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Talks @ Pulitzer: Vince Beiser and How Sand Transformed Civilization

Event Date:

September 6, 2018 | 5:30 PM EDT


Pulitzer Center
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Suite 615

Washington, DC 20036

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
Cover photo of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser. 
Cover photo of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser.

On Thursday, September 6, 2018, please join us for a Talks @ Pulitzer, as journalist and writer Vince Beiser discusses his recent book, The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization.

After decades of rapid urbanization, sand–the resource we use most after air and water–is running out, and the environmental and human costs of this shortage are being felt across the world.

The World in a Grain is the culmination of several years of reporting by Beiser on the global sand shortage, which included the work in his Pulitzer Center-supported project "The Deadly Global War for Sand."

Every year we use more than 40 billion tons of sand. It's in the concrete of the shopping malls, office buildings, and apartment blocks that people flooding into urban centers need; it's in the glass of every skyscraper and iPhone screen; and it's the key ingredient of the silicon chips that are the backbone of the technological revolution. It makes our cities, our technology, and our lives possible.

Like land, oil, and forests, sand once seemed limitless. Now, there's a shortage.

Desert sand is ill-suited for most human uses, so sand has to be mined from the bottom of bodies of water, mountains, and beaches. In many countries the mining industry has become so aggressive that it is tearing up forests, stripping riverbeds, and disrupting the wellbeing of people whose way of life depended on those resources. In some countries, like India, gangs have taken over the sand industry as it has become increasingly restricted and lucrative.

Beiser is an award-winning journalist based in Los Angeles. He has exposed conditions in California's harshest prisons, trained with troops bound for Iraq, ridden with first responders to disasters in Haiti and Nepal, and hunted down other stories from around the world for publications including Wired, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Harper's, The Atlantic, The Village Voice, The New Republic, The Nation, Mother Jones, Playboy, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

Light reception at 5:30pm with the talk beginning at 6:00pm. The event is free and open to the public.

Space is limited—remember to reserve your seat today!