Whereas SunGlacier produces ice from water vapor, Desert Cascades creates a cascading waterfall. Still in its conceptual phase, this art project proposes a self-powering cube of solar panels that collects water vapor from humidity in the air.
Technology like this is easily deployed in Arabian Gulf countries such as Abu Dhabi, where humidity levels hover – on average – around 70 percent.
Like the SunGlacier, which sounds improbable at first but has proved its potential through a simulated desert environment inside a shipping container, the Desert Cascades project aims to encourage other artists, designers and scientists to stretch their imagination when it comes to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems.
“Developments in technology are ever increasing in speed,” writes Ap Verheggen, the Dutch artist who continues to develop fascinating answers to the problem of water shortages in arid environments. Dutch artists love to dream big. Remember Theo Jansen and Strandbeest, the sculptures who come to life by walking with the wind.
“What appears impossible at the present can quickly become a reality within a number of months or a few short years.”
Verheggen trusts that solar technology has progressed at a considerable pace, and hopes to inspire people to use these technologies in new, inventive ways. A waterfall gushing in the middle of the desert, in other words, can open people’s eyes to previously unexplored possibilities.
Ambitious, yes. Slightly unrealistic? Perhaps. And Verheggen is honest about this.
“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,” he says.
Despite the challenges presented by his wild thinking, he remains undaunted.
Referencing both SunGlacier and Desert Cascades, the UNESCO-IHE ambassador writes, “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.”
He added that in order to adapt to a changing climate, we also need to rewire our mind set.
“For me it is clear that climate change = culture change.”