“To see a world in a grain of sand”*…
John R. Gillis writes in the New York Times that to those of us who visit beaches only in summer, beaches seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains but shore dwellers know that beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all. Today, 75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores. The extent of this global crisis is obscured because so-called beach nourishment projects attempt to hold sand in place (PDF) and repair the damage by the time summer people return, creating the illusion of an eternal shore. But the market for mined sand in the U.S. has become a billion-dollar annual business, growing at 10 percent a year since 2008. Interior mining operations use huge machines working in open pits to dig down under the earth’s surface to get sand left behind by ancient glaciers.
One might think that desert sand would be a ready substitute, but its grains are finer and smoother; they don’t adhere to rougher sand grains, and tend to blow away. As a result, the desert state of Dubai brings sand for its beaches all the way from Australia. Huge sand mining operations are emerging worldwide, many of them illegal, happening out of sight and out of mind, as far as the developed world is concerned. “We need to stop taking sand for granted and think of it as an endangered natural resource,” concludes Gillis. “Beach replenishment — the mining and trucking and dredging of sand to meet tourist expectations — must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with environmental considerations taking top priority. Only this will ensure that the story of the earth will still have subsequent chapters told in grains of sand.”
– via Hugh Pickens
* Wiliam Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”
As we wriggle our toes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that the first civilian airplane bombing in the U.S. occurred. The Shelton Brothers Gang dropped three explosives on “Shady Rest,” the rural Illinois hide-out of Charlie Birger and his gang. The bombs missed; and the rival bootleggers resorted to “tank warfare,” attacking each other with armored trucks with mounted guns. The Sheltons succeeded in burning Shady Rest to the ground in January of 1927, effectively winning their war with Birger. Six months later, Birger was arrested (later, tried and hanged) for ordering the murder of Joe Adams, the mayor of a nearby town, whose garage was used to service the Shelton’s “tanks.”