LIFE IS EASIER IF YOU DON'T SPEAK UP
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela take time off—in these images created by the Danish agency Unkle. The images ran in Denmark's largest-selling newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, as a way of provoking discussion—later appearing in the website: theinspirationroom/daily/.
SKIING IN THE HIMALAYAS? Unheard of in Tibet, but possible in northern India—for now. Not clear what will happen in 20 years if the Himalayan snowpack disappears. Surfing in South Africa? Yes, but might get tricky if sea levels rise—might be surfing past skyscrapers in Jo'berg.
What to do? There are looming climate change problems that are going to be hard to stop or reverse. Nature doesn't do bailouts. But something can certainly be done to minimise or stall the human interference factors that are compounding water-stress problems in Asia. That all goes back to Tibet—to the building of large dams and to the damage cause by pollution of rivers due to mining—and due to dumping of toxic waste.
The fate of billions of people in Asia depends on access to clean water—and access to the huge volume of nutrient-rich silt that the rivers carry along from Himalayan peaks to the sea. And access to the migrating fish species in these rivers. Campaign to keep the rivers sourced in Tibet free-flowing. Not strangled by dams. Not diverted for mining and industry. And free from pollution. Rivers have rights: they have the right to flow to the sea. And they have the right to remain pristine.
US-based organisation that campaigns to save rivers worldwide and stop dams; features a China campaign section
Canadian group that campaigns to stop foreign companies mining in Tibet
run by studentsforafreetibet.org
US-based, focuses on human rights in Tibet; a number of branches in Europe
a recent Amnesty campaign targets the global right to clean water, being pursued at the UN. There are several aspects relating to the rights of indigenous peoples. One is the right to access clean drinking water—water that is not tainted by toxic pollutants generated by companies bent on mining or oil exploitation. Another human rights problem concerns diversion of traditional water resources away from indigenous peoples to serve industrial uses and/or large cities. The rights of Tibetan nomads have been clearly violated in both cases.
Group that pushes for the right to clean water, on a worldwide basis. There are chapters in China. In view of climate change and the damming of Tibet's rivers, Waterkeeper is floating the idea of a Himalayan Rivers Treaty campaign.
A site devoted to letting the rivers go free—in Burma, at least, where rivers are held hostage to China's engineering whims.
Incentive backed by some 170 members of the International Tibet Support Network (www.tibetnetwork.org), advocating fundamental human rights of Tibetans to environmental self-determination, as they seek to adapt to climate change.
The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Women's Association is active in a number of campaign areas, including the environment and nomad rights.
Dharamsala-based site: Tibet Nature Environmental Conservation Network, with some unique Tibetan takes on the environment
Yaktivists at Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, December 2009—one of the first major protests by Tibetan groups focusing on climate change and environmental damage in Tibet
Become a “yaktivist” and lobby to keep Tibet's rivers free flowing and free from pollution. Calling all water warriors! These ailing rivers desperately need your help.
World Wildlife Day
Staged annually on March 3, this day celebrates biodiversity—drawing attention to the many beautiful plants and animals that share our planet, and which are vital for humanity's well-being. The Tibetan plateau has wildlife found nowhere else in the world, and a host of high-altitude medicinal plants.
International Day of Action for Rivers
Held annually on March 14; hosted by NGO International Rivers. You can look at a world map to find local activists and activities anywhere from India to Thailand. Spinning off from this, find a Tibet group or create one yourself to celebrate Tibet Rivers Day, on March 10. www.internationalrivers.org/international-day-of-action-for-rivers/
Celebrated worldwide on April 22 each year, Earth Day raises awareness about the environment. Eco-activists see this day as an opportunity to focus on urgent issues and problems: Tibet presents a raft of urgent environmental issues. www.earthday.org
International Day for Biological Diversity
Held annually on May 22. “Biodiversity” is a word coined by Edward Wilson—who has started up the Half-Earth Initiative, trying to set aside 50 percent of the world so that nature can recuperate, species can thrive, and biodiversity can flourish. www.un.org/en/events/biodiversityday/
World Environment Day
Staged annually on June 5—encourages worldwide awareness and action for the environment www.unep.org/wed/
World Refugee Day
Staged annually on June 20, hosted by the UN. War is not the only catastrophe that results in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing their homelands. Climate change and environmental disaster are the cause of tens of thousands being displaced in their desperate search for food and water security. www.un.org/en/events/refugeeday/
International Mangrove Day
July 26 is a day devoted to the conservation of the mangrove ecosystem. It was inaugurated by UNESCO in 2016. Why, you may wonder, do mangroves get their own special day? Because they are a truly unique and sadly endangered form of ecosystem. These miraculous plants survive in conditions that other plant-life cannot. They protect the coastline from tidal surges and other calamities. They are home to a massive diversity of wildlife.
International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
Held annually on August 9. Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to the environment. Their stewardship could prove essential to the survival of the planet—and that includes the knowledge of Tibetan nomads. www.un.org/en/events/indigenousday/
World Rivers Day
Held on the last Sunday of September, a Canadian-based initiative that strives to encourage public awareness and encourages improved stewardship of all the rivers around the world. www.worldriversday.com
World Food Day
Celebrated every year on October 16 in honour or the founding of the UN FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization) in 1945. Today, World Food Day focuses on the issues of hunger, and on small-scale farmers lifting themselves out of poverty. Tibet's rivers are the lifeline of Asia for agriculture and also for fishing. www.fao.org
India Rivers Day
This is staged on November 25. The rivers of India are in crisis mode. This initiative actually kicks off India Rivers Week, organized in Delhi by a consortium of NGOs including Toxic Links, and the Peace Institute. Awards are presented for exemplary work on river conservation and for media work on rivers.
World Soil Day
Staged annually on December 5. Humans have diminished soil—Earth’s thin “skin”—to less than half of what it used to be a hundred years ago. www.fao.org/world-soil-day/en/
Human Rights Day
Annually on December 10, commemorating the December 10, 1948 proclamation in Paris of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. December 10 is also the day, in 1989, that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to HH Dalai Lama in Oslo, Norway.
Tibetan design for Earth Hour, 2012
(energy conservation initiative),
with yak-butter lamp inside lightbulb
An environmentally-themed contest—Beauty with a Cause
Held annually in October, November or December, the Miss Earth pageant is based in the Philippines. It was launched in 2001 by the Miss Earth Foundation as an international environmental event—with the mission of being an effective tool to actively promote the preservation of the environment. The pageant draws 100 or more contestants from around the globe—including, in past contests, women from Afghanistan and Cuba.
The Miss Earth winner is the spokesperson for the Miss Earth Foundation, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other environmental organizations. The Miss Earth Foundation also works with the environmental departments and ministries of participating countries, various private sectors and corporations, as well as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation. The reigning titleholders dedicate their year to promoting specific projects and addressing environmental issues through school tours, tree-planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean-ups, speaking engagements, and so on. One issue they get involved in is eco-fashion shows. In November 2008, the first Miss Earth Eco-Fashion Design Competition was launched by the Miss Earth Foundation as an annual event for fashion designers to come up with designs that are eco-friendly. The outfit designs are made from recyclable, natural materials, organic materials, and eco-chic designs or patterns that can be worn in everyday life or are runway worthy.
In 2007, the Miss Earth pageant made history when delegates from China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Tibet competed altogether for the first time in any international pageant. The most outspoken Tibetan contestant is Tsering Chungtak, who competed in Miss Earth 2006. The first Tibetan to represent Tibet in any major international beauty pageant, she made headlines when she raised international attention regarding the Tibetan struggle for freedom. She also advocated for the boundaries of acceptable social etiquette towards modernity, in a traditionally conservative Tibetan culture, where most grown women wear ankle-length dresses. She made more headlines in December 2007 when she withdrew her participation in the Miss Tourism contest, a minor international beauty pageant held in Malaysia, after organizers reacted to pressure from Beijing and asked her to add "China" to her "Miss Tibet" title by wearing a sash labeled "Miss Tibet-China.”
Himalayan Climate & Water Atlas — Researched by ICIMOD, this set of maps and infographics details the impact of climate change on water resources in five of Asia's major river basins.
State of the World's Rivers. The NGO International Rivers hosts a fantastic interactive data-base on the world's great river basins. Of the ten basins initially given prominence, four originate from the Tibetan plateau. And yes, those purple dots you see in the map screenshot are operational dams within China.
Environmental Justice Atlas: very good coverage for India, but comes up short on China, and very short for Tibet. Strategists, activist organizers, scholars, and teachers will find many uses for the database, as well as people wanting to learn more about off-the-radar conflicts taking place.
Basic Dam Impacts—explore the components of healthy rivers and what happens when a dam is built at this interactive website
Can you survive a day as a farmer in Asia, dealing with water shortages? This water survival interactive game is part of The Water Project, a brief investigation of drinking water in Asia by Radio Free Asia with photos, video, links to news stories.
COOL LINKS FOR TIBET
See short documentaries about nomads and grasslands, about mining in Tibet, and about the devastation of ecosystems of Tibet.
Tashi's Blog—run by Tashi Tsering, a Tibetan expert studying the impact of climate change on Himalayan water resources
Tibet Environmental Watch: news reports about Tibet's environment can be accessed from this California-based site. Has a number of satellite and themed maps.
get up close and personal with the mighty rivers of the Tibetan Plateau—scare the heck out of yourself with rafting and kayaking sorties organised by Griffon in Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. This site has cool photos. Some sub-zero photos too.
watch a one-minute clip about retreating glaciers in Alaska, from the movie Chasing Ice
PLANET IN TROUBLE
the future? It is slipping away, one huge chunk of ice at a time: you can see it happening on this extraordinary site. There is a documentary about the project called 'Chasing Ice': see www.chasingice.com.
reporting on the global water crisis, this superb site is backed by water expert Peter Gleick, who runs the Pacific Institute
The Blue Planet Project is an international civil society movement begun by The Council of Canadians to protect the world's fresh water from the growing threats of trade and privatization. The project was founded by leading water activist Maude Barlow.
Trailer for the brilliant climate-change film, HOME, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. From here you can find the HD version of the entire movie on YouTube, which lasts an hour and a half. Mesmerising aerial cinematography captures a planet in deep trouble.
In Calcutta, a city of 16 million, water resources are limited. Every morning, in poorer parts of Calcutta, municipal water-trucks drive out to deliver water to residents. The water is transferred by hoses into plastic containers.
A rare victory for Tibetans from the region of Dzatoe, in Amdo. They managed to prevent a Chinese mining company from moving in and exploiting their land. Comic strip created by Tibet Action Institute, NY. Click to enlarge.