Week Five – Sands of Time

Having become a little disillusioned with the UK’s mainstream media of late, I have started to watch Al Jazeera News. With such a global outlook, I’m pretty impressed with the amount of world-wide situations I have learnt about that I would not have heard of just relying on my home country’s coverage. Yes, as a qualified and former journalist I understand there is only so much that can be shared in time-limited news programmes but Al Jazeera News has inadvertently helped me to solidify my ongoing theme.

The overarching premise of my work relates to human impact on the earth, through population growth and our consumerist societies, taking a local view to reflect a far reaching one. At the same time it investigates the notion of time itself – with all of the science and knowledge we now have, why does it seem that human nature will always continue to repeat itself putting our species above the rest of the natural world and potentially, in this arrogance, destroy what we share with other flora and fauna? I have toyed with ideas around the human need to create myths and legends (fairytales and religions) that give meaning to things that once could not be explained or as a means to secure mass societal buy-in. Isn’t this something we can start to leave behind as the sands of time slip through our fingers?

And that’s where the Al Jazeera article written by Rob Reynolds on sand shortages comes in (2017). Much of my work is made in the coastal area in which I live, it considers geology with its reference to passing timelines,  and I am now researching, and including, how sand can be incorporated into my work. Before I saw the news story talking about how sand (not necessarily beach sand per se) is now in short supply due to ever increasing building work, particularly in developing countries such as China, I began to think about what sand represented to me.

Of course, as I used the expression earlier, there is the ‘sands of time’; that sand can be billions of years old; that as a product it makes up so many of the materials used in our lives, and that for me personally it stands for happiness, good memories of walks at our beach with our dog, surfing, holidays abroad, frustration when it gets in your clothes or food, and so much more.

But the impact its use has environmentally is something I am now learning about in more detail. How it effects our ocean floors when dredged up from one place to be sent hundreds of miles to another is perhaps one of the most concerning issues. In David Owen’s May 29, 2017 article The World is Running Out of Sand, he commented that a boss of Canada-based sand company, which specialises in supplying the ‘right’ type of sand for global beach volley-ball competitions, said that to supply the first European Games, which were held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2015, they had to source the product from 800 miles west. But, due to geopolitics they could not transport it over land and instead it travelled by five ships “across the Mediterranean, up the Aegean, through the Bosporus, across the Black Sea, and into Sochi.” It was then taken by rail through Russia and Georgia, around Armenia, and across Azerbaijan.

Not only does this seem a monumental task in itself, the saddest comment the sand company boss made was to say, ““The Syrian exodus was on at that time, and we saw people walking for their lives, but these were the first-ever European Games, so everything had to be right.”

This environmental situation is perhaps one of the lesser known but perhaps the ‘sands of time’ are catching up with us.

Online References:

MILLER, Fahmida. 2017. ‘Illegal sand mining in Namibia’ aljazeera.com. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2017/06/harsher-laws-sought-illegal-sand-mining-namibia-170625085628459.html [accessed June 25, 2017]

OWEN, David. 2017. ‘The world is running out of sand’ newyorker.com. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/29/the-world-is-running-out-of-sand [accessed June 25, 2017]

PEDUZZI, Pascal. 2014. ‘Sand, rarer than you think’ na.unep.net. Available at:
https://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=110 [accessed June 25, 2017]

REYNOLDS, Rob. 2017. ‘World is running out of sand’ aljazeera.com. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/news/2017/06/world-running-sand-scientists-170625060441463.html [accessed June 25, 2017]