is becoming a prized commodity. So what does the future hold as we continue to extract huge quantities of a natural resource that we seem to consider inexhaustible, and what will be the consequences for the environment? This film asks some troubling questions and we may not like the answers ...

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