A version of this article originally appeared on TomDispatch.

A sand mine near Chippewa Falls, Wis. (Photo by Jim Tittle/The Price of Sand.)

If the world can be seen in a grain of sand, watch out. As Wisconsinites are learning, there’s money (and misery) in sand — and if you’ve got the right kind, an oil company may soon be at your doorstep.

March in Wisconsin used to mean snow on the ground, temperatures so cold that farmers worried about their cows freezing to death. But as I traveled around rural townships and villages in early March to interview people about frac-sand mining, a little-known cousin of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” daytime temperatures soared to nearly 80 degrees — bizarre weather that seemed to be sending a meteorological message.