In the 1970’s, Georges Mougin was laughed at when he suggested that we should start towing icebergs from the polar ice caps to drought-ridden communities around the world to provide sources of fresh drinking water. Now, thanks to complex computer modeling, Mougin’s idea has been proven feasible — and he’s currently trying to raise money to make it a reality. The project will cost a whopping $10 million to tow a 30 million ton iceberg from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands. Beyond the monetary expense, we can’t help but think of all the fuel needed to move such an immense mass of ice – and we certainly don’t think this is the best way to provide clean drinking water to drought affected people.
Nearly 1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water and nearly 2.5 billion don’t have access to a water filtration system. Originally, Mougin was told his idea was akin to the movie moment where Superman throws an iceberg onto a fire to put it out — impossible in real life but feasible in our dreams. Now that he’s been proven right, there are a lot more factors to think about than just whether or not this idea can be followed through.
The environmental impact of the emissions from the tug boat (which would take five months to complete its journey), the fact that we’re actually trying to get our ice caps not to melt and the monetary costs of the undertaking are all good places to start when talking about why this might be a bad idea. The mission will also be extremely inefficient since the iceberg is set to lose about 38% of its mass to melt on its five month journey, making it necessary to find a gigantic iceberg to start off with (so that you’ve still got something when you’ve finished). Another issue that Mougin and his team have not solved is how to deliver the fresh water from the iceberg to the people in need once it arrives in the Canary Islands. The money for the delivery system has not yet been tallied into the total cost and is sure to be not only a burden to execute but will most definitely hike up the price of the project. Not to mention the fact that towing an iceberg to communities in Africa in need of water is much like putting a disappearing band-aid on a chain saw wound.
Instead, we see more value in giving that precious $10 million to people like 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner Allan Savory and Operation Hope, who are actually solving the desertification problems in Africa with low-cost, whole-systems thinking or shelling those dollars out to the Singapore based company memsys which is already providing fresh water in the Canary Islands through their solar-powered shipping container desalination units. We all like to dream but when making your dreams a reality one must think about the full-system effects of the execution.