Engineering Nature-Based Buffers to Address Climate Change and Water Scarcity in the Andes

Ethnographic research helps us to better understand the challenges of climate engineering and the way Chilean engineers plan to build artificial glaciers (ice stupas) upon Himalayan-based technology to adapt it to a mega-drought stricken Andean environment. This project combines artificial intelligence (remote sensors, drone observation, dome constructions, etc.) with the more ancestral and popular practices developed in Ladakh where local communities live higher up in the mountains in closer proximity to glaciers, and also collectively manage the artificial glaciers. Beyond understanding the innovations developed in this south-to-south technology transfer, this research situates the engineering of ice stupas within their social and political-economic contexts as possible sustainable alternatives to dam construction.

Grant Result

In vast arid and semi-arid regions of the world, the meltwater originating from the cryosphere represents a life-sustaining water source. One adaptive strategy, transferred from the Indian Himalayas to the Chilean Andes, may help alleviate glacier loss and drought.

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Kristina Lyons

Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Kristina Lyons is an assistant professor of anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) at the University of Pennsylvania.