Smarty Pants Podcast

Shifting Sands

We’re almost out of this tiny grain—and we’re only now beginning to pay attention

By Stephanie Bastek | September 21, 2018
A former sand and gravel mine Belgium (blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo)
A former sand and gravel mine Belgium (blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo)

Someday soon, you might be finally able to count all the grains of sand on the beach, because there might be no beaches—and no sand—left. With the global population and its attendant consumption booming, we’re running out of sand in our quest to build larger cities and better smartphones. This essential resource, so easy to overlook, ranks just below air and water on a global scale of how much we use. But as journalist Vince Beiser explains in his new book, The World in a Grain, its over-extraction is harming us, whether in the form of murder in the black markets of India, pollution from fracking sand mines in Wisconsin, or islands that have simply disappeared.

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