Mount Everest Region: Contested Geographies of Adaptation to Climate Change

Authors: Pasang Sherpa*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Asia, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Climate Change, Adaptation, Mount Everest Region, Nepal, Sacred Landscape
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In light of recent studies that elucidate the Mount Everest region of Nepal as constructed sacred space of the Sherpas (Skog 2017), where the local tourism and mountaineering economy rely on non-Sherpa labor migrants (Frydenlund 2018), this paper revisits my climate change study (2009-2012) and post-earthquake fieldwork (2015) that focused solely on the Sherpas to discuss contested geographies (Trew and Tye 2005) of adaptation to climate change. It recognizes that non-Sherpas are increasingly settling in the region adding to the ways in which residents connect with their environment. Findings from my previous study showed that: 1) national climate change adaptation policies narrowly define GLOF as the climate change threat at the expense of a wide variety of climate change effects experienced and observed by the residents (Sherpa 2014); and 2) institutional climate change activities exclude residents or include them only in the role of passive recipients of packaged assistance (Sherpa 2015) leading to local opposition in the form of general apathy and disapproval (Khadka 2012). The now debunked Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation (THED) persists in the region in its current climate change incarnation (Ives 2013) evidenced in the alarmist apocalyptic climate change reporting that surged particularly in the 2005-2009 period prior to the Copenhagen climate summit (Sherpa 2015). The local becomes more-than-local in this context. This paper, then, asks who is vulnerable and what are we adapting to? It interrogates the local power structures and the political inequalities of individuals and institutions to reveal differentiated vulnerabilities and adaptation capabilities.

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