In Lady Windemere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde had Lord Darlington quip that a cynic was "a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." As with so much of what Wilde wrote or said, it’s more than just a nice turn of phrase – it hits at the heart of the problems of society.
The sand scientists — and please understand that I’m not one myself — say that sand is too cheap. It costs about $30 per ton, and a ton of sand is a pretty decent amount. I used to get my sand out of the Yocona River with five-gallon buckets from Home Depot. I took it home, panned as much trash and feces out of it as possible, and then mixed it into concrete to make sculptures. Concrete is a disaster, responsible for more than 8 percent of global CO2 emissions. Cities are made out of concrete and glass, both of which are made from sand, and many cities, like Singapore, are built on sand. To mine all that sand, they literally rake it off beaches and out of riverbeds, destroying entire habitats, which is illegal in a lot of places. So most sand is mined outside of the purview of the law. As I said, I’m not a sand scientist — I’ve never even looked at a grain of sand underneath a microscope, though I have seen a photograph of that very thing on the Internet — but you have to believe, now that I know all of this, that I’ll never steal sand from the Yocona again.