Tibet or Climate?

According to this article in the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza, the case of fighting global warming has another prominent supporter – Tenzing Gyatso, the 14. Dalai Lama. He is told to have explained an American diplomat that while Tibet’s independence from China can wait, climate change won’t.

According to the article, in Tibet the consequences of anthropogenic climate change are particularly profound – along with other environmental issues. While the country was environmentally “untouched” until the 1950’s, since Tibet became a part of China its ecosystems has been severely stressed since then through building dams, mining and industry. (These activities stand in opposition to the Buddhist world view.)

China is the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases on an absolute basis (though it still emits fairly little on a per capita basis). At the same time, Tibet’s ecosystems belong to those most exposed to global warming. Its huge snow and ice cover is in danger of melting away (according to the Chinese Science Academy, there has been a 17% cover loss over last 30 years) – while it is the main source of freshwater in China and India, the two most populous countries in the world.

For these reasons the Dalai Lama is told to concentrate on the global fight against climate change, instead of the political fight for Tibet’s independence. He is planning to cede his political power after the Tibetans choose a new prime minister in March. This could be a good news for the global movement against climate change – it is going to gain another strong personality and moral authority for its case.

At the same time, the decision to concentrate on a new struggle may be an expression of Dalai Lama’s rising disillusionment with his “middle way” policy towards China, which has become more and more unpopular among especially young Tibetans and haven’t brought meaningful effects so far.


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