VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
“The seed comes from the tree, the tree comes from the seed. It’s like the chicken and the egg. If people want to understand it, they will break the seed apart — they will actually kill it — to see the cells, the chromosomes and the genetics. There is another way to look at this. I plant a seed and a miracle happens — something new is born out of this carbohydrate and protein, a new life is born. This is a miracle, you see? The miracle of life.”
For Bhutanese, the relationship we have with our rivers is complex. Generally, we are taught to both fear and respect the river. Superstition and parental wisdom guide us away from rivers. We appreciate and revere them from afar. We would not dare pollute or defile them. But now we are appreciating that rural livelihoods and sustainable tourism can be built on keeping Bhutan’s rivers wild and free.
For a region as rich in biodiversity as the Eastern Himalaya, Bhutan’s healthy population of wild cats, including snow leopard in the north and tiger elsewhere, can serve to repopulate adjoining landscapes as long as the habitats are protected. Bhutan can function as the ecological heart of the Eastern Himalaya, sustaining rural people as well as unique species of wild cats in this large mountainous landscape. For these reasons, investing in Bhutan’s conservation efforts is beneficial to the world!
Dasho Neten remembers a time when “people simply acted on their values informally,” while now the general sense of citizenship wanes. As a farmer and prominent activist in Bhutan, Dasho Neten challenges us not to depend on the government to build our societies. “We need to wake up! There is an inconvenient truth lingering, and we need to ask: are we really moving towards self-reliance? Sometimes we need reminders, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.”
I met Saha at Bija Vidyapeeth, the educational farm managed by the agricultural and activism nonprofit, Navdanya. Saha teaches Ayurveda around the world, from basic workshops to more complex courses. She spent most of her life in the air and space industry, but during a period of personal, physical crisis, Saha found herself in and out of hospitals until her mother took her to an Ayurvedic doctor. “Something that had been bothering me for four or five years was within two weeks under control, and within six months was gone.”
“I cut all the pictures out of my textbook…they were so…” My friend Anu doesn’t finish her thought. She doesn’t have to. I know the words that she can use, but they will never fully articulate the horrific, gruesome, tragic images depicting the event of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster, considered by many to be the…
“All plants are medicine,” Dr. Raghubir Singh Rawat, the herbal gardener at Navdanya, exclaims proudly with a hint of mystery to his voice. Dr. Rawat bends down to examine a seemingly mundane but prolific weed, “this is used for eye health,” he says before popping the small white diamond-shape flower in his mouth. He stretches above his…
Not pictured: the dozens of hands cutting, sorting and hauling rice. The sweat-soaked saris and brows. The awe of witnessing the preservation of biodiversity.
Bhutan is a relative newcomer to modernity: the country’s first paved road was completed in 1962, and the Internet and TV were not introduced until 1999. Since 2000, however, the pace of its development has snowballed. That acceleration is particularly evident in the country’s shifting demographics. Sixty percent of the Bhutan’s population is below the age of 34. While some people work on farms, more and more prefer to live and work in cities such as Thimphu, the capital. It’s easier than ever to move to those cities, but difficult to find jobs in them.
‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’ Completes First Wild Tiger Survey By the World Wildlife Fund Bhutan is home to an amazing 103 wild tigers—an increase from a previous estimate of 75 that was not based on actual field surveys—according to the country’s first-ever tiger survey released on Global Tiger Day [July 29]. Conducted entirely…
High on top of a mountain pass on the road from Thimphu to Punaka, overlooking the Himalayas, is a concentration of 108 chortens (stupas) built in memory of Bhutanese soldiers killed in the 2003 war against insurgents from India.
Upon visiting the most sacred place in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest monastery thousands of feet up on the side of a mountain, David Braun reflects on the precepts of Buddhism that encourage the country’s powerful respect for nature.
On his final field inspection with the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE), Geographer Keith Clarke writes about his experience in Bhutan and reflects on his eight-year term with CRE.
Before leaving the Bhutanese capital city today, the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration visited what will soon be the largest sitting statue of Buddha.
Dr. Peter Raven, Trustee of the National Geographic Society and Chairman of the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration, reflects on a poem he read at an event to celebrate a hundred years of National Geographic coverage of Bhutan.