Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Let’s start plan B

We began project SunGlacier with the intention of sending a positive and optimistic signal to all in the climate debate. It has since evolved into a project focused on ways to apply climate changes for our own benefit.

If temperatures rise, the air contains more water. For instance: A dry and hot desert can contain up to 5 times more water in the air compared to after a spring rain in NYC. Normally, higher temperatures also mean more sunshine. So, why not focus on harvesting water out of the air, powered only by renewable solar energy? In this way drinking water and water for agriculture become available in most dry parts of the planet.

SunGlacier has devised a way to grow a tree in the desert, only using sunshine – as our engineering team proved with tests in a laboratory which simulated extreme desert conditions. And wait, this was only the very beginning! During the last 5 years we didn’t relax in hopes that somebody would help us to get our solution on track, but instead we worked constantly to maximize, improve and surpass initial outcomes. We are now working with a water machine concept that is inexpensive, simple to produce and low maintenance.

The SunGlacier team and I are proud to announce this promising success, but we are still in the process of refining the physical principles of this new idea. Sometimes, for myself it is actually a greater miracle that my team is still working so tirelessly – along with other commitments – to contribute to a solution for an urgent problem. This could be a contribution to the prosperity of the next generations of people like all of us.

Mr. Ban Ki Moon taught us: “There is no Plan B, because we do not have a Planet B,” which sounds like the battle is already lost. I have learned from experience with several governments and international organisations including the UN, that support for an initiative like ours, a solution, is nearly impossible to acquire because of the absence of an attached economic model. Our “business” is in fact bringing creative innovation to produce the one most critical resource: water.

I only could find one reason for inaction by potential supporting governments/organizations: A renewable energy water project somehow doesn’t fit in common visions of “plan A.”

Much has changed since we started SunGlacier in 2010 when there was already widespread discussion of global warming and climate change. The areas with drought are now spreading with unprecedented speed, climate extremes are smashing record after record everywhere…also in world leaders’ own backyards. In some areas the military has been mobilized to control of water-crisis situations. Food and water shortages are growing, and sparking local water-related conflicts that quickly spread across borders to topple fragile governments.

I watched a documentary last week about water shortages, when the man on screen looked in the camera and said: “Who will help us? Nobody cares.”

That is the reason why we continue to work to get Plan B on track.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

They simply forgot that they live in a desert

My journey through California.
By Ap Verheggen

The sky was clear when we flew in to Los Angeles. Even from my bird’s eye perspective, the dimension of the deserts that we crossed overwhelmed me. I asked myself how somebody could survive in this harsh landscape. But when the plane descended on its path to LAX, the landscape turned suddenly from desert into a web of streets, buildings, gardens and deep blue spots: swimming pools.

Later in a bar (every visitor in a bar or restaurant in California is offered a huge glass of water, filled with ice, as a welcome gesture) we talked with a friend, who lives in a prestigious neighbourhood in the hills of LA about the water crises.
He told us that his area has plans to recycle wastewater into a kind of grey water that could be used by the households, as a measure of relief for the overstressed water supply to his neighbourhood. It sounded like an ambitious plan, but even he questioned how many neighbours would stay if they have to use their own sewage…. “I’m not sure how many of my neighbours would agree to drink their pee,” he told us.

Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California are mostly fed by water that comes from Lake Mead, where the water from the mighty Colorado River bounces against the famous Hoover Dam. Driving to Lake Mead from LA, the landscape changes from green into desert in a matter of seconds. Beautiful!

After a couple of hours we arrived in Las Vegas. We entered our 35 dollar-a-night room and noticed that the tap in the shower was leaking like a river. Luckily for us there was not drip-drip kind of leak (that would have kept us awake). During our stay of two nights the hotel did not bother to fix it, which can only mean that repairing a simple leak is still more expensive then the leaking itself. Potable water in Las Vegas must be free, otherwise for sure it would be fixed in a day, like everywhere else.

Arriving at the Lake Mead Park, we started our investigation at the visitors centre. The lady behind the desk showed us on a map of what remained of Lake Mead. She told us that only 36 percent of the water still remained in the reservoir, because of the drought. More worryingly, she told us that Lake Mead would never be full again. The demand for water is simply more than the supply. When the water inlets that lead to pipes dry up,  they simply dig a new inlet to buy a bit of time. It’s a critical situation that we certainly didn’t expect.
Standing on the mighty Hoover Dam and looking down to the water gives rise conflicting impressions: A grey line on the rocks marks how high the water once reached, but the amount of water still there seems impressive, especially seen from a bird’s eye view.

We followed a road that promised to lead us to the lake, away from the dam and into the valley. At one point the gravel trail changed into smooth concrete and then back again. We continued to drive for another kilometre to arrive at shore of Lake Mead. Only then did we really appreciate how much lower the current water level is from that grey line that indicated the old “normal” surface level: From where we stood, a car parked above us by the rocks close to that line had the dimensions of a housefly. We realized the concrete patch in the road, way above, was once a boat launch. Now we could also explain the ladders high up against the rocks: they were ladders that people used to climb out of the water. It was like looking at the old Lake Mead from the fish’s eye view.

Continuing our tour, we found a sign – in the middle of the desert -- that explained the Vegas Wash –Wetlands-. A decade ago the wetlands would have started just by the sign, but of course, we couldn’t find water at all.

The real shock came when we left the park and after just a few kilometres and some curves, we saw a huge green golf course, kept lush by sprinklers. Bizarrely, there were no golfers to be found – the desert heat was too much for them. We actually stopped the car to take in this strange scene – certainly it ranks among the weirdest things I had ever seen.

On our way back to LA I talked with a teacher who lives in Las Vegas and asked her about the water situation. She told me that she was concerned about the quality of the drinking water because she believed that pollutants sink to the bottom of the lake and she was afraid that soon the government would not be able to guarantee the quality of the water anymore. It was a worry that she came up with herself, but it helped her make the decision to leave and sell her house before others come up with the same idea and her property was worthless.

Arriving in LA, we were welcomed by again sprinkler installations, whose purpose was to water public grass next to the highway. The City of Angels appeared changed, because I was now experiencing it from my new fish eye perspective. The amount of water that is used by an average Californian household is only a small drop compared to what agriculture and industry use. People know this, and the virtual circle of no escape is created.

California is famous for its sustainability and for being the hub of the globe’s most innovative companies, it seems to have lost its perspective when it comes to own water. Even now, as the minute hand is inching toward midnight, the solutions generally proposed are founded on the idea of conservation and mitigation – which while important comes too late given the State’s state of affairs.

Instead of waiting for rain, we should all invest in revolutionary ideas and out-of-box thinking to help us raise water levels. There is always a solution, it just needs investments and time, and that’s what is also drying up. California is touching the tipping point.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A COP tale of optimism and ancient wisdom

At the COP 20 climate talks in Lima, water - water was everywhere but the world found it hard to think. Nearly everyone agreed on the urgency of water solutions, as supplies have begun to shrink.

SunGlacier Director of Communications, Matt Luna, attended the second week of the COP and talked with participants about water solutions and innovation. Representatives of global organizations reacted with surprise and interest to the relatively simple concept of solar-powered water as a step in adapting to a changing environment.

While negotiating parties in plenary sessions wrestled over single words in an agreement to limit emissions, groups holding side events were discussing adaptation, forest preservation, green growth and smart cities. Use of renewable energy such as solar was of course a key point to numerous discussions. It was remarked that wealthy financial institutions is where many solutions lie, as money is needed to fund green growth toward a leaner use of the planet.

SunGlacier was in the middle of this discussion, as it has been working for more than two years in testing to fine tune the best use of solar in harvesting the natural water source in the air. The engagement of the financial elite is certainly needed to fuel green solutions like an art project that can lead to real solutions for parched areas including off-grid communities.

Al Gore asserted himself repeatedly as an optimist for the planet's future when speaking at a COP event briefing.  He only questioned how much human suffering would take place before solid solutions are effectively implemented to many of the planet's current challenges. Bolivian President Evo Morales in a COP speech called on pillars of ancient wisdom of indigenous people to help us all survive into the future: 1) Don't be a liar 2) Don't be a thief 3) Don't be lazy.

SunGlacier does not plunge into politics, but shares Mr. Gore's optimism for the planet and Mr. Morales's value of an honest, natural and active approach to climate adaptation: Build a simple solution to use the sun to harvest water from the air – and share it with people to drink.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Solar water generation in Peru

Consider for a moment the country of Peru, host of the COP 20 this December, where effects of climate change are dramatic: melting glaciers, decreasing natural wetlands and inadequate water management systems. About 2 million people in the Lima area are without access to clean running water, and the number grows to 8 million in the country. 

The SunGlacier Technology team has calculated that Lima area conditions for example could be ideal for our Desert Cascades water production. With the 100m2 structure in test conditions typical of Lima, projected drinking-quality water amounts are at 32 liters per hour, or 260 liters in an 8-hour period. This is quite encouraging to say the least.

Our team has been strategizing with UNESCO-IHE, the Institute for Environmental Security, the European Space Agency and others to design a program of alternative water supply and resource management that can be a step toward solutions for vast changes in our planet's water resources. The artistic design of Desert Cascades can also help create a broader project impact by using art as a universal means of communication.

The problem is evident, the focus is clear and we are moving forward. Desert Cascades has very real potential to help water scarcity in growing parts of the world. With more hard work and vital support, places like Lima could see an innovative step in  drinking water resources for communities in need.

Monday, 21 April 2014

An unbelievable marriage of art and technology

Climate change is forcing new thought on innovations in facing drier conditions in vast areas of the globe. In the SunGlacier project, we have spent more than two years researching ways of capturing these changes for our advantage, with surprising results.

SunGlacier is an art project that pushes the borders of theory and present technology. A marriage of art and innovation has proved the value of "dare to dream about making the impossible, possible." Yes, we can now build a glacier in a hot, dry desert and yes, we can generate drinking water from air.

It’s time for the next phase of building an autonomous water-generating structure that carries a zero carbon footprint. All technology developed in research has been compiled in an accessible report that provides answers to questions such as: how much drinking water can we produce out of thin air powered by only solar energy – and what does it cost?

The ultimate goal is to not only to build the art projects SunGlacier and Desert Cascades, but to see our technology applied where it can benefit people searching for an independent water source. This is art; this is climate adaptation; this is a new business concept that can make rain for investors willing to plunge into previously unexplored edges of technological applications.

Our starting point is the production of pure drinking water in dry situations for a relatively low cost. In going beyond the artistic impact of the project, we have developed promising applications for SunGlacier to be put into use in various situations.
Although SunGlacier was not initially designed as a commercial project, an investment structure now allows organizations to participate in supporting the widespread success of the project. The potential to draw positive attention to a business with an environmentally-friendly art project that makes usable water is no longer science fiction. 

The technology is real, just as the inspiration that can motivate broad sectors of industry to follow in applying innovative resource adaptation.

More information: Ap Verheggen at <>

Friday, 14 February 2014

Update: more drinking water than expected!

Yesterday in our laboratory tests, drinking water production increased to such an extent that we were completely overwhelmed by the results. Even at this stage of the testing I already can announce: Yes! We have found a new method that can contribute to one of world's toughest challenges. There remain expected variables in application circumstances, but overall the outcome is far beyond "promising;" It's spectacular!

Our new testing results demonstrated that our project: a synergy between an artist's mind and the expertise of some open-minded and creative engineers, has opened a new door in the search for climate adaptation solutions.

My heart beats twice as fast when I think about the impact of this project on future applications.

Stay tuned as we continue...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Sun + Air = Water

In wider patches of the world, communities are struggling to adapt to increasingly severe and long droughts that are forcing a search for sustainable systems of fresh water. Access to H2O is of course the very basis of survival, and there is also growing recognition of how scarcity of vital resources can drive the spread of social unrest, political instability and conflict in affected and neighboring areas

Project SunGlacier’s research and awareness of water's place in nearly all levels of human security have led to the design of the autonomously functioning structure: “Desert Cascades.” This design that we’ve already previewed will create a cascade of fresh drinking water from humidity, driven purely by solar energy. And were still pushing boundaries by aiming to install this “oasis” in the extremes of a hot, arid desert.

Desert Cascades is a sculpture that can make a tangible contribution, through art, to adapting to rolling changes in the climate. Simply: It makes water from air, powered by the sun. 

A sea of adaptation solutions is around us, and it’s up to us to harness resources we already have. This week we started further design tests in our laboratory that simulates desert conditions. And think, what can we accomplish working together now and in 5-10 years when the efficiency of solar power has increased exponentially?

The Discovery Channel has taken interest in the project, and sent a crew to film our successful round of testing at the laboratory last week. Andras Szollosi-Nagy, Head of UNESCO-IHE, (in photo, right) was also at the site last Thursday and said, “This is a historical moment, and of great importance for the future of our planet.”

The project's ultimate aim is to inspire broader, collective solutions, and it seems we've just reached a point of no return. The need for results from our efforts is growing. The technology is performing beyond predictions in laboratories. The public is responding enthusiastically to the positive core purpose of SunGlacier. And, our team’s resolve to make solar-powered water feels like a speeding train without brakes.

We’re not going to stop until we plunge straight off a cliff and into a sea of positive solutions!

Friday, 17 January 2014

New tests can start in the next weeks

The inspection of the Desert Laboratory at Cofely Refrigeration
In a couple of weeks we start testing some new ideas how to generate water and ice out of thin air in desert conditions. We built a desert laboratory that copies world's most extreme desert conditions and yesterday we inspected the installations.

The Cofely Refrigeration Desert Team
Ir. Tom Lubbinge, Ir. Frank van der Heijden, Ir. Erik-Jan Hoogendoorn 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Building a positive polar vortex

by Ap Verheggen
How many of the millions who are now familiar with the term had heard of a polar vortex before last week? The sub-zero freeze in the United States feels like a flashback to the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow in which an eerily similar climate pattern brought on another ice age.

Is this swirling vortex of Arctic air over America so bizarre? Not really. As we’re enjoying a relatively warm winter so far here in Europe, a look out our window to the West reminds us that extreme climate events have passed the point of becoming the new norm, and are now a reality. Mother Nature seems to make her voice heard somewhere each month with a monstrous howl. It’s up to us to live under these new skies.

Working on SunGlacier is a chance to build 10% of inspiration that can lead to the 90% of perspiration that just may make some kind of positive difference in the lives of people in a forgotten corner of the planet – or in the growing urbanized part of the world. It's important to stay positive and keep open minds for now and for the next generations. They will need solid shoulders to stand upon when searching for future solutions that just may be found in unexpected places.

Speaking of unexpected places, the Discovery Channel plans to come to the Netherlands later this month to film a segment on SunGlacier. More details will be made available soon.

Also, we previously posted about deadly tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest and the need for protective structures. Three new schools have opened in Missouri with protected rooms. Such an initiative is a simple idea in adaptation, but it requires a change in mindset and methods to be made possible.

Stay tuned, stay focused and most important: Stay Positive!

Photos from the polar vortex

Monday, 9 December 2013

Join SunGlacier on an inspiring ride

Someone pulled the lever again on the climate slot machine. Two severe storms have hit North Europe in an alarming short several weeks with winds up to about 150 km/hour, one storm at an opportune moment of high tide. Many were looking back at the lessons learned about adapting to the unpredictability of nature back in 1953 when 1,800 people lost their lives in flooding in the Netherlands. Reinforced flood-protection measures followed soon after that disaster.

 Ap filmed himself on 5 December 2013
Nature will always be the stronger force. If there would have been more rain in the area when the latest storm tore through last Thursday, many may have experienced flooding at their doorsteps, even with barriers that have protected us from the water on the other side of the dikes for more than 50 years.

It’s in our survival DNA to preserve life – but relying on standard systems that have “worked so far” can have disastrous consequences. Approaches need to be as dynamic as humanly possible (and a bit beyond) to help man coexist with a more powerful nature. This is of course on a global scale: droughts are more severe and longer lasting, and super storm Haiyan made it clear that the climate slot machine is changing – and not necessarily in man’s favor. The house always wins?

So let’s just hit the pause button to allow time to find solutions that will better enable generations to come. But wait, that’s not an option. In fact, extreme weather events are becoming stronger and more frequent.

It’s right now that SunGlacier is working to create a functioning work of art aimed at inspiring a unified push for more innovative designs on adaptation. It takes a change of mindset. It takes human effort.  And it takes money.

SunGlacier has had an explosion of international press coverage lately (see a few article links below), and our team has been meeting with potential financial partners to discuss carrying this unique approach forward, but more support is needed. Like-minded parties are invited to join us in what promises to be a globally intriguing art project that hopes to make people stop and say “Look at that; we can and should do more.” But more what? That is exactly the point of our exploration: to inspire discovery of the what and the how.

Find out more about becoming a part of the SunGlacier innovation. Contact Ap Verheggen at

Recent media coverage - selected links:
The Weather Channel  
La Repubblica
Discovery Brasil
TV program in Bulgaria

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

State Secretary for the Ministry of Economic Affairs visits project SunGlacier

Sharon Dijksma, Dutch State Secretary for the Ministry of Economic Affairs attended a meeting with the technology experts of the SunGlacier Project at Cofely Refrigeration, Zoetermeer. She was very enthusiastic about all our ideas.

Monday, 4 November 2013

A flow of ideas...

From the inspiration and research of the SunGlacier project making ice in a desert, I’ve developed the idea of creating an actual working waterfall also in an extreme dry area. The Desert Cascades concept is an art project to be made from a solar panel-based cube that independently supplies itself with energy to catch water vapor and flow the resulting water over and out of the structure. The Cascades is still an idea in-progress, but with the increasing speed of solar technology, it could soon be growing – as is SunGlacier – closer to becoming a functioning reality.

artist impression by Ap Verheggen

Developments in technology are ever increasing in speed. What appears impossible at the present can quickly become a reality within a number of months or a few short years. However, I believe that we can expand the benefits of technology when we accelerate current thinking on how to use potential applications in the future. An art project like the Cascades can inspire people and science to look beyond known horizons and become a type of generator for new possibilities. Consider science-fiction films from the 1970s; many Star Wars era dreams are becoming everyday tools in one form or another.
For us it’s essential to explore outside of conventional technology to develop ideas like how much water we can get out of the air with only solar as power generator. In the SunGlacier project, we have searched for solutions to achieve maximum results because the nature of the project calls for extreme methods. Some answers have been found in nature, like how structures and processes have developed over thousands of years of evolution. Some of these answers can also be used to build Desert Cascades.
artist impression by Ap Verheggen
We’ve noticed a huge gap between theory and reality in testing our ideas, so naturally it has been impossible to make conclusions before empirical testing. Well, such scenarios simply create a need for more old-fashioned creativity in this modern research. I discovered in this process that the experts at our partner Cofely Refrigeration are artists in their own right. Interpretation of research outcomes often requires out-of-the-box thinking. The main conclusion of our research remains: Do it! It’s funny that we actually learned a lot about water while making ice, as a result of stretching borders to conquer larger extremes.
SunGlacier is in essence a very close concept cousin to Desert Cascades. From one project we learn a lot about the other project. Both are conceived with the purpose of demonstrating that we need to think in terms of solutions as man always has done – also in adapting to a changing climate. A core message is that if our living conditions change, we can also change our mind set try to shape these changes for our own benefit. For me it is clear that climate change = culture change. I am quite positive that we can generate, even now, an autonomously working waterfall in a desert, and I am confident that the results can somehow inspire new applications for the future. Believe the impossible. The art project ‘Desert Cascades’ is still in a concept phase, but it is too interesting to me to not build it.
It’s ironic that the big ball of fire in the sky that makes one feel thirsty can also power the creation of water over elegantly-sculpted cascades.

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Climate Balloon Theory

A balloon helps explain our climate
As an artist I don’t feel as confined by boundaries of science when considering natural phenomena, because it’s more my purpose to see things in a certain way, rather than to offer concrete explanations and/or solutions.  But with my long-time interest in nature and the radical changes in the Arctic regions, I’ve worked up a simple conclusion:  Earth’s climate laws are comparable to a balloon.
The climate change subject has been thrown into an arena with multiple contestants struggling to advance their own theories. Nobody yet has a 100 percent certain answer if the entire earth is heating up or cooling down, but all participants are sending a similar message: our climate is changing.

The Climate Balloon Theory
"If you press a balloon in one place, consequences are felt elsewhere. A closed system”
The Climate Balloon Model (in complete balance)

One good example of a climate consensus is that the Arctic is heating up, but it is difficult to find a unanimous statement on global changes. In the climate change balloon, if the Arctic is heating up, as a consequence, another part in the world must be cooling down. 
Consider seasons and daylight: as one side of the Earth receives light and heat from the daytime sun, the other side of the planet is cooling down in its night shadow. If the Northern Hemisphere is shivering in winter, the South of our planet is bathing in summer. 

The Earth’s surface is covered with 75% water, but water makes up only 0.02% of the total mass of the planet. Because earth has an atmosphere (like the skin of a balloon) water cannot escape into space. Therefore, we come to this artist’s conclusion that the amount of water on earth will never increase or decrease, regardless of if the earth’s system is in balance or not. Water is the only real constant factor.

A common prediction is that as some parts of the world become dryer, other parts will become wetter. This perfectly fits my climate change balloon model.

Wind and currents (the equalizers)
In the climate change balloon we can learn that if we have great changes in temperature and water balance, there will be a noticeable effect on winds and ocean currents. The air and oceans are the players who control the system: the climate equalizers. Wind and water currents function as the motor of the system’s balance. In the Climate Balloon Theory, these forces are responsible for changes. A change in an ocean’s current has a larger but slower overall impact than its weaker counterpart, air.

Declining sea levels?
Sea levels rise because of some easily-explained factors: 1) increased water temperature = increased water volume 2) the melting of glaciers 3) wind pushes water to the side, or other way around. In my balloon model, the same effects also can occur because of a current that pushes water to or from a continent.

While we know that sea levels are rising in many areas, some data on the NOAA world map caught my attention. I saw dramatic sea level decreases indicated in the Baltic Sea, and it became apparent that water is getting sucked out of those areas. When I consult my balloon model, I see the main streams in the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea becoming more powerful so that they are indeed stealing water straight out of the Baltic Sea!

It makes sense that if sea level rise was only a result of melting glaciers, it would be impossible to explain why some areas are having decreasing sea levels. General consensus essentially states that sea levels worldwide are increasing because of melting glaciers, BUT…..
On some Northern and Southern stations, a sea level decrease is evident. (Alaska and Spitsbergen)

Following my balloon theory and the possibility of greater currents redirecting water flow, other places with few or without stations: Antarctica, Greenland, and many other parts of the Arctic Ocean will experience decreasing sea levels.

But perhaps it’s too ambitious for an artist to create a new theory that sea level rise is mainly driven by the power of changing of currents instead of melting ice caps.

More information on sea levels:

The Climate Balloon is never in balance
In a perfectly balanced climate system, every same calendar day over years would have exactly the same temperature. This, as far as I’ve seen, has never happened. Our climate is changing from year to year. Many factors play an important role:  the sun, planets, the moon, etc. I believe there are more factors involved than we are all are of…

Newton’s third law: “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.” (OK, so if a balloon is squeezed in one place to become smaller, another part of the balloon will react by becoming larger).

To maintain a balance, there must be a dynamic system. It’s a quite complicated process that I think nobody completely understands, and it’s anybody’s guess what long-term climate effects will be.

Our weather is essentially like a slot machine. Too many factors are playing their roles. Looking back into trends of recorded history to hypothesise what the weather/climate will be is like observing patterns of slot machine’s previous results and then pulling the lever armed with only a small probability of knowing the outcome - jackpot.

Somebody squeezed the Balloon: Climate Change!

Climate science is relatively new, and in relation to the earth’s age, we are just recovering from an ice age. Our equalizers helped create a balance, but now signs are pointing to a new era: Climate Change. I see the situation as climate changing at unprecedented (and yet unknown) speed and intensity.  A result is more extreme climate conditions.

I have seen the Arctic with melting glaciers around me, and I have also seen temperatures in the same area at 40C above average. The local Inuit said the changes started in the 1970’s, and every year is becoming more extreme. And likewise, locals in Coast Rica told me that they can’t rely anymore on the rain season: forests are dying from a delicate balance that was disturbed by natural forces that are also at play in the balloon.

And by the way, the message below was posted on the site where I tried to do further research on sea ice:
Maybe I should give them a call to tell them more about my Climate Balloon Theory!

Please feel free to repond:

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

SunGlacier to Poland, IceBerg Riders on VPRO.

Saturday, September 7th, project SunGlacier will be presented in Warsaw, Poland, as a contribution to the PRZE MIANY FESTIWAL. (more information on:

At 4:00 pm the film 'IceBerg Riders' - the start of the SunGlacier Project - will be shown, followed by a complete presentation of the SunGlacier Project.

On Dutch TV channel HollandDoc 24 the film 'IceBerg Riders' will be broadcasted from Saturday September 7th, 10:05 PM and on other days that same week.

Development sponsor of project SunGlacier is

Monday, 19 August 2013

Searching for safe adaptation

An earlier post looked at the extreme tornadoes last May in Oklahoma, and how more storm shelters in homes, schools and businesses could save lives in this area. There’s now such an initiative from parents there who lost their children. Their goal is to ensure that storm shelters are installed in every school in the state.

This kind of movement is sensible in that it’s a very basic and realistic step that has the potential to protect children and adults from storms that have always been likely to come, and now seem to be growing in size and power. The Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore had no storm shelters, and seven children were killed by the F5 tornado there last May 20. There are storm warnings, there are construction capabilities – now there are parents pushing for the common resolve to cut through bureaucracy and financial challenges to adapt to nature with available means, and most likely save the lives of other children in the future.

Adaptation has throughout history required a departure from common notions and routines.  If governments are not providing adequate protection in some areas, it’s up to us to find ways to take care of ourselves. Creative thought can lead to solutions that hold promise of being effective, but people will have to adjust their mindset. Infrastructure and technology that may have offered protection for years might not be the most effective choice moving forward.

So it is up to all of us to continue a positive push to benefit our future lives. Innovation is often considered unusual  – at least until the masses embrace positive results from those who dared to try a different approach.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Unbelievably Positive at TEDx

For anyone wanting to believe the unbelievable, yes, that was me on stage in the video presenting at a TEDx event in Amsterdam earlier this month!

"Extreme weather needs extreme solutions" was my central theme when I had the pleasure of explaining my projects and sharing excerpts from my films. In short, my cool(E)motion project promoted climate awareness, and SunGlacier encourages innovative responses.

It was stimulating to interact and share inspirations with people at the event. The positive atmosphere there was encouraging, and I hope that more people can see the impact of our planet's changes in an urgent AND positive way.

TEDx nicely introduced my philosophy on their website: "Verheggen is an artist who likes to make the impossible possible in a very practical but almost inconceivable way." That is one of my main goals, as simply an artist working to help inspire real people to believe in the unbelievable when searching for real ways to adapt to climate extremes. 

Have a look at the video to join me on a voyage of extreme thinking in the Arctic and the hot desert -- Ap

Monday, 17 June 2013

“Responsible” Now!

The predictability of climate change patterns is like a slot machine. We can only guess exactly what will happen when, where and to what extent.  But one certainty is that everyone will be affected by changes in some way.

(Illustration by Ap)

Scientists can’t yet determine the outcome of our planet’s climate, so we only can respond to what we see now to help us and future generations survive. Adaptation to climate change is about making responsible adjustments to changes around us: rising tides, droughts, fires, floods and so on.
Nature is like our mother in charge, and we are the children. Our planet’s weather is undergoing some kind of extreme mutation, and it’s a bit na├»ve to think we can “push a few buttons” or pass regulations to change conditions back to earlier “normal” times. It’s like trying to hit - Control -  Alt - Delete - to put Earth in reset mode!
A number of think tanks are looking for this “reset” button to stabilize long-term climate conditions. But we urgently need more thinkers who are focused on damage control and adaptation to worst-case scenarios that are already hitting the worst-possible places. With some innovative approaches, maybe we can even find ways to benefit from these changes already taking place.
It's only a matter of standing by until nature strikes again, and then moving into response mode, like with Hurricanes Katrina & Sandy, the Europe floods of 2013, and counting. Responsible investments in adapting human engineering before the storms are less costly than the damage afterward. For example, more aggressive reinforcement of dikes after previous flooding in Germany could have prevented some of the present billions of euros in flood damage.
When facing the great climate change slot machine, we need to focus on more fresh, responsible approaches to benefit our next generations. “Sustainable” programs are welcome initiatives by businesses, governments and NGOs to help make a difference, and let’s take it a step further by ensuring we are taking proactive“Responsible” action that will have a positive impact now and when the next storm comes.     

Friday, 31 May 2013

Living with Uncertain Nature

"Believe the unbelievable: we can find solutions" is the central theme of a SunGlacier TEDx live presentation in Amsterdam on June 12th.  The entire scope of the need to find climate solutions – and what is being done –  is inspiring and unsettling at the same time.

Climate change has reeled our planet in different directions throughout its existence, and many agree that present changes are contributing to weather extremes in the news.  Phillip Muller, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, wrote in a Washington Post editorial today that the Pacific country is in a state of disaster over a shortage of drinking water that has been caused by a prolonged unseasonable drought. Crops have been lost and drought-related diseases are on the rise. Muller stated, "Climate change has become the No. 1 threat to my country and our people."

Moore, Oklahoma. (Jason Colston/American Red Cross)
It’s clear that conditions are changing, but are we actually experiencing more destructive weather?  Or is it just that denser populations over larger areas make bigger targets for extreme weather that is reported more frequently by the media? Spring tornadoes in the U.S. Plains states are not a new phenomenon, but storm chaser videos bring the twisters online and into our living rooms.

Scientists don’t all agree on what’s happening or why. SunGlacier’s purpose is not about answering fundamental questions of why the weather spins the way it does  or who’s to blame. The project is about inspiring belief in out-of-the-ordinary solutions that can help people adapt, survive and prosper.

A simple thought supporting climate change = culture change surfaced recently on social media. There was such an outcry for U.S. gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook school shootings, but why aren’t more people calling for regulations requiring tornado shelters or building codes to save lives after the deadly Oklahoma tornado?  Maybe there will be some changes, but challenges in logistics, budgets and long-time planning methods make it difficult to implement quick solutions.  Innovative ideas such as Kevlar-protected rooms have potential if they can be made widely affordable through initiatives like government incentives. (It's tempting to ponder if these rooms will be equipped with seat belts.) In any case, we can expand these types of responses to strengthening levies in flood-prone areas, finding alternative fresh-water sources, ensuring use of the best available weather warning systems and so on.

(UPDATE: Another massive tornado hit a suburb west of Oklahoma City just hours after this blog was posted, killing 18, including three storm chasers.  The F5 twister was the widest tornado ever recorded at 4.2 km, or 2.6 miles, across.)

Moore, Oklahoma. (Jason Colston/American Red Cross)
Science is of course not close to being able to prevent tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts. We can, however, take steps in adapting to conditions, while still investing in long-term solutions that at least contain hope of keeping current conditions form getting worse. Phillip Muller wrote, “The Republic of the Marshall Islands is accelerating its transition to low-carbon development, using solar power and exploring promising ocean-energy technologies. But our efforts will put only a tiny dent in this problem.”

SunGlacier aims to make ice in a hot, dry desert: an artwork that pushes the limits of technology and conventional thinking. We’ve already tested successfully in a closed setting, but there are uncertainties and new questions when building the structure in open air. The only way to find any answers to this project  and our planet   is through applied experience and creative plans to continue to adjust and adapt.  

Nature’s laws are so complex and unpredictable that we will never find all the answers why our planet's climate conditions exist, but we still must respond with our best efforts.  Like the SunGlacier project, we only can think about succeeding when we understand that we have to cope with extremities.

And looking toward next month and the TEDx presentation, most people in the Netherlands probably won't miss this month of May that's about to go in the colder-than-normal weather records.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Why Are We Freezing in the Desert?

When working on a project as challenging and unusual as building a glacier in the desert, it’s important to be able to answer core questions: Why we are doing this? What can be gained?

We are not concerned with debating why the Earth’s climate is changing; for SunGlacier it's important to focus on the fact that our climate is changing and that man needs to adapt. A recent report stated that all 12 years so far of the 21st century rank among the 14 warmest of 133 years on record. And more frequent extreme and erratic weather events are getting the attention of even the skeptics. Australia is on a roller coaster of droughts, floods and fires. Hurricane Sandy left a new kind of footprint on New York. Record temperatures are baking, and then freezing populations in a number of regions. The list goes on and wraps itself around the world. Environmentalist Al Gore made his best comment yet last month on NBC, “These storms – it’s like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation on the news every day now. People are connecting the dots.”

So, what is the answer to why we are here?  We want to put human faces on change, adaptation and a positive continuation of life – instead of using cuddly animals (a kind of “Bambification") to tell the story. Yes, seals in Greenland are becoming thinner and losing their hair, but hunters and fishermen there are adjusting their methods of survival to adapt to changing ice conditions, sea temperatures and tides. Art projects like SunGlacier can help bring more attention to how people are adapting their most basic ways of supporting life, and hopefully inspire thinking outside of comfort zones to inspire solutions that can carry us more than 100 years into the future. Changes in the Arctic may seem far away until they creep – as they are doing already – into backyards, farms and forests of Europe and the Americas.

SunGlacier aims to challenge people to look beyond the scientific data, beyond the debate about greenhouse gases and carbon footprints, and beyond the politics of what countries practice “effective” environmental standards. These issues of course need to be addressed to mitigate future effects, but our immediate concern is on adaptation. Let’s move away from the naming, blaming and shaming about climate change, but rather find ways how we as people can continue to thrive on our planet – as we have always done in the past. Barack Obama said at his inauguration that failure to respond to climate change “would betray our children and future generations.”

Building a glacier in the desert is a relatively small thing compared to the new kinds of thought that can be inspired as a result. Scientists, artists, government leaders and all corners of the general public need to spend more time and resources on finding collective ways to bring benefits from what is already upon us. In other words, embrace the enemy when possible instead of spilling energy fighting against it. It’s not a far stretch to see where we stand in the title of a classic rock song “Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day.”

It’s fascinating, art as a medium to reach people and draw them into an important exchange of ideas.

Let’s keep it going.

Ap Verheggen