5th – 9th June -Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Day Two began with a science tutorial by Dekila Chungyalpa, the conference facilitator, for the gathered monks and nuns on different biological cycles such as the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, and the water cycle. In such a complex system, the depletion or over-production of one element could lead to imbalances which compromised the survival of other parts of the system. When whole earth systems such as the water cycle or the nitrogen cycle are disrupted, the consequences for ecosystems and biodiversity were immense, she said. This underscored the importance for seeing the world as one system and recognizing our own ability to affect each other at different ends of the planet.
Bringing the environmental concern to a local level, the second presentation was delivered by Jigme Norbu from the Environment and Development Desk of DIIR, and covered the environmental threats currently facing the Tibetan Plateau, driven by both climate change and man-made environmental degradation. These included glacial meltdown, contraction of wetlands and lakes, degradation of Permafrost layers and release of greenhouse gases, droughts, changes in the flow of the major rivers which supply water to Asia, degradation of grasslands and destruction of traditional nomadic lifestyle, and extraction of resources by mining and deforestation.
In order to engage the audience, the third presenter, Abdesh Gangwar from the Center for Environmental Education, an Indian NGO, used a game to enliven the energy of the room and organized the participants into a standing circle. He skilfully demonstrated the web of life and gave a practical demonstration of how all parts of an ecosystem are interconnected by identifying each participant as a component and asking them to thread their connection to each other. The basic message of the game was to demonstrate that we depend on many unnoticed and unvalued elements, processes, and species for our survival. By protecting biodiversity we protect our own futures.
The final presentation of the day was by Tenzing Norsang from the Wildlife Trust of India, who gave an impassioned talk about the importance of endangered species such as the tigers, snow leopards, Tibetan antelope and other important species in the region. He entreated monks and nuns to be aware of illegal wildlife trade and poaching in their areas and to immediately put a stop to it if they heard of such activity. He pointed out the unique role they have in their communities as moral authorities and how much their help was needed by organizations like WTI, WWF and others to combat illegal poaching and trade of such precious animals. The audience visibly blanched and gasped and many murmured mantras of compassion while seeing the photos of animals in traps or of their carcasses.
In the afternoon, audience members were asked to identify natural disaster risks in their own monastic location and then to form groups based on these risks. The three groups that formed were
• Earthquakes and Landslides,
• Droughts, Floods, Fires
• Illnesses, Diseases, Epidemics
They devoted the rest of the afternoon to discuss their individual experiences during such occurrences, what kind of survival methods were successful or not, and how they thought the environment and ecosystem services around them could have played a beneficial or non-beneficial role in that risk. The discussion ranged from energetic to emotional, as some monks and nuns described the chaos from the 2011 earthquake in northeast India and Nepal as buildings buckled and collapsed around them. One monk said that providing practical training of what to do during a natural disaster and how to be prepared in the future would be of great benefit to him and his monastery and would help ease many of their fears.