The Environmental Challenge at the Heart of the Himalaya

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The ecological crisis that we have unleashed is the great challenge of the twenty-first century. It is vital to act with determination and discernment to implement solutions, both at the government level, following scientists’ recommendations, through our own actions in our everyday lives, and in support of those who are most impacted by the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.

In the Himalayan region, where our organization has worked for close to 20 years, the need to act on behalf of the environment grows more urgent with each passing year. In this part of the world, to the Tibetan plateau and the north of India and Bhutan, there is what is known as the “Third Pole.” It is the third largest area of frozen water on the planet, covering 100,000 square kilometers. According to scientists conducting research in the area, increasing global temperatures are causing the ice to melt. If these trends continue, it could affect the lives of 1.3 billion people. A third of the world’s permafrost, which releases a vast amount of methane in the atmosphere when melting, is located in Tibet.

The people of this region are particularly susceptible to feeling the impact of climate change, as it often hits the poorest people on this Earth the hardest. For the people living here, their water source, their livelihoods, and their very lives are reliant on a balanced ecosystem. Farmers rely on healthy crops and are devastated by drought and flooding. Families in remote communities are devastated by schools that are damaged and roads that are washed out by floods and storms. Most of these people do not have a means of supporting themselves if their crops fail, nor can they afford repairs to damaged infrastructure.

Despite these challenges, the people in the Himalayan region are resilient, and they are willing to work hard to strengthen their families and communities to make improvements and prepare for the future. It is here that great hope can be found, for altruistic action and supportive projects done in partnership with villagers can help counterbalance the impact of climate change on these people’s lives.

In our organization, Karuna-Shechen, we have been working in environmental preservation since we began in 2000. The people we work with — women, children, and families living in remote and underserved areas — are some of the hardest hit by environmental destruction. In our work, we not only provide aid and assistance in recovering from emergencies and environmental devastation, but we also work within the communities to train villagers with techniques to strengthen their resilience for the future. Our projects like solar electricity, rainwater harvesting, and organic kitchen gardening techniques strengthen the livelihoods and resilience of men, women, and children for the future.

Though we have done much over the years, we at Karuna-Shechen acknowledge that there is still much that must be done in order to help the Himalayan communities impacted by climate change. On the one hand, we must work to change the actions that are causing climate change in the first place. Solutions exist, and there needs to more effort to implement them. Simultaneously, we must support and strengthen those dealing with the effects of climate change. They are two sides to a very important coin.

Karuna-Shechen is in a unique position to serve both of these needs. We advocate for those we serve, aiming to increase altruism and encourage responsible action around the world. As we know, caring for others and cultivating altruism is what can unite us all and serve the needs we are facing now, that we will face in the future, and what future generations will be faced with. Together, we must dare to cultivate altruism to benefit us all and the planet. At Karuna-Shechen, we will continue and strengthen what we have been doing for twenty years: uniting people around the world and working within communities in need to preserve the environment, strengthen resilience, and teach invaluable skills for the future.

I invite you to stand with Karuna-Shechen for Our Environment, Our Future. Together, we can improve well-being, raise awareness and reduce the impact of climate change. Together, let’s build a greener world!