Mt Everest in December 2019. Photo: Kunda Dixit, Nepali Times
My article published in this week’s issue of Nepali Times:
Mt Everest is melting : Are you moved?
In the coming decade, climate migration may finally make world leaders take action to slow global heating
Mount Everest has always held mythical status for me, like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza. Growing up on the ‘other side of the world’ I knew about them from a very young age: their mystery was seeded in my imagination as a schoolboy in Canada.
I have not visited the Great Wall or the pyramids, but I remember the mountain flight that took me close to Everest about 12 years ago. It was cloudy when we left Kathmandu but clear enough that the rocky triangle above the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge could be pointed out as we flew past in our tiny plane.
Bhutanese politician Tshering Togbay holds up a copy of the ICIMOD assessment that predicts 2/3 of glaciers in the Hindu-Kush mountains will melt by 2100 if current global warming continues.
This short TED talk is a short, clear description of why everyone in the world should care that Mt Everest and its neighbours are melting.
Hint: the Hindu-Kush mountains are also known as the 3rd Pole, and the water that flows from them nourishes the lives of more than 2 billion people in Asia.
Tshering Togbay, a politician from Bhutan, presents a scary scenario here but as he makes clear, inaction is not an option.
His suggestion is to create a new body of all the governments in the Hindu-Kush, with particularly active involvement from giants – and major greenhouse gas producers – China and India. It’s easy to dismiss yet another government ‘talk shop’ but if the leaders of countries at risk won’t take action, who will?
Living in Kathmandu it’s way too easy to be critical of this country, which often means critical of the government and the ‘establishment’. Red tape, corruption, injustice and neglect are just some of the terms that can easily be used to describe those who wield power in this place.
Of course, this is just part of the picture: because those are exactly the issues that the media focuses on (writes the former and still sometimes journalist) they tend to be emphasised. But I know that there are positive things happening here, from the macro view of issues like declining maternal mortality and improving child health, to the growth of micro-enterprises in Kathmandu run by young Nepalis who have chosen to return home from studying overseas.
This photo from Nepali Times shows green and blue melt pools on the North Ama Dablam Glacier, where the vanishing icefall has exposed the eroded bedrock below.
I remember the first time I looked up at the Himalayan range from Nepal: I was dumbstruck. It seemed like I had to tilt my head back an extra notch in order to see to the very tops of the peaks, compared to gazing up at the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Today I’m back in Nepal, fortunate that once a year or so I get to fly out of Kathmandu, which almost always means a view of the Himalayan range once the plane climbs above the smog and clouds. It is a magnificent sight, and I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to take to the skies – especially when the other option is the traffic on Nepal’s increasingly crowded, dust-choked roads.
But two decades later even these most majestic mountains are at risk from – you guessed it – global warming. Continue reading