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Middlebury College

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples


The Himalayan region is suffering from global warming,2 and the effects are felt at all scales, from the local to the global. Himalayan glaciers feed ten major Asian rivers, and 1.3 billion people in southern and southeast Asia reside in those river basins (Eriksson, et al. 2009:1). Global warming is melting these glaciers at a rapid rate, with retreat ranging from 10 to 60 meters per year on average, and many smaller glaciers already disappearing (Mool, Bajracharya and Shrestha 2008:1). This research is a study of local perceptions of global warming and glacial melt among the Sherpas of Khumbu, Nepal. Field research was carried out in a two and a half week trip to Khumbu, and in Kathmandu before and after the trip. The Khumbu valley is a sacred landscape, and the concepts of sacred valleys and mountains play important roles in the Sherpa Buddhist tradition and religious practice. The rapid glacial melt in the region not only endangers the water security, climate regularity, and physical stability, it also is changing the landscape considered sacred by the local inhabitants. The findings of this research suggest that Sherpa perspectives vary greatly depending on age, education level, and occupation. A large part of the variety in perspectives is due to the rise in tourism to Khumbu since the middle of the 20th century. The direct and indirect effects of the tourism industry has made the Sherpa population incredibly dynamic. Their values, perceptions, and priorities are necessarily shifting as their horizons extend beyond the nearest mountain range and the next harvest.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Glaciology | Natural Resources and Conservation | Sustainability | Tourism


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