China’s occupation of Tibet is causing environmental disasters in Tibet (Dr Lobsang Yangtso)

Dharamsala — “The Chinese occupation of Tibet is at the root of climate or environmental mismanagement in Tibet. We have witnessed many disasters and environmental problems in Tibet, such as melting glaciers. Tibet is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the world, which will have an impact on water, 1.4 billion people in Asia depend on water flowing from Tibet,” said Dr Lobsang Yangtso, Earth Day.

To celebrate Earth Day, the Buddhist Center of London and the International Tibet Network (ITN) hosted a discussion on Tibet’s environment, spiritual connection to conservation and ways to take action on 22 April 2022 , entitled “The climate crisis facing Tibet”. . The speakers were Dr. Lobsang Yangtso, environmental researcher and ITN coordinator, and Rashi Jauhri, ITN campaigns coordinator. The webinar was moderated by Kunsang Kelden, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at the Buddhist Center.

The event was organized to raise awareness of the impact of global warming on the Tibetan plateau, which has led to the melting of the Himalayan glaciers. The discussion also focused on Tibet’s historical and cultural links with environmental conservation and spirituality through Buddhism.

Dr Lobsang started the discussion by saying, “When we talk about Tibet, I think it is essential for everyone to know that first of all Tibet is under occupation and we also need to understand that the Chinese occupation of Tibet is the root cause. mismanagement of the climate or the environment in Tibet. Due to climate change and human activities or Chinese government policy, we see and have witnessed a lot of environmental disasters and environmental issues in Tibet, such as melting glaciers or melting permafrost, then the degradation of grasslands as well. When we look at why Tibet is facing this kind of problem, it is that, firstly, Tibet is also the frontline of the global climate crisis, which means that compared to the global average temperature, Tibet is heats up two to three times faster than the rest. of the world. And because of this warming, the glaciers are melting, very quickly and drastically, which will have an impact on the water, the river sources that flow from Tibet to the downstream nations. She added that nearly 1.4 billion Asian people depend on the water flowing from Tibet.

“As far as Tibet is concerned, the real problem is that if we look at the global climate talks, Tibetans are officially not represented in the UN climate talks. Thus, Tibetans are also ignored in the development and implementation of climate policies. We are not part of the whole global discussion. It’s very difficult and challenging, but I think that today, being Earth Day, everyone has a responsibility, first and foremost, to raise awareness about the climate crisis in Tibet. Educating yourself is really important,” she said and suggested that simple things like conserving water and planting trees are things everyone can do to protect the environment and the environment. climate change.

Furthermore, the activist exclaimed that there must be collaboration on research to bring about substantial change, as “local Tibetans are excluded from climate policy-making, traditional knowledge or traditional practices of protection and conservation of the environment are totally ignored in the field of climate change, policy making, etc. She added.

“When it comes to climate justice or people who work for climate, conservationists and environmentalists in Tibet – when they come out to talk about climate change, they end up in jail and are politicized by the Chinese government. They therefore face many difficult situations, not only for themselves but also for their family members.” She said that this becomes an additional burden for climate activists who embrace the cause of Tibet.

On the interdependence of environment and spirituality, she said, “Religion and Buddhism have also really influenced environmental conservation and their practices. The practice of environmental protection or the practice of environmental conservation has always been within the Tibetan community historically.

Rashi spoke about ongoing campaigns at ITN and with Tibet, Third Pole, Climate Crisis in Tibet. She noted that groups around the world are prioritizing the climate crisis in Tibet this year, with COP 27 to be held in Egypt, in an effort to raise awareness of the climate crisis in occupied Tibet. The aim is to ensure that Tibetan voices highlight the importance of the climate crisis narrative.

Agreeing with Dr Lobsang, she said: “The Chinese authorities have resettled around 2 million nomads over the past two years. These Tibetan nomads have lived on the grasslands for millennia and are a proud and resilient people. This also has an impact on the biodiversity of the region. And if the Chinese authorities have done this, it is to build national parks and reserves, it is to glorify the landscape for Chinese tourists.

The discussion focused on the history of conservation in Tibet. Dr Lobsang explained the belief in sanctity associated with nature and added: “It is a belief system that has existed for thousands of years and is influenced by both the Bon religion and Buddhism. When we are talking about sacred mountains or rivers, we mean that these mountains and rivers are not there to be exploited. This is what is happening in Tibet now. And so, every year, Tibetans, during the days auspicious or during tibetan new year tibetans go up to the mountain and worship them.but hey now what is really happening is because of chinese laws tourists go up there and pollute. remembers visiting his hometown in Tibet and witnessing the amount of trash thrown into the river.

She explained that under the 13th Dalai Lama, Tibet had government policies on environmental protection in the Tibetan language. She added that during the month of Saka Dawa, which is an auspicious month for Buddhism, people are careful not to go to the mountains and pollute. She also contradicted the Chinese thought that the nomads are the cause of the destruction of the environment or the grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, emphasizing the nomadic way of life close to nature. She also criticized top-down policies that disregard grassroots input, stressing the importance of involving Tibetans in global environmental discussions.

The conversation also pointed out that in the case of an occupied region like Tibet, climate action is political action. Therefore, the speakers reiterated that it is very important for young people to be interested and involved in environmental issues. She cited the case of India as an example and explained how the water of the Brahmaputra River is affected. She added, “I think the downstream countries like Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are also affected and facing a critical situation because of the water flowing from the Tibetan rivers, China is building mega dams on the rivers. So I think the downstream nations should have a conversation with the Chinese government and then hold China accountable for what they are doing and let them sign a water treaty or agreement with the downstream nations.”

The conversation ended with a list of individual actions we can take to raise awareness of the Tibetan crisis and ended with a recorded message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama about conserving the planet and wishing for a better future.

Michael A. Bynum