Summary of The World Is Running Out of Sand

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The World Is Running Out of Sand summary


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Unless you habitually daydream about tropical getaways, you might not think about sand all that much. But as a key ingredient in concrete, asphalt and even your cellphone screen, sand is one of the world’s most widely consumed natural resources. Given its importance, New Yorker staff writer David Owen explores why sand is becoming increasingly scarce. getAbstract recommends Owen’s eye-opening essay to construction industry professionals as well as the general-interest reader.  

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why sand is one of the world’s most heavily used natural resources,
  • Why the desert kingdom of Dubai had to import sand from Australia and
  • Why dredging sand from the seafloor has dire environmental consequences.

About the Author

David Owen is a staff writer at The New Yorker.



After water, sand – known in the industries as “aggregate”– is the “second-most heavily exploited natural resource” in the world. Although sand is ubiquitous in nature, it comes in many different forms. Each type of sand is used for specific purposes, meaning countries with a lot of sand sometimes still import the resource if their particular variety doesn’t meet their needs. Dubai, for example, is replete with desert sand but the smooth surface of its grains make it ill-suited for construction or water filtration. Consequently, Dubai had to import the Australian sand used for the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.

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