High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on August 16, 2013 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on November 3,2013.
This is the follow-on post to Woeser’s first piece called “Black Tent Schools: How a Tibetan Environmentalist Puts Ecological Education into Practice” in which she quoted an unnamed Tibetan environmentalist from eastern Tibet recounting details of his education initiatives. In this post, the environmentalist talks about his dream of a new model of living for nomads.
“Pasture Paradise: The Dream of a Tibetan Environmentalist”
In this post I continue recounting the words of the Tibetan environmentalist. But I cannot do justice to his years of efforts in this limited space with only a few words. I can only give a short summary.
He is without doubt an affectionate environmentalist. This affection stems from his deep love for his home soil; as an orphan who was raised by many different families, he feels extremely thankful to these families in his hometown. He wants to give something back, and this feeling manifests itself in his dream, the dream of “pasture paradise”.
He says: “I want to build a home for nomads. Actually, I want to become a nomad myself, establish a pasture down the mountain. I want to do this in the form of collectivisation, using the framework of a cooperative that reaches across areas; but if I set up a kind of humanitarian association, there will be many restrictions. So I want to start with four or five families, I want to find people who have great influence who have the capacity to be role models. On this pasture, everybody believes, everybody believes in the power of the grassland, other animals can also live there, other people can also come, it will not be a closed off area. But each grassland has its own features, the height and the landscape differ, so it won’t be possible to turn this into one type of grassland, putting everything into one “box” will be impossible.
“I will also invite people from other areas. A bit like tourism, but I don’t like the word tourism because the people will be coming to study. Initially I wanted to call it the noble pasture but I don’t want to suggest that I only invite the nobility, I want people who have talent; it is not that once you pay you can come, only when you feel strongly about this culture, about the pasture, the grassland and the Tibetan existence you are invited to come. Even if you come from a different country, a different ethnicity, have different religious beliefs or political opinions, as long as you share this common ground, you are invited. But nomads are noble; if they weren’t noble, other people would think that you are poor, feel pity for you and give alms to you and that would be wrong. Besides, there is a discourse today that nomads are damaging the grasslands; but in reality, those with the highest ecological awareness among Tibetan people are nomads, they don’t even build their own houses. Only nomads protect the grassland, only people who live on the snow mountains actually believe in the snow mountains.
“I often say to the nomads, don’t treat people coming here as tourists, don’t treat them as Chinese, foreigners or whatever; these people share the same karma with us; just treat them as we used to treat guests in the past, that would be best. For example, when I feel happy, I can give you a cow as a present, register it under your name, and if there are problems with that cow or if it gives birth to calves, I will let you know. Or, if someone within the community passes away, and they want to put up a stupa to worship; well, if you feel like joining, then you two families build it and then it belongs to both your families.
“Those people coming from outside cannot just be seen as coming to enjoy the sight of wild animals, they also don’t come to exchange goods. This grassland belongs to all of us, cultural or civilisational displacements don’t exist. Pasture paradise is your pasture and it is my pasture, we are all members of this new community. Of course, we all have our own backgrounds, perhaps I am a Christian and you are an atheist and he is a Muslim, but we still feel happy together. We all recognise each other on one level.
“I say to people coming from outside, you are not a tourist, you are not a developer, and you are not a helper or aid worker sent over from the city, you are an ordinary person. Perhaps you can help us, but if not, you are still equally and genuinely welcome. If people come, find it boring and leave, well they are guests! Others come back two or three times, make friends with nomads and want to become part of the process of developing this community, well then we welcome new community members. I will always explain to people what Tibet is, what the pasture is, what nomads are, I want them to really understand this place and not teach them abstract knowledge in a detached way.
“Pasture paradise is a gradually progressing process. If this kind of pasture really develops, it will slowly form into a community, slowly spread and expand to a degree that it also becomes a school. Anyone can come, but the bottom line is that everybody respects life and each other; it transcends many things, this is why it is my dream! In the end, our dreams are all dreams of paradise.”
August 16, 2013