While the western media focuses primarily on what the developed world is doing to solve the climate crisis, there’s some great coverage on how Third World countries are greening too. SciDev’s “Science in the Himalayas,” a series of editorials and features, gives credence to the notion that local, community efforts can be just as effective as large-scale centralized ones. And low-tech solutions are often just as good as their high-tech counterparts.
Nepal’s successes in scientific application in recent decades aren’t about grandiose hydropower dams or major infrastructure projects.
The new technologies that have worked have been indigenously designed, based on traditional skills and knowledge, and are cheap and easy to use and maintain. In fact, to visit Nepal these days is to see the “small is beautiful” concept of development economist E. F. Schumacher in action.
From Nakarmi’s Peltric Sets to multi-purpose power units based on traditional water mills, from biogas plants to green road construction techniques in the mountains, Nepalis have shown that small is not just beautiful but also desirable and possible.
On the other hand, lack of resources (read: lack of money) makes monitoring climate change awfully difficult. A great piece in The New York Times [$ub. req’d] last month described how one glaciologist — with the help of some ethnic Ghurkas — is single-handedly tracking melting of the Chorabarai glacier:
Mr. Dobhal’s steep and solitary quest — to measure the changes in the glacier’s size and volume — points to a looming worldwide concern, with particularly serious repercussions for India and its neighbors. The thousands of glaciers studded across 1,500 miles of the Himalayas make up the savings account of South Asia’s water supply, feeding more than a dozen major rivers and sustaining a billion people downstream. Their apparent retreat threatens to bear heavily on everything from the region’s drinking water supply to agricultural production to disease and floods.
Funding for Himalayan research is no better on the Nepalese or Bhutanian side, either — Nepal’s national Snow and Glacier Hydrology Unit has an annual budget of $84,400 — a scary thought when you consider how many people rely on glacial meltwater every day. Another concern is lake expansion: Nepal has 2,323 glacial lakes that are swelling with the added influx and could create massive floods.
China and India have garnered much of the spotlight in because of their burgeoning populations and burgeoning carbon footprints … These stories are a reminder that environmental resources often defy geopolitical boundaries and that small, inexpensive steps can have massive ramifications.