Life-Giving Dust
Nature

Life-Giving Dust

From the Sahara to the Ocean
Michał Brennek
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time 5 minutes

It’s so light that it easily rises above the Sahara and sets out on intercontinental journeys. The effects of its movements are astonishing. Alpine snow changes colour, Caribbean heatwaves become amplified, and beneficial elements circulate in oceans and plants.

The first people to study desert areas considered them empty – an example of rightly dusty Eurocentrism. Deserts not only have a complex biosphere, but are sometimes also inhabited by diverse communities. Speaking of dust, that of the largest hot desert in the world – the Sahara – recently found its way, not only metaphorically, onto the front pages of European newspapers. Not just common dust: ‘Saharan dust’.

Chad infinitum

Everything begins in the Chad Basin, or, really, in its lowest part: the Bodélé Depression. It was here that the largest of Africa’s four paleolakes, Lake Mega-Chad, existed around 5000 years BCE. Its

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Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann/Unsplash
Science

A Foundation That’s Falling Apart

Our Dangerous Over-Reliance on Sand
Paulina Wilk

Among natural resources, sand has one of the fastest-rising prices. And it is far from being abundant. What’s more, the illegal trade in sand grains can be fatally dangerous.

Until now, lying on a mound of sand has been synonymous with summer relaxation, but soon it will become a luxury. While the prices of oil and gas are falling, the value of sand on global markets has been rising for several decades, and has jumped sharply since the start of the 21st century. This phenomenon has been overlooked, but is dramatic. Those environmentalists who specialize in the issue of sand talk of a silent catastrophe, drowned out by the entirely justifiable alarm over plastic pollution in the oceans and the scarcity of fresh water. Contrary to the naïve belief that the Earth has an unlimited supply of this common and seemingly ubiquitous raw material, we have less and less sand, and are consuming it ever more voraciously.

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