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How to grow a glacier - M Jackson

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In the 13th century, Genghis Khan embarked on a mission to take over Eurasia, swiftly conquering countries and drawing them into his empire. But, legend has it that there was one obstacle that even he couldn’t overcome: a towering wall of ice, grown by locals across a mountain pass. M Jackson explores the ancient methods of growing glaciers and how they can be used to combat climate change.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator M Jackson
  • Director Igor Coric
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Nemanja Petrovic
  • Illustrator Jelena Vasiljevic
  • Producer Milica Lapcevic
  • Sound Designer Saso Puckovski
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
Additional Resources for you to Explore
We are only recently starting to critically examine how people have interacted with glaciers in the past and present. Such information helps us understand both what happens to people as glaciers worldwide disappear, and how human communities worldwide have adapted to living with exceptionally dynamic environments.

People and Ice Worldwide
To learn more about people and glaciers in different parts of the world, researcher Dr. M Jackson has worked for decades to make visible the complex connections between people and ice. In Alaska, Jackson wove together the parallel glacier stories of what happens when the climates of a family and a planet change in her book While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change. In Iceland, documented in Jackson’s book The Secret Lives of Glaciers, instead of creating another catalog of the ice the world is losing, Jackson explored what we may yet find with glaciers: the hopeful possibility of saving humanity's glaciers… and ourselves.

More and more people are exploring people and ice in fascinating ways. Geographer Kenneth Hewitt researched mountain people and glaciers in the Himalaya, Karakoram, and other places, describing many complex ways glaciers flowed into community life. National Geographic photographer James Balog teamed up with director Jeff Orlowski to make the award-winning documentary film Chasing Ice, which follows Balog’s journey to photograph many of the world’s changing glaciers. And artist Klaus Thyman created an artists’ collaborative charity called Project Pressure, “dedicated to documenting the world’s vanishing glaciers in order to highlight the impact of climate change, inspiring action and participation.”

Artificial Glacier Design
Professor of architecture Carey Clouse thinks that artificial glaciers are one of many exciting ways to think about climate change adaptation technologies. Clouse examined artificial glacier design in the Himalaya, and argued that while not a learn term solution, artificial glaciers are an excellent short-term solution for water scarcity issues. Clouse demonstrated many different models of infrastructure used by local people to make artificial glaciers.

Gender and Glaciers
Norwegian researcher Ingvar Nørstegård Tveiten wrote her master’s thesis, Glacier Growing- A local response to Water Scarcity in Baltistan and Gilgit, Pakistan, on local glacier growers and artificial glacier construction. She noted that “Vital to the local understanding of ice and glaciers are the categories of ‘female ice’ and ‘male ice’… That glaciers are viewed as animate is crucial, since in order to grow a glacier one needs to ‘marry’ a female and a male glacier. Explanations of what distinguishes a female glacier from a male glacier emphasized that a ‘female glacier’ is a glacier that is growing and giving off a lot of water. Some added that it has a white or bluish colour. A ‘male glacier’, on the other hand, was characterized as giving little water, moving slowly; and was by some referred to as being black, covered in soil and rocks… All of the people I interviewed about glacier growing in Gilgit and Baltistan agreed that a combination of female and male ice was absolutely necessary to procure the success of the glacier growing.”

For more information on glaciers, check out the educator's blog post here and interview here

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator M Jackson
  • Director Igor Coric
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Nemanja Petrovic
  • Illustrator Jelena Vasiljevic
  • Producer Milica Lapcevic
  • Sound Designer Saso Puckovski
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez