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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Film Review: "Meltdown In Tibet" -- Ecocide on the Third Pole -- Jamyang Norbu

November 13, 2009

Jamyang Norbu
Shadow Tibet
November 11, 2009

"Meltdown In Tibet"
A personal take on the politics of water in Tibet.
A film by Michael Buckley
Wild Yak Films
reviewed by Jamyang Norbu

Al Gore has come out with a new book (Our Choice:
A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis) nicely timed
to be in the stores before the Climate Conference
in Copenhagen this December. Among the important
discussions in the Danish capital I expect the
melting of the polar ice caps will feature
significantly, and which the public will be
informed about on CNN the next day with
accompanying images of polar bears swimming in
ice-less seas or penguins looking lost.

One thing we can be fairly sure that won't be
discussed at the conference (or in Al's book) is
the ecological crisis in another part of the
world, as critical in some ways as that in the
Arctic or the Antarctic. Some experts have gone
so far as to refer to the area as "the third
pole" of global warming. That area is, of course, the Tibetan plateau.

Glaciers in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau
are now retreating so rapidly that even a Chinese
official or two have begun to express alarm. "Due
to global warming, glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet
Plateau are retreating extensively at a speed
faster than in any other part of the world," Qin
Dahe, a former director of the China
Meteorological Administration, said recently. "In
the short term, this will cause lakes to expand
and bring floods and mudflows. In the long run,
glaciers are vital lifelines for Asian rivers
such as the Indus and the Ganges. Once they
vanish, water supplies in those regions will be in peril."

All Tibetans and supporters are well aware that
the impending and near inevitable ecological
catastrophe on the Tibetan plateau is not only a
result of global warming but, in equal if not
greater part, the consequence  of Communist
China's extreme exploitation and destruction of
the "mountains and waterways" (ri-lung) of Tibet.

To draw attention to this "inconvenient truth"
about the Tibetan plateau a new documentary has
been released, which raises some important but disturbing questions:

·  What is the fate of the mighty rivers source in Tibet?
·  Why are Tibetan nomads vanishing from the grasslands?
·  Why is China building so many large dams on the Tibetan plateau?
·  What impact will this have on the nations downstream?
·  What on earth are China's engineers getting up to?

In his forty-minute film, "Meltdown in Tibet,"
filmmaker Michael Buckley uses undercover footage
and stills, to give us an unsettling glimpse into
China's vast and potentially catastrophic dam
building projects in Tibet. He shows of how, to
make way for mega-dams and mining projects,
Tibetan nomads are being forced off their
traditional lands. But the filmmaker tells us
this is only the tip of the iceberg. What looms
ahead is a huge water crisis that could affect
millions in heavily populated regions of China,
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam,
Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and Laos.

I knew Michael from the eighties when he
co-authored the first Lonely Planet Guide to
Tibet, and I reviewed it for the Tibetan Review.
Since then Michael has traveled all over Tibet on
foot, mountain bike, landcrusier and in this
film, on an inflatable raft. Besides the Lonely
Planet Guide, Michael has authored a number of
other travel books on Tibet, but his growing
concern with the twin devastation of the Tibetan
environment and way-of-life of its people, have
driven him to make and release this film. When
Beijing gets hold of this it could probably spell
finis to his traveling days in Tibet.

The film draws its power and immediacy from the
fact that Michael actually rafted down the rivers
he discusses, and that he captured on film the
spectacular and overwhelming quality of these
greatest of Asian waterways. That he secretly
filmed some of the very dams the Chinese were
building on these rivers, provides the
documentary its seal of authenticity, as it were.
I may be getting a little picky here but the film
seems to slow down a bit when it moves away from
the rivers and goes into a general discussion on
the Chinese presence in Tibet, and on Tibetan
Buddhism and conservation. Nonetheless, Meltdown
In Tibet is a very dramatic, informative and even
entertaining film that strikes a powerful blow
for the environmental and Free Tibet cause.
Absolutely a must see for Tibetans, supporters and friends.

Michael has offered to send free copies of the
DVD to Tibetan organizations and support groups
to use for public showings to raise awareness and
a tool for discussions and other forums on the
issue. If your doing a real big showing you could
ask for a Blue Ray disc. Check out the trailer on
. Also check out the website for more information.

Rangzen activists could use this film and the
Copenhagen Conference, not just to condemn
China's environmental rape of the Tibetan plateau
but to make the valid point that this unwelcome
contribution to global warming is the direct
result of China invasion, occupation and
exploitation of Tibet. Furthermore, in the past,
in independent Tibet, the nomads, the farmers and
the government itself had been responsible
stewards of their land and wildlife - a fact
which Michael himself emphasizes in the film. I
am writing an essay on traditional
environmentalist beliefs and practices in old
Tibet, that I will try and finish soon, which
could provide some more information on this particular subject.

His Holiness made this unusually strong statement
a couple of years ago. "It is of immense
importance to inform the public that the ecology
of Tibet needs special care. The Communists
recklessly use natural resources for two reasons:
first, they are ignorant; second, they don't
care." All those who want to  participate in
"informing the public" and other Tibet related
activism during the UN climate change conference
in Copenhagen this December, check out
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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