Sand futures: Post-growth alternatives for mineral aggregate consumption and distribution in the global south

Arpita Bisht

Mineral aggregates (sand and gravel) have been the fastest growing and the most volumetrically extracted material group extracted over the 21st century. This growth has been associated with large-scale ecological degradation and violent localized extractive operations. Further, the ongoing rates of sand extraction are already resulting in emerging global and local sand scarcities. However, there is a significant lack of critical analysis of the ongoing patterns of consumption and distribution of aggregate resources, as well as on alternative pathways to address their overextraction and inefficient distribution. This article conducts a systemic qualitative literature review to a) highlight the basis of high rates of sand extraction by exploring its interlinkages with economic growth and development; and b) conceptualize alternative pathways for aggregate utilization in a socio-ecologically viable manner. It articulates how economic growth and development lie at the foundation of over-extraction and inefficient distribution of aggregates, and proposes that solutions to the emergent sand crisis lie in critical scholarly works that discuss post-growth based systemic changes. It analyses post-growth, post-development, steady-state economics, and degrowth literature to provide alternative approaches for transitions that can simultaneously address both the reduction of overall throughput and more equitable distribution of aggregates. It concludes with five post-growth proposals: reduction of per-capita units of consumption of sand-based products; designing and implementing degrowth cities; revival of traditional and vernacular architectures, designs and knowledges; transitioning away from concrete as the primary building material by exploring location and climate specific alternate building materials; and reducing, limiting, or banning mega-infrastructures and mega-structures.

Want to stay up to date?

Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular updates on the most exciting news, research, case studies, and events related to sustainable design.