A looming tragedy of the sand commons

Author(s):

Aurora Torres and Jianguo "Jack" Liu

Journal or Book Title: Science

Year Published: 2017

Abstract:

Between 1900 and 2010, the global volume of natural resources used in buildings and transport infrastructure increased 23 fold. Sand and gravel are the largest portion of these primary material inputs (79% or 28.6 Gigatons per year in 2010) and are the most extracted group of materials worldwide, exceeding fossil fuels and biomass. In most regions, sand is a common-pool resource, i.e. a resource that is open to all because access can be limited only at high cost. Because of the difficulty in regulating their consumption, common-pool resources are prone to tragedies of the commons as people may selfishly extract them without considering long-term consequences, eventually leading to over-exploitation or degradation. Even when sand extraction is regulated, it is often subject to rampant illegal extraction and trade. As a result, sand becoming a scarce resource is an emerging issue with major implications for humanity (e.g. socio-political and sand price) and the environment (e.g., biodiversity loss and environmental degradation) globally.

DOI: 10.11126/science.aao0503

Type of Publication: Journal Article

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