06 July 2010

From Greenwash to Whitewash

...more from 'the world's gone mad' files...

Reposted in full from The Age, 30 June 2010

'In a remote corner of the Peruvian Andes, men in paint-daubed overalls diligently coat a mountain summit with whitewash in an experimental bid to recuperate the country's melting glaciers.

It's a rather bizarre sight at 4756 metres above sea level.

The man behind the idea is not a glaciologist but an inventor, Eduardo Gold, who hopes to regrow a glacier with the right climatic conditions.

His non-governmental organisation, Glaciares de Peru, was one of 26 winners of the World Bank's ''100 Ideas to Save the Planet'' competition in November last year.

His plan is to paint a total of 70 hectares on three peaks in the Andean region of Ayacucho, in southern Peru.

The workers use jugs - rather than paintbrushes - to splash the whitewash onto loose rocks around the summit.

''A white surface reflects the sun's rays back through the atmosphere and into space. In doing so, it cools the area around it too,'' explains Mr Gold.

''In effect, it creates a micro-climate. So we can say that the cold generates more cold, just as heat generates more heat.''

The idea is based on the simple scientific principle that changing the albedo (a measure of how strongly an object reflects light) of a surface by whitening it means that it does not absorb so much heat and emit infra-red radiation which takes time to leave the earth's atmosphere and warms trapped greenhouse gases.'

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