True Grit

Image of a hand holding sand
We're running out of sand.

(repeat) Without sand, engineering would be stuck in the Middle Ages. Wooden houses would line mud-packed streets, and Silicon Valley would be, well, just a valley. Sand is the building material of modern cities, and we use more of this resource than any other except water and air. Now we’re running out of it.

Hear why the Roman recipe for making concrete was lost until the 19th century, and about the super-secret mine in North Carolina that makes your smartphone possible.

Plus, engineered sand turns stormwater into drinking water, and why you might think twice about running barefoot on some tropical beaches once you learn about their biological source.

And, a special report from the coast of Louisiana where livelihoods and ecosystems depend on the successful release of Mississippi sand from levees into sediment-starved wetlands.

You can check out the Louisiana Center for River Studies here, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority here, and an excellent map of the Mississippi here


Part 1: Vince Beiser / World of Sand
Part 2: Pupa Gilbert / Sand Makers
Part 3: Joe Charbonnet / Engineered Sand
Part 4: Managing Sand in the Mississippi

Originally aired January 14, 2019