Re-Sources: Saving Living Systems

SUMMARY: Re-Sources: Saving Living Systems: a replicable, multi-disciplinary, integrated-systems project addressing ecological degradation and cultural genocide. Phase one is the rich, undocumented water culture in the Tibetan areas of Western Sichuan. With grassroots, collaborative strategies, we will use the roots of this culture to teach sustainable practices for economic survival.

PROBLEM SPACE: The Tibetans have lived for thousands of years at the headwaters of a vast water system. Global warming, extraction, damming, and development are now decimating this system, and thus their way of life. There is currently little effort to provide integrated, sustainable solutions for wastewater, energy, food, and economic survival.

SOLUTION: My strategy is to empower the Tibetans by revitalizing their relationship with water and natural systems before it is completely lost, while disseminating contemporary information about integrated, sustainable solutions pertinent to their economic and ecological systems. Combining culture, science, technology, and education in innovative ways will give each village the tools to initiate and maintain a long-range vision for sustainability.

My goal is to turn around the ecological degradation of the region: There was not a single wastewater treatment system in the villages we visited, nor recycling, and chemical fertilizers are being pushed. Some villages had to buy bottled water as dams had diverted their water. When we initiated a clean up with monks, they started picking up leaves and twigs until we explained that only non-biodegradable materials are garbage. These substances are a recent introduction to their landscape and there is little understanding that plastic is pollution. We will provide training programs, translate practical texts for education, and present various systems to initiate discussions about what is most appropriate for each environment. Initially several experts will live in a village to train a small local group, which will ensure that each choice is local, efficient, and economical. After establishing models, the process will be spread to nearby villages and in time villages can exchange information. Always there will be integration between human and natural systems.

As the Tibetans cannot get loans to improve their agricultural and economic situation, the most practical solution is for each village to deal with the problems in ways that are already rooted in their culture, and to evolve a contemporary plan best suited to their needs and ecosystems. This is a wholistic strategy, which imagines ways to implement change given the political, economic, and environmental blocks facing Tibetans.