Mountains are unique and dramatic arenas which display an intense interplay of physical processes and human interactions with the environment.
The greater Himalayas encompass the largest non-polar ice mass in the world, having supported populations in Asia with fresh water in frozen reserve since ancient times. The increasing stress of global warming has lead to the receding of glaciers, impacting the communities who are reliant on seasonal melt water. The Tibetan Plateau has increased effects of warming due to heat-absorbing soot particles which prevent solar reflection from the ice, and currently around 95% of the glaciers are receding.
This video, produced by saferworld describes some of the difficulties being faced by communities in Ladakh.
Our research is structured around a central question: How do Zanskaris understand and experience migration in response to climate change.,challenging the ‘poverty equals increased vulnerability’ paradigm and contemporary ideas of transformative rather than adaptive strategies.
This central geographical project lead by Olivia will be complemented by interdisciplinary sub-projects conducted by the other team members. An anthropological angle from Charlotte and Hannah will explore how climate migration is understood of by local people historically and how information is passed on to future generations through schooling, incorporating traditional Buddhist beliefs with contemporary scientific understandings. Vetinary medic Henry will focus on observational study of how local livestock husbandry practices vary between villages with differing water availabilities and those in use in the UK. Particularly how practices affect animal welfare on smallholdings within migrating communities.
The majority of our findings will be qualitatively obtained through extensive interviews with Kumik villagers, with the help of a local translator. We will also be meeting with academic stakeholders and NGOs in the main town of Leh beforehand to account for a variety of perspectives.
Alongside the immersive research Hannah will be filming a short documentary to explain our observations to an audience at home and abroad. Several of the villages we are visiting have never been subject to formalised academic study and there are no publicly available images of yet.
We hope that our comparative findings can be of some practical benefit to the people we meet and therefore will have a condensed form of the main report presented in Zanskari (the local language) in a format that will be of use to local planners and stakeholders via the Ladakh International Centre.
Our outreach work will extend to the younger generations of Ladakh: we will be spending time with the Students Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh to discuss climate issues in the Himalayas as well as collaboration with a rural school in Kumik via Tansy Norbu who founded the NGO Kinship.
We hope our educational efforts will continue in Cambridge through visits to local schools, distribution of the video, and talks through the Cambridge Expeditions Society