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Webinar: Global Sand Series will explore growing environmental, social and economic concerns about sand

Hosted by Northwestern, World Wildlife Fund, May 26 event will focus on the global sand crisis

After water, sand is the most consumed raw material in the world. A central component in most major infrastructure and products essential to daily life, sand is used to construct buildings, roads, bridges and even computer chips.

But, as global demand steadily increases, the world’s usable sand supply is dwindling. Unless we can sustainably manage the natural resource, which has no readily available alternatives, we will soon face an escalated crisis that has already had devastating environmental impacts.

On Wednesday, Northwestern University’s Institute for Sustainability and Energy (ISEN) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will host a virtual dialogue among global experts from science, engineering, industry and public policy about the emerging global sand crisis.

The first of four public webinars in the Global Sand Crisis Series, “Setting the stage: What is so special about sand, and why are we on the verge of a global crisis?”, will take place at 9 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 26. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Through speaker presentations, panel discussions and breakout sessions, guest speakers will discuss the current demands for sand and ways to ensure its responsible use. Cary Shepherd, the Montgomery Legal Fellow at the Pritzker School of Law’s Environmental Advocacy Center, will moderate the first discussion, and Kate Newman, vice president of sustainable infrastructure and public sector initiatives at WWF, and Mike M. McMahon, ISEN strategic partnerships administrator, will provide opening remarks.

Speakers in the first dialogue are:

  • Vince Beiser, award-winning journalist and author of “The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization,” will deliver the keynote address. Beiser has been a correspondent for the news show “SoCal Connected,” a senior editor for Mother Jones and a former grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
  • Gary Greenberg is a scientist, author, teacher, inventor and artist. Combining his passion for art and science, Greenberg invented high-definition 3D light microscopes, which he now uses to photograph objects from sand to flowers to moon sand.
  • Pascal Peduzzi is the director of GRID-Geneva at the United Nations Environment Programme and is a professor at University of Geneva. Peduzzi works with a team of scientists to transform data into usable information to aid decision making and also is involved in identifying emerging environmental issues.
  • Kusum Athukorala is the founder of Women for Water Partnership, chair of NetWater and senior advisor to the Sri Lanka Water Partnership. Athukorala is internationally recognized for her research and advocacy work in policy, rural development, gender and water.

Registrants will receive an official agenda, event details and updates before the event. The registration form also gives attendees the opportunity to register for future sessions in the webinar series.