Something very important happened in Nepal this morning as 24 ministers gathered around a table on the world's highest mountain to discuss climate change.
In this small corner of the world so steeped in tradition, when a visitor asks of Everest, even the oldest of Sherpa will nod and point a finger at that snowy peak, rising so impossibly high, though in his heart she is still known as Chomolunga, or "Saint Mother." Perhaps he's never heard of carbon emissions, climate change, or never cared much for fickleness of political debate--but he is still certain of one thing: The ice is melting on these peaks as it never has before.This morning, while most of the Western world was still asleep, those 24 members Nepal's government stepped into the icy Himalayan winds on the shoulder of Earth's highest range to raise a voice for the quiet fear in the Sherpa's heart and for the towering giants in whose midst they stand.
Meeting on the Eve of Copenhagen
For what the tiny Asian country lacks in size, they make up for in pride. Delegates from Nepal will indeed be present at the climate change conference in Copenhagen next week, but amid the big players on the international scene, some whose every breath will be made instant headlines, they will only be afforded a mere 3 minutes to speak of the ominous rumbling they hear so clearly from their cherished land--that all is not right, that action must be taken.
According to The Hindustan Times, the ministers, clad in protective gear against the cold, were greeted on the mountain by a group of local Buddhist monks who drummed their sacred songs and offered plates of food. All attending the meeting, there 17,192 feet above sea level, wore a scarf emblazoned with the words "Let's save the Himalayas."
What Did They Accomplished?
Their meeting was brief, with oxygen tanks always on hand, but by they end they had unanimously agreed upon a Mount Everest Declaration, approved the speech to be given in Copenhagen in their honor, and announced the creation of a conservation area of 2,000 square kilometers near the mountain.
The meeting was called also to simply raise awareness of some of the major threats the nation faces because of climate change. Scientists have long warned that the Himalayas' glaciers are melting at such a rapid rate, that they may be lost forever without immediate intervention. This melting has already caused unprecedented flooding in the region, some of which threaten whole communities.
Nepal's Mounting Problems
Last year was a particularly difficult year, the winter being the driest in many decades. Flames swept through the unquenched forests, and a season's worth of crops were decimated without their winter rain.
Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal spoke after the meeting, to put his nation's woes into a global context:
It's not a Nepali issue or the concern of countries in the Himalayan region alone. Impact of global change on Himalayas would impact 1.3 billion people living in South Asia. Hence it should concern everyone.
So often in political discourse, particularly on a world stage with many players vying for their narrow interests, the heart of issues of real import tend to get lost in conjecture. Perhaps though, just this once, our world leaders, like those 24 ministers in Nepal this morning, will hear rising faintly above the political din, the voice the Sherpa, the voice of a world, calling for something to be done--now.