In Italy, Police Are Cracking Down On, Uh, Sand Theft

The prosperity of a country often relies on its natural resources, like diamonds, or oil, or an ample supply of reality show contestants. So when wealthy outsiders come to steal away what belongs to your land, it's only natural to fight back -- even if that most prized resource is some primo-grade sand.

Sardinia, a bucolic island off the coast of Italy, draws most of its revenue from its tourism, with many wealthy globetrotters attracted to its pristine, lush beaches. But it turns out that the tourists find Sardinia's beaches just a bit too beautiful. Every year, over a ton of sand gets smuggled through the airport in the form of souvenirs absconded from their natural resting places, never to be looked at again after those tourists get back home, the vacation magic wears off, and they realize they dragged a plastic bottle full of fine dirt across half the world.

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To lessen this man-made erosion, Sardinian police are now cracking down, issuing massive fines of up to 3,000 Euros (about $3,500) to any beach-goer who tries to leave the country with sand on their person or in their luggage -- which surely is all of them, since that stuff gets everywhere. They're not fooling around, either, having already fined someone 1,000 Euros ($1,150) for illegally smuggling some precious hourglass fuel. Sardinian residents welcome the policy, as they hate the fat cat tourists "taking from the island what nature took millions of years to create." They even have vigilantes patrolling the beaches looking to stop sand crime. And if that doesn't really sound that intimidating, now you know why Batman only fights crime in alleyways at night and doesn't waddle around the sun-dappled dunes with Bat-sunscreen on his nose.

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But it's never too late to repent. When news of Sardinia's crackdowns reached one woman who had taken some pink sand from one of its island offshoots 29 years prior, she sent back the sand with an apology note. We can only hope she took her respect for island culture a bit too far, and at this very moment, there's a message in a pink bottle bobbing around the Mediterranean.

For more weird tangents and his personal recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

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