Tibet, distinctly recognized for its peaceful Buddhist monks, is now suffering the brunt of western civilizations’ environmental abuse.
Glaciers are melting. Desertification is speeding up. Drought is just around the corner. And, the Meili Snow Mountain will be devoid of snow within 80 years if global warming trends continue.
But, it’s not all our fault. Deforestation for China’s industrial purposes and over-grazing by local herdsman are major contributors too. Graziers have wiped out much of the grasslands and fellers are removing more trees everyday.
The result. The deserts grow and the land heat ups.
Can anything be done about this?
Fortunately, there could be a fairytale ending and it all revolves around one tree – the Tibetan Cypress (Cupressus gigantea).
It’s a native species that grows well in the Tibetan highlands where many plants struggle to survive and it’s the one tree that foresters are removing at a rapid rate. But the great news about this tree is that it can grow very well quite quickly. In five years it can exceed 3 metres and more than half this measurement wide.
While this may seem slow paced compared with other fast-growing species, we need to take into account the challenges this tree must face. High altitude, a very cold climate and poor soils (as the desert sands rise) are factors that this cypress has to contend with.
While most environmentalists argue that Tibet should be growing more grasses to combat the spreading deserts, they forget that its nomadic culture would devour them momentarily. Trees, on the other hand, have only had to contend with fellers. And since 2001, China has embraced new legislation to combat this expensive and life-threating scourge on their country.
Whether it will work or not – time will tell.