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Melting Greenland Is Awash in Sand (nytimes.com)
64 points by onetimemanytime 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments



> A large sand-exporting industry could help reduce this subsidy, which would be critical to Greenland eventually becoming independent.

I think the situation in Greenland is very interesting - and quite sad. Independence is a complete pipedream. Greenland can only be independent once its large reserves of ressources open up. - At that point, it would suddenly become interesting to imperialist states like the US, China and Russia - but it would be in no position to defend itself.

The local population of Greenland for the most part does not want to be associated with Denmark and the EU, but at the same time it is their best shot at retaining autonomy and increasing their standards of living. I really hope that in the future there will be some more forms of positive engagement.


Greenlandic politics is held captured by a small group of corrupt populists. The population outside the city elites lives in dire poverty with massive social problems such as violence, incest, alcoholism ... And the Danish politicians are too coward to do anything about it.

Why do the Americans want to buy this place? We already let you do anything you want with it military wise. And the stuff you can dig out of the ground, you can dig it out other places much cheaper.


I believe it is Trump who wants to buy it, not US government.


Or he's just floating distractions to flip the news cycle.


If you recognize that the GOP only pretends they don't believe in global warming it makes more sense.


Trump is all over the place, I don’t think anyone really knows what he believes.

US interest in purchasing Greenland goes back a hundred years. It’s an important strategic location even without global warming - but yes, will become even more important as the world warms.

The Chinese were trying to get in on it too and Trump is reflexively anti-Chinese.


I seriously doubt this idea came from Trump.

I can imagine the person/group pitching it stroking his ego and convincing him to buy "trumpland" though.


Lesson I take: even the worst catastrophes are a source of profit. Concrete making is one of the worst CO2 emitting industries, and is killing us. Sand was lacking, but despair not: we can go on thanks to melting ice! The Titanic is sinking but, hey, look, a new crate of champagne! What's not to love?

Really, it's upsetting. I'm desperate.


Desperate for what? It's a fact that capitalism can accommodate any catastrophe and help those who have capital profit from it. That's why the rich are not worried about global warming. They know eventually millions, maybe even billions will die, and the planet will be theirs for the taking. Imagine all the profit to be made from the creative destruction. They even know that no one will make them pay for it... all the capital that has been privatized that caused all the environmental damage, no one is going to go to them and say hey you have to pay for all this global warming and all these people suffering because of it. That boat has already sailed.

Same goes for rich nation vs. poor nations, the rich nations which industrialized and caused this mess will not have to pay for it, the poor nations that can't afford it will. Environmental destruction favors those who do the destruction as they have reaped the rewards by the time those who have not have to pay for it.

And maybe the retort is that this is too conspiratorial and no one ever meant for any of this to happen it just did out of self-interest. And if that's how schizophrenic your civilization is, in that it has no consciousness to see what it's doing and stuff just happens out of self-interest and good intentions. Then maybe you need to reconsider how you are doing things... and maybe you need a narrative to guide your decision making that paints the various actors for what they are rather than machines acting in self-interest.


> Currently almost all sand is mined within 50 miles of where it is used, said Jason C. Willett, a minerals commodity specialist with the United States Geological Survey. “Once you move it any distance it then costs too much,” he said.

Basically this is mostly just an interesting talking point for climate change and science, and possibly for Greenland which has been in the news, and not yet a viable source for sand.

It's similar to all of the oil in the world that has been discovered and is accessible but is too expensive to mine.


Still, Australia already exports a lot of sand to places like Singapore and the Arabian peninsula, so evidently it’s not too expensive in all cases.


Yeah, its going to matter who's running out nearby in the meantime and for Greenland that could be northern Europe, east-coast Canada, and north east US.


In general, it seems like moving sand wouldn't be cost effective.

Seems the world is running out of local sand, and not just sand in general. I imagine there is plenty of sand in inaccessible places (Greenland being one of them) that would just cost too much to move to the location where it is needed.

The oil analogy is good. At some point you spend more energy getting it out of the ground than burning it.


I take it this is the right kind of sand?

Desert sand being buffeted by the wind is rounded, whilst coastal sand has sharper edges.

How often does desert sand end up on beaches? How can one check for the sharpness of sand, are the sand piles higher? Is it more abrasive?


You can look at it, a simple loupe is enough to be able to clearly see the shape of particles. Sand particles from deserts are usually smaller and rounder, and much more uniform in size and shape. This makes the sand much more fluid. Beach sand is usually more irregular in both size and shape, giving it a more "grip". Here's a nice example of how it looks https://geology.com/stories/13/sand/


>How often does desert sand end up on beaches?

Well, it feeds the Amazon from the Sahara. https://www.wired.com/2015/02/sahara-keeps-amazon-green/


We get dust from the Sahara in the southern US as well.

https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/dust-sahara/


>The world makes a lot of concrete, more than 10 billion tons a year, and is poised to make much more for a population that is forecast to grow by more than 25 percent by 2050. That makes sand, which is about 40 percent of concrete by weight, one of the most-used commodities in the world, and one that is becoming harder to come by in some regions.

And the more concrete you make, the more sand you get. What's not to like? Could this be why the US government is currently trying to buy Greenland, perhaps?


My understanding is that concrete production is one of the most energy intensive processes on earth, so despite the downvotes, you have a point.


Second largest industrial producer of CO2. Shipping the sand long distance also makes it worse.


And it's also impractical. Our issue isn't the absolute availability of sand, it's the easy availability near use sites.


It’s not easily available near all use sites. Australia exports a lot of sand to the Middle East and South-East Asia, for example.


And even if the energy input were totally renewable (or nuclear), the CO2 production would still be pretty large, since one is decomposing limestone into calcium oxide and CO2.


It is too bad more isn't done with lime mortars and plasters. Hydrated lime (CaO + H20 => Ca(OH)2) reacts with CO2 to form CaCO3 + H20. And it is fun to work with ...


That can, at best, absorb the CO2 that was emitted when the CaO was made, if the CaO was made from limestone. To get CO2-free CaO would involve decomposing calcium silicate, perhaps by acid dissolution followed by the energetically expensive step of separating calcium chloride into lime and hydrochloric acid.


Yes... but another advantage here of lime over Portland cement is that the cooking of the limestone doesn’t require as much heat as the cooking of Portland cement. It won’t be carbon neutral, but it is a big improvement.


Isn't that the same limestone that can capture carbon if put into the oceans? or is it olivine?


Olivine is usually discussed. However, I think limestone would enable some CO2 uptake, by formation of bicarbonate ions. The calcium ions would have to stay in solution, though.


I think the USA is mostly interested in the Uranium.


Not really. Uranium is last century's strategic resource.


I would say they are interested in not letting other states get access to that uranium


But why? Uranium is not terribly uncommon. If you own a home, the top meter of soil in your yard likely contains several kilograms of it.

Ample economical uranium supplies are relevant if there is large demand for uranium for power production (weapons programs can get more expensive uranium from wherever). But that's not where the world is going.


USA would be very smart to buy land, problem is that there are no sellers. History has proven that buying is worth it.

Example: USA is running almost a $1 TRILLION deficit. Make it two and "buy" Greenland. No rational person one would complain and Denmark /Greenlanders could set up a special fund ala Norway with the money https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_Pension_Fund_of_Nor...


The better option is that Denmark buys USA. They could make it a great country. Really, Danish are open for that: https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/denmark-offe...


If they don't include anti-democratic clauses in the contract the result will be exactly the same as if USA bought Denmark, that is Denmark will become a small state in USA.


That's not real, it's meant to be "satire".


Greenland isn’t for sale, but China has been reported to be trying to charm the Greenlanders to join China.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46386867

Hong Kong on ice?


Why China always try to capture the area of other country?


Historically, it really isn't one of the worst offenders.


While certainly influenced by it, we don't live in the past, we live in the present. There was a time when one could say that the British weren't one of the worst offenders when it came to expansion. But then they were. China's expansionism might be new but that doesn't make it less of an issue.


Not gonna happen. Doesn't Denmark ultimately have e veto power (National Security at least) over major issues in Greenland?

Buying is a loaded word. How about joining USA ? Then USA can duke it with Russia in the Artic game.

Or USA can crunch some numbers...might be cheaper to invade Canada. Fifth time is the charm as they say. Joking OK...maybe ;)


If only there was another way to get countries to do what "we" want, but nicely, because it would be mutually beneficial. We could call it "soft power".


>"No rational person one would complain"

One does not simply sell a nation and a people. The colonial days are over.


No one is buying or selling people, at least not as slaves or for soap. However a territory has a value and a country can be compensated for it, assuming people at all levels agree to it. Greenlanders would be Americans as suppose to "Danish"


It's also a rare source of fresh water that is virtually/completely lacking in microplastics -- so long as we dig to it, or harvest its melt before it mixes with a century's-worth of increasingly contaminated seasonal layering.


jeez, what is up with all these bullshit video-js-scrolling nightmares of website?


What you don't like being forced to see two lines of text scroll into view, which could have easily just been a caption, before you can continue scrolling?


The dominant site that does it is the NY Times, and generally their presentations are absolutely fantastic. Sometimes a bit of interactive media is more compelling than a wall of text.


> Sometimes a bit of interactive media is more compelling than a wall of text.

"Sometimes" means different things to different people. I'd prefer to read a well written article that paints a picture in my mind so it sticks. These scrolling js/video nightmares are a great way to allow for lower quality writing covered up by glitzy media. It's the McDonalds equivalent of information dissemination design. The fact that the NY Times does it is irrelevant. No thank you.


This seems like such a negative view of the NYT's effort to showcase some wonderful photography along with a well researched article. It is in no way low quality writing.


Sure, there are bad examples. But this example has fine writing. In general the NYT articles have fine writing. But they also have great photographers, access to remote locations, etc, so they make it interactive. It's a bonus.


Maybe I'm lucky that their paywall keeps me from seeing their articles, then.


What if we don't destroy Greenland ecosystem?


What ecosystem? It's mostly frozen.




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