Friday, February 6, 2015
a gritty letter from Crow
Crow was supposed to be posing for a beach scene but what with the cold and snowy weather we've been having lately, he decided he was more interested in Copacabana rather than the one at our local park. I can't say I blame him. In the meantime, I drew this one instead that, hopefully, in a week or so, may become a painting.
On his way to Brazil, Crow made a few stopovers and sent a letter (airmail, of course):
My dear susan,
When people think of beaches the first thing that comes to mind is being able to place one's beach umbrella, blanket, and picnic basket on a broad sandy surface. While this is still the case in many parts of the world it's no longer true everywhere. Sand has by now become the most widely consumed natural resource on the planet after fresh water (UN 2014 study). The annual world consumption of sand is estimated to be 15 billion tons, with a respective trade volume of 70 billion dollars.
Most of your houses, skyscrapers and bridges are made with ferro-concrete which is two-thirds sand (plus cement, water and gravel). 200 tons of sand are needed to build a medium-sized house, 1km of highway requires 30k tons of sand. Especially in Asia and the Arab states the hunger of the construction industry is ever-growing - cement demand by China has increased exponentially by 437.5% in 20 years, while use in the rest of the world increased by 59.8%.
Sand mafias control large parts of the building industry through bribery and also don't hesitate to apply more brutal methods like murdering activists. Not surprisingly, illegal business ties extend to the highest levels of police and government. Illegal sand mining activities are particularly threatening to the water supplies of local communities since river sand is a natural aquifer and its depletion also affects recharging of groundwater.
The depletion of sand sources also leads to bizarre scenes in other parts of the world: in Morocco and India, groups know as 'sand-mafia', turn up at beaches with hundreds of people and take away entire beaches - the sand is then used to build huge hotel complexes for tourists who come to Morocco to visit (what else?) these same beaches.
Sand from deserts can't be used for most purposes, as wind erosion over time forms round grains that do not bind well. For most industrial uses, edged sand grains with a rough surface are needed. Desert sands, however, are usually fine grained and of low shear strength - it's not even suitable for the creation of artificial islands. Dubai, for example, used up all its satisfactory marine sand supplies for an artificial set of sand islands and, after these were exhausted, now has to import sand from Australia for continuing its building madness.
Most of the sand is now being extracted from the ocean floor by thousands of large boats sucking up huge quantities of the stuff from the ocean floor in coastal areas. The potential for damage to marine life I'll leave to your imagination (I know you have a good one). In some extreme cases, the mining of marine aggregates has changed international boundaries, ie, the disappearance of entire islands in Indonesia - since 2005 at least 24 small islands have disappeared as a result of erosion caused by illegal sand mining. Most of this sand is going to Singapore, which has expanded its surface area by 22% since the 1960s.
As I saw on my way south, even Florida has to resupply its famous beaches with sand because of the losses caused by offshore sand dredging. Are you surprised?
My condor friends are making ready for their flight back to the Andes. While we sojourn together over the lofty peaks my thoughts will often turn to you and my other human friends who show more perception than others of your species.
Fond regards and salutations to all,
ps: I expect to find my fruitcake and brandy stocks replenished on my return.
Who would have guessed?
Now I'm hoping Crystal Crescent Beach is still there come summertime.
with thanks to spiegal