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Environment Management

  • 9 Pages
  • Published On: 04-11-2023

Tibetan plateau- climate change and conservation: Global concerns, local perspectives and solutions Introduction

Tibetan plateau is a part of the region popularly termed as the Third Pole. From the perspective of global concerns of environment management and conservation, this is a very important region of the world. Global concerns of climate change have peculiar significance for the Tibetan plateau because of the presence of glaciers, fragile eco systems and habitats.

The key environment conservation and management issue that is involved in the research is whether use of participatory methods can be beneficial for the Tibetan plateau. The aim of this research is to explore the primary and secondary data to identify solutions for environment management based in traditional Tibetan culture and practices.

The objectives of the research are:

  • To explore the local practices relevant to environment conservation and management that are rooted in Tibetan traditions and practices;
  • To analyse the interrelationship between levels of practice of Tibetan traditions and corresponding levels of environment conservation in Tibetan plateau;
  • To find solutions for better environment management and conservation in the Tibetan traditions and practices within the theoretical framework of participatory management model.
Whatsapp Previous research has shown that there is a strong correlation between Tibetan traditional practices and biodiversity and how traditional practices had a positive correlation with conservation (Shena, et al., 2012). Shena, et al., (2012) suggest that people with high traditional practices had more positive attitudes towards conservation and exhibited active participation in conservation as compared to people with low traditional practices.

Traditionally, Tibetan culture views climate change as a moral and spiritual issue (Byg & Salick, 2009). In Tibetan culture climate, weather and the environment play an important role in centralising spiritual and mystic issues (Huber & Pedersen, 1997). This respect for the land and environment is seen in indigenous cultures around the world. In Tibetan culture, adverse weather conditions as well as more catastrophic events are perceived as punishments for human wrongdoings (Salick & Byg, 2007). Moreover, in Tibet, local deities are physically manifest in snow-capped mountains and some Tibetans are worried that mountain deities melting away with the snow (Salick & Byg, 2007). It is also pertinent that sacred sites are also based on indigenous culture and traditional practices that value land and lives, and can make significant contribution in biodiversity conservation (Shen, et al., 2012). Indigenous Tibetan culture provide structures that can prove to be useful in environmental conservation and management.

This research seeks to understand the shifts in the traditional views or practices amongst the present local population of Tibetan plateau in order to correlate such shifts in perceptions with issues of climate change and conservation. The objective behind this approach is that if the shifts in local and traditional practices can be identified and correlated to the conservation practices of local populations, solutions within the traditional cultures can be found for reinforcing the ideas and traditions with respect to conservation and environment management. Therefore, perceptions of the Tibetan villagers can provide insights into the concerns and processes related to climate change and interpretations of these perceptions may affect how people deal with climate change and viewpoints towards possible solutions.

Participatory management model has been suggested for implementation of better environmental conservation and management (Martens, 2006). In China, there is acceptance of the participatory management model and it has been implemented at different levels allowing environmental management to move away from purely state process to a participatory process (Martens, 2006). Specific examples are community based grassland management in western China (Banks, et al., 2003); tourism planning and environment (Nyaupane, et al., 2006); and urban water management (Zhong & Mol, 2008). Considering the greater acceptance of participatory management for environmental conservation and management, this research focuses on the utility of participatory management for Tibetan plateau conservation and management with specific emphasis on religious and cultural contexts.

Significance of the research

The Tibetan plateau is part of the area that is also known as the Third Pole, the other parts of the area including the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range (Chettri, et al., 2012). The Tibetan Plateau has an average elevation of over 4000 m asl and is the highest and most extensive highland in the world (Kang, et al., 2010). The significance of the Third Pole within global environmental and climatic contexts can be gauged from the fact that ten major river basins are supported by the Third Pole, and it is also home to some of the most extensive and diverse flora and fauna (Chettri, et al., 2012). For these reasons, global conservation prioritization strategies have time and again highlighted the Third Pole (Brooks, et al., 2006).

The Third Pole comprises of vast areas and has a tendency for microclimatic variations, sometimes within 100 metres altitudinal range, and due to the geographical and climatic variations in the region, the Third Pole has diverse ecosystems, which are also fragile (Chettri, et al., 2012, p. 115). The Tibetan plateau faces many challenges in the management and conservation of its environment due to human activity as well as natural phenomena. Specific challenges include: deforestation, water management, garbage management due to increase in tourism, and threat to species within the ecosystem. Tibetan highlanders depend on floras for food and medicines, and there is a perceived threat that in the future, when trees cover the high mountains, these people will be deprived of important traditional resources central to their lives and livelihoods (Salick & Byg, 2007). Water management is an important issue, with retreating glaciers presenting concerns for future water resources. Previous research suggests that black soot aerosols deposited on Tibetan glaciers are a significant contributing factor to rapid glacier retreat, which is threatening the demise of Himalayan glaciers and future seasonal fresh water supplies (Xu, et al., 2009).

There are also significant climate change issues, which need to be addressed at this time in order to avoid disastrous consequences in the future. For instance, it has been suggested that temperatures in the Tibetan plateau may rise by up to 2.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 5 degrees Celsius by 2100 (Shi, et al., 2001). Although these figures are predictive in nature, the threat of climate change, if realised, will have adverse impacts on the ecosystems, local habitats and people of this region and beyond. Therefore, it is important to address environmental conservation and climate change concerns of the region.

Literature review

The strong correlation between Tibetan traditional practices and biodiversity has been considered in previous research. Shena, et al. (2012) found that traditional Tibetan practices have a positive correlation with conservation. The morality and spirituality surrounding issues of climate change and conservation, within the Tibetan culture has been highlighted by Byg and Salick (2009). Further co-relation between Tibetan culture and perceptions towards weather change, climate change, natural catastrophic events and human morality has been highlighted by Salick and Byg (2007); and Huber and Pedersen (1997). The utility of indigenous Tibetan culture for promoting and preserving nature has also been highlighted in research (Xu, et al., 2005). The Tibetans revere and celebrate their land and have for thousands of years maintained a way of life and a religion based on living in harmony, cherishing and revering nature (Byg & Salick, 2009). They believe every being has a Buddha nature. The portrait of the Pure Land with ultimate natural beauty can help to form believers dreams about their own homeland (Salick, et al., 2007).

While previous research has focussed on the interplay between Tibetan culture and environment management; the change in Tibetan practices and traditions and its impact on the perceptions towards environment management as well as conservation, has not been highlighted by previous research. This research seeks to focus on this missing area in previous research so that the relationship between changing perceptions and environment conservation can be uncovered.

An example of a strong interplay between tradition and conservation can be seen in the continuing of ancient practices and traditions that had helped Baima Tibetans in the Gansu province, to retain a healthy respect for their environment and has played a critical role in conserving local biodiversity, including the giant panda, and preserving the livelihoods of local inhabitants (Luo, et al., 2009). Research shows that the imposition of an external and powerful development model based on modern scientific knowledge and technologies, has posed serious challenges to the biodiversity conservation and community development for the Baima Tibetan communities (Luo, et al., 2009). Therefore, there may be negative impacts of break in traditional conservation practices.

Within Tibet plateau, a break in traditional practices and perceptions towards environment protection are visible results of the influence of scientific discourse due to the increasing interaction between Tibet and mainstream China (Zhao & Schell, 2008). Participatory management may provide the solution in a cultural context as it would allow identification and implementation of key traditional practices that are conducive to environment management, while at the same time involve participation of local populations (Fedor, et al., 2006). In a cultural context, participatory management provides a relevant and useful alternative to pure state interventions, because it creates a space for a larger discourse on local traditional practices, which may be conducive to environment management and conservation (Fedor, et al., 2006).

A study relevant to the current research was conducted in the Sanjiangyuan region located on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China, a region having a large population of Tibetan pastoralists (Shen & Tan, 2012). The study recounted the successful bridging of Tibetan communities and outside scientific community, mainstream society and policy-makers by the local environmental NGO, Shanshui Conservation Center (Shen & Tan, 2012). The conservation concession program initiated and facilitated by Shanshui Conservation Center in collaboration with Conservation International, the Sanjiangyuan nature reserve was turned over for participatory management of some reserve lands to local communities. All of this was facilitated by a conservation agreement with clear management plans and monitoring indictors (Shen & Tan, 2012). The study found that trial and demonstration of the conservation concession program successfully led to the adoption of community-based conservation models in state level conservation policy in 2011 (Shen & Tan, 2012). Participatory management model has been suggested for implementation of better environmental conservation and management (Martens, 2006). The participatory management programme at the Sanjiangyuan nature reserve indicates the utility of such programmes for a broader outreach in different areas of environmental conservation and management.

Existing research provides significant evidence of interplay between traditional culture and conservation. The present research will add to the literature by providing an insight into changing perceptions of locals and its impact on environment conservation, with the focus on identifying solutions within the area of participatory management.


The choice of research philosophy underpins the choice of research design and therefore, ideally, research philosophy must be chosen at the nascent stage of research (Wilson, 2014). When research philosophy is considered and chosen in the initial stage of research it can lead to the formulation of the research design (Saunders, et al., 2012).

The ideal research philosophy for this research is positivism, as it will allow the researcher to review pertinent literature that may reveal the complexities associated with conservation and management of environment in the Tibetan plateau region. Positivism enables the researcher to approach, review and analyse the available resources in an objective and scientific manner (Saunders, et al., 2012).

The research approach involved in the research will be the deductive approach as it will allow the researcher to move from theory to case (Perrin, 2015). Deductive reasoning involves the steps: (a) theory; (b) hypothesis development; (c) collecting observations related to the hypothesis; and (d) confirmation of the theory (Perrin, 2015, p. 81). In the present research, the participatory management model provides the theoretical approach which would lead to the development of the hypothesis and the process of data collection, analysis and findings.

The research would be conducted with qualitative method, using both primary as well as secondary data. Primary data will be collected through interviews with local people in the region. The samples for the data will comprise of people from different backgrounds and ages. Therefore, monks and nuns, university students and high school students, farmers, business persons, will be part of the samples created. This will allow the researcher to collect, compare and contrast perceptions of people from diverse backgrounds from both the urban as well as rural areas.

Primary data will also include official regulations and policies. Secondary data will include relevant literature in books as well as journals. Qualitative method will be useful for this research as this research also involves consideration of perspectives, which would require a more flexible approach in the research. Quantitative research is not suited to multi-layered information collection, whereas qualitative research allows a flexible approach (Walliman, 2015). Moreover, qualitative research methods would allow the researcher to use interviews, surveys or questionnaires for data collection (Gill, et al., 2008). The researcher will use interview method for collection of primary data relating to environment management perspectives and practices of Tibetan people in the Tibetan plateau.

The research will be done by following the interpretative epistemology approach, as this research will be based on the understanding of the perspective of participants living within the world (Lee & Lings, 2008). Epistemology allows the consideration of the question of what is acceptable knowledge in a discipline and if the social world is studied according to the same (Bryman & Bell, 2015).

Ethical issues

Ethical issues are an important part of this research as this research is being conducted with the human participants. Ethical rules that will be followed in this research will include: ensuring informed and voluntary participation of all interviewees and securing the privacy of all participants. It is pertinent to note that research can be compromised if ethical concerns relating to human participants are violated, including: harm to interviewee, lack of informed consent, invasion of privacy, and deception for obtaining consent or information from participants (Diener & Crandall, 1978). As the research also involves use of secondary data, academic integrity will be maintained by referencing all sources used in a proper referencing method.

Reliability and Validity

The researcher will ensure the reliability and validity of the findings by using the triangulation method. This method can be used in qualitative research to improve the validity of findings (Bamberger, 2000). This is done by using different data sources, such as interviews, other primary research studies, or surveys, and if the same findings are observed overall, triangulation is seen (Bamberger, 2000). The researcher can also ask the same kind of questions at different times to the subjects in the sample population (Bush, 2012, p. 85).


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The research may have limitations due to a smaller budget. The researcher may not be able to create large samples for interviews as a limited budget may constrict the researcher from doing so. Therefore, the research findings will be based on a smaller sample size.


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