Friday, 14 July 2017

Dalai Lama on Environment

On the 82nd birthday occasion (July 6, 2017) of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Environment  and Development Desk (EDD) of the Tibet Policy Institute brought out an updated 6th edition of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's speeches on the importance of environment protection titled 'Dalai Lama on Environment,' a collected statements from 1987 till June 2017.

The book highlights the consistent effort by His Holiness on environment protection and makes His Holiness's speech on environment protection for the last 30 years available to the world.
The EDD dedicates the book to millions of people across the world striving for a greener, healthier and more sustainable future for our planet.
Following are few extracts from the book:

The three main commitments of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama are promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony, preservation of Tibet's spiritual heritage and protection of its environment.
Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities which lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth's living things.

This lack of respect extends even to earth's human descendants, the future generations who will inherit a vastly degraded planet if world peace does not become a reality, and destruction of the natural environment continues at the present rate. Our ancestors viewed the earth as rich and bountiful, which it is. Many people in the past also saw nature as inexhaustibly sustainable, which we now know is the case only if we care for itྲ

-His Holiness message for World Environment Day, June 5, 1986

I often joke that the moon and stars look beautiful, but if any of us tried to live on them we would be miserable. This blue planet of ours is a delightful habitat. Its life is our life; its future our future. Indeed, the earth acts like a mother to us all. Like children, we are dependent on her. In the fact of such global problems as the greenhouse effect and depletion of the ozone layer, individual organizations and single nations are helpless. Unless we all work together, no solution can be found. Our mother earth is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility.
-His Holiness address to Parliamentary Earth Summit,
Global Forum of the UN Conference on the Environment and
Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 7, 1992

'This blue planet is our only home and Tibet is its roof. The Tibetan Plateau needs to be protected, not just for Tibetans but for the health and sustainability of the entire world'
-His Holiness the Dalai Lama's message for the
COP21-UN climate Summit in Paris, 2015

"Human beings are social animals and heavily interdepended. Climate change threatens us all. It's one of those natural challenges that teach us that we must work together, making a common effort to reach a common goal. A more peaceful world and a more peaceful century require that we rely not on weapons but developing a widespread inner peace."

-His Holiness keynote address at the commencement ceremony for the
Class of 2017, University of California San Diego, US. June 17, 2017

Friday, 7 July 2017

Pika: a misunderstood victim of grassland degradation

*By Jamyang Dolma

Humans emerged as the most dominant species in the world, influencing both the survival and extinction of many species.
Modern civilization with development in many aspects has made people more educated, civilized and ironically more ruthless. We hunt wild animal for their skins, organs, and worst kill them for being pest.
Unfortunately, pika (abra in tibetan ) , small and furry wild animal, scurrying on the Tibetan plateau was the target of a large scale eradication since 1962, as pikas were considered pest causing immense damage to the local ecosystem.
Extensive research on the role of pika on the rangeland of the Tibetan plateau has given rise to two contradictory result:  while some consider them as a keystone species of Tibet's rangeland, others blame them as a factor for declining alpine meadow condition. Finding the actual role of pika on Tibet's rangeland might be too late and the species could soon be in the threatened red list of the international union for conservation of nature (IUCN).
Human footprint is the main cause of Tibetan plateau degrading rangeland. As George Schaller stated in his book, Tibet wild, "pika are not the cause of degraded grassland but the indicator of the overgrazed and degraded land".
Mass poisoning of pika began in 1962 as a pest competing with livestock for forage and causing soil erosion but grassland degradation still occurring, so who should be blamed next?
As Andrew Smith and J. Marc Foggin (1999) wrote in their paper, Instead of spending huge resources on killing them, pika should be considered as an alternative method to save Tibet's rangelands. Pikas are considered keystone species with immense benefit to the rangeland ecosystem in Tibet.
Such as:
·         Pika burrow are used by different type of birds as breeding ground
·         Pika faeces provide nutrient to the soil
·         Pika help in loosening the soil layer making it more suitable for water storage
·         Pika help in prevention of soil erosion
·         they are the food sources for many predators like foxes, wolves, snow leopards and brown bears  (keeping pikas population in control)
·         More importantly, pikas feeds on herbs and other poisonous plant species harmful and unpalatable to livestock.
The extermination of pika population has been justified for their presence on a degraded land and their competition with livestock for food. The antipathy towards pika from local community primarily arises from pika burrowing habitat which deface surface area and cause accident when travelling through such places.  The above reason found to be true to some extend as food scarcity make pika forage on plants preferred by livestock. The mass eradication of pika because of their home location seems very brutal and unfair. The alpine rangeland problems are, in fact, caused by unsustainable use of land by humans without proper and realistic measures. The Chinese government should solve such problem with logical solution instead of blaming pika.
The extermination of pika in 1962 was done by using pesticide sodium fluoroacetate (compound 1080), which is toxic to both human and animals.  Later in the mid-1980s, it was replaced with toxin botulinum type C which affect animals only and kill them by effecting their neuron system. Both toxin are targeted for the pika and other pests in the region, however it has also affect livestock and other wild animal passing through the affected area.
The world would be a sad place, if the once freely roaming, small furry animal largely mistaken for rodent are to be completely exterminated from the alpine rangeland.  Everything in this world has both good and bad sides to it. pika might be harmful to the rangeland of Tibet on the bases of their habitat, competition  with livestock for food but their positive effects on Tibet's rangeland are far greater than their negative impacts  on the complex ecosystem of Tibet.
In conclusion, pike should be used for restoring the degrading rangeland instead of blaming them for current situation.

 *Jamyang Dolma is an intern at the Environment & Development Desk of the Tibet Policy Institute