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Time to Reflect

Optimize Blog - June 17, 2010 - 0 comments

Regular readers of Zeitgeist know that we really like innovation and those ideas that come from ‘thinking outside of the box’ and so imagine our delight to learn of the mountains being painted down in The Andes in Peru.
Now we’re not talking landscape painting in the sense of paint, brushes and canvass but rather the actual painting of the mountains with whitewash…..!
Whilst this might seem a little on the daft side, there are apparently some scientific principles upon which this seemingly aesthetic project is based. When sunlight is reflected off a white or light-coloured surface, solar energy passes back through the atmosphere and out into space, rather than warming the Earth’s surface.
Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, has endorsed a similar idea using white roofs in the United States – possibly more pragmatic than painting mountains.
Changing the albedo (the ratio of reflected to incident light – a measure of how strongly an object reflects light) of the rock surface, would bring about a cooling of the peak’s surface, which in turn could generate a cold micro-climate around the peak , which in turn may cause the glaciers that previously dominated the peaks to re-grow.
The idea wasn’t presented by a scientist but rather an inventor by the name of Eduardo Gold and he’s earned himself a cool $200k prize from the World Bank as part of its “100 Ideas to Save the World” competition which ran last year.
The pilot project is already underway with four local villagers having already slopped whitewash over 2 hectares of the Chalon Sombrero peak some 4,700 meters above sea level. They intend to cover around 70 hectares in total on three different peaks. It’s a tough process and they don’t use brushes. They simply poor the whitewash over the rocks from jugs but at least the wash is made from environmentally friendly ingredients.
Climate change is having a severe effect on Peru’s glaciers with 22% of them having melted away in the past 30 years. The fact that 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers are found in Peru makes this statistic even more significant.
Inevitably there are many sceptics over the mountain painting project but who knows – on a local level this may have some effect and Mr Gold is determined to expand his plan to more and more peaks if he can get financial backing.
Radical thinking and a practical application – we wish him success!

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