Sunday, November 9, 2014


The difficult relationship between Tibet and China extends across thousands of years. The countries were often at war, and in the 8th century Tibetan forces attacked and captured the fabled city of Changan in China. Generally, this historical fact does not appear in Chinese histories of the Tang dynasty, (618-908), one of China’s greatest cultural periods.

Much of China’s cruelty toward the people of Tibet since China invaded is a matter of public record. However, the environmental devastation carried out by China in Tibet is not as well known. Canadian journalist Michael Buckley presents China’s environmental devastation of Tibet in his clear and sometimes heart felt writing. He has visited Tibet many times over the years, and wrote the first Lonely Planet guidebook to Tibet. His deep concern for the fate of Tibet and its people fills every page of Meltdown in Tibet.

China and India together are building four coal-fired power plants a week. At that rate, all of the global warming mitigation in the world will not matter. The rest of the world can’t mitigate the effects of burning that much coal. The effect of coal burning is worst for Tibet. The dark particulates in the air from coal burning settle on the snow and ice. Sunshine falling on the coal dust heats it and is causing one of the world’s three great cooling systems to melt rapidly. This accelerating melt is worsened by other Chinese environmental devastation in Tibet—the building of massive dams.

You may recall that when the Chinese government built the Three Gorges Dam, they forcibly removed Chinese families from homes that would be flooded by the new dam. The displaced people tried to return to their homes. The government destroyed the homes—devastation captured by Edward Burtynsky’s photographs of the communities just before they disappeared under water. When this largest dam in the world was filled with water, the weight of the water altered the rotation of the earth.

Now the Chinese government is building a much larger dam in Tibet. Along with other new dams in Tibet, all to provide hydroelectric power to China. Ordinarily, before a dam is built, such as the dam at Guelph Lake, extensive studies are carried out, and permission to build must be received from a number of government agencies, to ensure that building such a dam will not cause environmental damage. However, the dams being built by China in Tibet are being built with no permissions, and will change river flows in large rivers that flow from Tibet through numerous countries in southeast Asia. No one knows how extensive the damage will be in these countries

Is there hope for Tibet? The Simla Accord of 1914 recognized the autonomy of Tibet. That recognition disappeared in 2008, in the interests of placating China, and providing financial gains for a number of greasy palms. Britain’s role, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s role in this shameful betrayal of Tibet was covered by The New York Times. See: “Did Britain Just Sell Tibet?" HERE.

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