Collected by Sofia Stril-Rever
Translated by Charlotte Mandell
I am really surprised that the book was originally published in French in 2009. It was only translated in English in 2010.
Much has been said about the stories between Tibet and China, China’s invsaion of Tibet in 1950 and the atrocities done. There is a lot on the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way. However, the portion that hit me most was when the Dalai Lama talked about taking care of the earth and each person’s ecological responsibility.
The Dalai Lama remembers his childhood fascination with different animals, especially the ones he saw. The Tibertan government officially protected animal life, posting proclaimations every year declaring that “rich or poor, no one may harm or do violence to the creatures of the land and water.” But since the Chinese occupation, development of the land and hunting and fishing have steadily reduced the presence of wildlife. Animals have been hunted for their fur, their hide, their wool, and their organs, and many species are now extinct or endangered.
Large scale deforestation in Tibet is distressing. It is not just regretable for the natural sites that have lost their beauty, but also for the inhabitants who find it hard to find wood to heat their houses.
The majority of Tibet comprises arid zones at high altitudes. Thus the earth there needs more time to renew itself than in lower-altitude regions with a humid climate. Negative effects are felt for a longer period of time. Moreover, the rivers that irrigate most of Asia, including Pakistan, India, China, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia – the Yellow River, the Brahmaputra, the Yangtze, the Salween and the Mekong – all originate in Tibet. Pollution of the rivers has catastrophic repercussions for the countries downstream. Yet it is at their source that both widespread deforestation and drilling for mines are occuring.
The subsoil of the high Tibetan plateau is rich in minerals, which are many and diverse. This abundance of mining resources was one of the main reasons for the Chinese invasion of Tibet. When these resources were discovered, the Chinese exploited them intensively, taking no protective measures for the environment so that deforestation and mining sites are causing more and more floods in the lowlands of Tibet. When I read this portion of the book, it reminds me of the unethical behavior of Chinese businesses that sell tainted milk to the public.
Far from putting a stop to these practices, Chinese industralists are trying to increase them by attracting foreign investors. The Tibetans who had the courage to protect the destruction of the environment were rewarded with torture and long prison sentences.
The lives of 6 million Tibetans are in grave danger because of pollution. Children are already suffering from diseases linked to air pollution. There is an immense amount of suffering and anguish that isn’t heard about abroad but is confined to the secrecy of humble homes.
See the video below in which Dalai Lama urges China to save Tibet’s glaciers. He thinks that the environment issues are getting more pressing than political solutions between Tibet and China.