One of the great climate tragedies of 2009 was the disappearance of Chalcataya, one of Peru's most important glaciers. Then a huge chunk of Hualcan, another mountain glacier in Peru, broke up causing a lakeside tsunami.
So it's not surprising that Peru would be leading the charge in the fight to save the word's remaining tropical glaciers. Peruvian inventor Eduardo Gold was one of 26 winners of the World Bank-sponsored contest "100 Ideas to Save the Planet." The idea is simple but monumental at the same time — paint the mountain white.
It sounds a bit crazy, but Gold's concept was selected out of 1,700 entries to receive a $200,000 grant. Work has already begun in preparation for the rainy season, which he hopes will rebuild the Chalon Sombrero glacier.
In case you are wondering, the paint is nontoxic. It is made from a combination of egg whites, lime, and water and it works by increasing the reflectivity of the mountain, preventing the normally dark rocks from absorbing the sun's heat. The goal is to create a microclimate that will help the glaciers rebuild by giving them a cold surface to adhere to.
Whitewashing may just turn out to be one of the most important stop-gap strategies for lessening the impacts of climate change. The Akomplice launch last week is an effort to reduce our nation's demand for air conditioning, again by painting roofs and buildings white. Now the ingenious solution will be applied to the mountains of South America.
Peru is home to 70 percent of the world's tropical glaciers, and global warming has hit them hard — nearly one-fourth of Peru's glaciers have melted in the last 30 years, threatening the continued livelihood of millions of Peruvians who depend on them for fresh water.