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Pulitzer Center Update August 3, 2016

This Week: The World's Disappearing Sand


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Land reclamation works are on-going at this area of Tuas, Singapore's westernmost area where a new massive container port—the world's largest in the next 30 years—is being built. The port authority is using materials dredged from the nearby seabed and earth excavated from tunneling work on a subway line to cut use of sand by about 70 per cent in the building of this pier—which will be one of four eventually. Singapore has been short of sand for its sizeable and continual land reclamation and construction…

Concrete. Glass. Silicon. Our civilization is built on the most important yet most overlooked...

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Multiple Authors
Indonesia sand mine.
A sand mine in the heart of the jungle in Bali, Indonesia. Image by Vince Beiser. Indonesia, 2016.

Built on Sand
Vince Beiser

Our civilization is built on sand. This may sound like a metaphor, but it isn't. Sand actually is the key ingredient in the production of concrete, glass, asphalt and silicon. And as grantee Vince Beiser explains in this interview with WYPR, Baltimore's public radio station, "sand is the essential ingredient that makes modern life possible. And, incredibly, we are starting to run out." To report this story, Vince traveled to China and Cambodia. As populations explode and mega-cities expand, "there's so much demand that riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, ocean beds denuded, and landscapes devastated."

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One Crisis Breeds Another
Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico

Grantees Nadja Drost and Bruno Federico report that as Venezuela's economy collapses—mainly a result of falling oil prices—an environmental disaster looms along the shores of Lake Maracaibo, which sits atop the country's oil reserves.

Wretched Excess
Julia Barton and Misha Friedman

Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych lived lavishly while ordinary citizens suffered. Grantees Julia Barton and Misha Friedman take you on a tour of his over-the-top former residence.