This morning there was another earthquake in eastern Nepal, near Mount Everest, affecting again Nepal, India, Tibet, and Bangladesh. Officials say around 40 have died, more than 1000 injured, and at least 17 have also died in India and 1 confirmed in Tibet. The earthquake hit near Namche, and many in Kathmandu rushed to the streets in panic. I spoke to some friends there today, and they are safe, but others are still trying to make contact with their families.
We have to continue to talk about this, to remind each other that it is happening, that it is a reality now every day. We have to continue to raise awareness and funds, and get these funds to the people who need them, and to make sure they are reaching the people quickly. The earth is not happy, and even mighty Everest is in a weakened state. As the poet Yuyutsu Sharma reminded recently, 'Nepal is a place of extremes'. It is true, and so true for all of the Himalayan region: major earthquakes, glaciers melting, unbelievable dreamlike landscapes, and some of the absolute most beautiful and amazing people you could ever find. It doesn't end with earthquakes, and it doesn't end with melting glaciers. The earthquake leaves unimaginable feats of rebuilding, both at a level of city and construction, and at a human level. People suffer now from PTSD, and children need to get back to their schooling, and the people need to be able to find a way to carry on with this new fear that an earthquake can seemingly happen at any time. And the glaciers don't just melt, but they pool into lakes, which offer the people of the area a constant fear of these glacial lakes overflowing and flooding into their towns, leaving destruction in their path.
The problems of the Himalaya are the world's problems. Maybe in the past some people have felt disconnected from helping the Himalaya because they feel so far away from the story. But it is their story, too. Keeping people safe in times of destruction is a global concern, educating children is a global concern, the future is a global concern, setting an example for justice and freedom of a people is a global concern, and the safety of the planet is a global concern. An earthquake is not tied to a particular region as their problem, it is not a 'nepalquake,' it is an earthquake, so it is all of our problem. These are issues that concern the entire world, both in a direct actual way and in a metaphorical sense. When I was in Nepal in January, there was a day when I was looking at the Langtang mountain range in the distance and I wrote an email to Bill Mckibben, panicking about the problems of the melting glaciers and the land effected beneath them, asking him for advice about what to do. He suggested in his words a message of to please enjoy it and take it in while it is there. He said: "enjoy kathmandu, and nepal. you're seeing scenes that won't be there forever, which is sad in one way, but a big part of our job at the moment is to be witnesses to the fleeting." He could never have known about the earthquakes, but he did know that the high Himalaya is one of the very top places in the world feeling the effects of climate change. So I decided to enjoy the time I was there and worry about the issues when I got home. Ever since I returned home, it was clear to me that I wanted to focus on the Himalaya and climate change, water issues, environmental issues, and all that comes along with that. And now that these earthquakes have hit, it is just even more evident that the time is now. The Himalayan region is one of extremes, and shows the rest of the world examples of what is possible, both the most beautiful things, and the most devastating. We have to pay attention to the messages being presented to us.