Dharamshala — “We have a responsibility to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy clean water. This is a way of expressing compassion for them. If we don’t make the effort, there is a risk of our world becoming a desert. If that happens this beautiful blue planet may become just an arid, white rock with no water,” said His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Earth Day, 2022.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with experts and participants of the Dialogue for Future: A Call to Climate Action, an ongoing three-day environmental conference, from April 21-23, 2022, in Dharamshala, H.P, India.
First of all, climate mitigation innovator Sonam Wangchuk presented His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a block of ice, explaining that it had been taken from a glacier on the Kardungla pass in Ladakh to highlight the urgency of climate change on the Tibetan Plateau. It was brought by a team of young people on bicycles, public transport, and electric vehicles to convey a message—‘Please live simply so we in the mountains can simply live.’
In his response, His Holiness told the gathering, “I really appreciate that more and more people are showing concern for the environment. Ultimately water is the basis of our lives. Over the coming years, we have a responsibility to take steps to preserve the great rivers that are the source of water for so many. Within my lifetime I’ve seen a reduction of snowfall in Tibet and a consequent reduction in the volume of the rivers.”
“In the past, we took water for granted. We felt we could make unrestricted use of it without giving much thought to where it came from. Now, we need to be more careful about preserving our water sources. I believe that we have the technology to transform saltwater, sea-water, into sweet water with which we could green the deserts in many places and grow more food,” His Holiness added.
“Now, we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy clean water. This is a way of expressing compassion for them. If we don’t make the effort, there is a risk of our world becoming a desert. If that happens this beautiful blue planet may become just an arid, white rock with no water,” he said.
“It often occurs to me that without water we cannot survive. Some of my Indian friends say that one solution is to plant more trees—and it will help. My friend Sunderlal Bahuguna asked me to promise to do whatever I can, whenever I can, to encourage people to plant and care for more trees, and I try to fulfill his wish,” His Holiness explained.
“Previously we took our climate for granted, we thought of it as just part of nature. Some of the changes that have taken place are related to our behaviour, so we have to educate people about the factors that contribute to climate change. We have to pay more attention to ways to preserve our environment. This means making a basic understanding of climate change and its effect on the environment part of ordinary education,” the spiritual leader of Tibet said.
Elizabeth Wathuti, a climate activist from Kenya asked His Holiness how we can appeal to world leaders to act out of love and compassion. He told her that we can let them know that by taking care of others we essentially take care of ourselves. He pointed out that the health and happiness of the community are the source of individuals’ health and happiness.
“Wherever I go, I smile and consider that, in being human, those I meet are just like me. Thinking of other people in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, focusing on how they are not like us, leads to mistrust and isolation. It’s much more helpful to think of how all seven billion human beings are fundamentally the same because we have to live together," His Holiness the Dalai Lama said.
Martin Bursik who is a former Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic thanked His Holiness for being the inspiration that had brought this group of environmentalists together. He outlined four topics that will be the focus of their dialogue.
1. The state of the planet as described in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
2. The role of technology, such as wind power, solar power and so forth in offsetting the climate crisis.
3. Tibet is regarded by some environmentalists as equivalent to a Third Pole. Not only are its glaciers receding, but as they do methane is released from the melting permafrost.
4. Energy democracy. How to change the energy model so ordinary people are more directly involved.
Bursik told His Holiness that as a result of this Dialogue for Our Future a manifesto will be prepared to be released in Egypt at the time of the COP27 meeting with a view to taking steps to protect the Tibetan Plateau and stop climate change.