Tibet: For whom does the bell toll?

Laden Tshering Samdup

Laden Tshering Samdup

By Laden Tshering Samdup

KATHMANDU, Nepa, 30 September 2016

Sages of yore in their infinite wisdom considered the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau the Abode of the Gods, a place worthy of pilgrimage. We ordinary mortals steeped in science and technology and passionately enamored with the materialistic world paid scant attention to religion and the messages the holy sages tried to convey to us. Today we face the prospect of paying a heavy price for our negligence, and our very survival is at stake.

After the desecration of Hindustan by Central Asian hordes in the 12th-16th centuries, the sages and their wisdom made Tibet their last stand. Tibetans proved themselves to be worthy and ardent patrons, allowing their wisdoms to guide their very lifestyle. For thousands of years, generations of Tibetans chose to suffer the hardships of life in the Himalayas, but to never disturb Mother Nature and the environment. Two billion people living downstream of the great holy rivers that emanated from Tibet were the beneficiaries of the Tibetans’ loving-kindness and compassion for nature.

Evil reared its head again in the mid-20th century, this time in the form of China and communism, and the peace-loving, religious Tibetans were helpless before their onslaught. Through a fabrication of lies China made Tibet their own, and applying their economic power they made the rest of the world succumb to their falsehood.

In Tibet they gave full vent to their lust for money and materials. The pristine air of the Himalayas changed to dark and hideous industrial smog. Serene nomadic grasslands were scarred with hundreds of mines extracting gold, copper, coal, lithium. Freshwater rivers became drainage for mining and industrial sludge. Deforestation laid the country bare. Railway lines and roads disfigured the countryside. Tibet’s climate and environment have taken heavy beatings. Tibet’s glaciers are melting, permafrost decreasing and warming accentuated.

The day of reckoning is here for the rest of the world. China is doing the dance of death in Shangri la, or ‘paradise on earth’, which could lead mankind to extinction — but they pass it off as development, prosperity, and industrialization. The recent inexplicable world’s biggest avalanche of ice in the Tibetan plateau is the death throes of Mother Earth. The rest of the world are now gradually beginning to realize the folly of their submission to the Chinese designs, allowing the Chinese to chase the Tibetans from their homeland, and subjugate and decimate them and their religion and culture which had been refined over the years for environment protection.

Tibet is considered the third pole after Arctic and Antarctica due to its concentration of over 40,000 fresh-water glaciers. But today these glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate as a result of hectic industrial, mining, and infrastructure activities of the Chinese. The rate is estimated at 7% per annum, and two-thirds of the glaciers are expected to be gone as early as 2050. The livelihoods of forty-six percent of the world population living in China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, dependent on the rivers that have their headwaters in Tibet, is imperiled. With the glaciers gone, there will be apocalypse in these areas.

Surprisingly, the Chinese government ignores these terrible warning signs and is doing monkey business with the dying rivers. It’s committing infanticide of these rivers at the very place of their birth, damming their natural courses to produce hydro electricity. It tinkers with the dams to placate political pressures of nations downstream. Its latest and most astounding game bid is its water politics with India with the holy rivers of the Brahmaputra, Indus, and Ganges to protect terrorist organisations in Pakistan. Many are of the opinion that the Tibetan plateau could be the flashpoint of a war whose inferno would suck in the rest of the world.

Tibet’s permafrost stores about 12,300 million tons, 1/3, of the world’s soil carbon. About 10% of this permafrost has already shrunk in the past decade alone, the biggest contributing factor being the infrastructures such as the railways and roads built by the Chinese. Its continuous degradation would lead to huge amount of carbon being released to the atmosphere, adding significantly to global warming and climate change and hastening the process of making this earth uninhabitable by humans.

The thinning of ice leads to warmer climate in Tibet. The rate at which the temperature is rising in Tibet is approximated at 0.3 degree Celsius per decade. In the last five decades the temperature has risen by 1.3 degree Celsius — three times the global average. Unfortunately for Europe and Northeast Asia, Tibet’s warming has been linked to heat waves in these areas. Scientists are now examining whether similar linkages exist with the climate change in North America.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s lonely trudge to truth, and a handful of Tibetans demonstrating here and there, are therefore not to be dismissed simply as a disgruntled group agitating for their own human rights or self-determination or independence or autonomy. They fight for the much nobler objective of survival of mankind, which is feasible only if they are enabled to take over their land, Tibet, and allowed to care for it in the same way they have done for centuries. Their fight therefore is a fight for you and your posterity’s survival on this earth, a fight worthy of your unstinting support.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. … any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”
    — John Donne, metaphysical English poet

About the author

Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman, living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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