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A Visit to the Source of a Recent Glacier Flood in Nepal

Posted by on May 17, 2017 in All Posts, Classroom Hub, Featured Posts, Interviews, News | 0 comments

A Visit to the Source of a Recent Glacier Flood in Nepal

Spread the News:ShareAlton Byers discussed a recent glacier hazard in Nepal with GlacierHub. Byers is a senior research associate at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado and co-manager of High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP). He has been recognized as an Explorer by National Geographic. The account below is based on interviews with Byers and emails from Dhananjay Regmi, a geographer at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. On May 2, Daene McKinney, Dhananjay Regmi and Alton Byers flew from Dingboche over the Sherpani Col and into the upper Barun valley in the eastern Himalayas of Nepal in an effort to determine the source of an April 20 flood. Dorje Sherpa, a resident of Yangle Kharka, reported that the lake burst around 1 p.m., flooding down the Barun River, and reached his village about a half-hour later. The settlements of Langmale, Zak Kharka and Rephuk Kharka remained largely undamaged, as did lodges in the area, but Yangle Kharka suffered a loss of at least three buildings and many hectares of valuable grazing land. Tematang, further downstream, is located on a high terrace and was fortunately spared damage. However, all local bridges were washed away. The flood arrived at the confluence of the Barun and Arun Rivers around 4 p.m., where the debris dammed the Arun River, forming a temporary lake 2-3 km long. This setting is remote, a two-day walk from the district capital of Khandbari. The lake presented a serious threat, since it would have created a second, more destructive flood in the densely populated areas downstream had it breached the dam. The government response was swift. Police reached the site on the morning of April 21 and started to plan how to protect the endangered communities. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi issued a directive to open the dam in order to reduce the threat of flooding. The Natural Disaster Rescue Committee, an organization within the Nepali Ministry of Home Affairs, met in Kathmandu to discuss the situation. Fortunately, the lake began to drain spontaneously around 2 p.m. on April 21, with some local flooding below, but far less than was feared. Rather than originating in the Lower Barun glacial lake or as a result of heavy rains and flooded tributaries, as some surmised, the flood’s trigger appears to have been two surficial glacial lakes on the Langmale Glacier just east of the Langmale settlement area, most likely supplemented by englacial conduit and subglacial conduit, as in the Lhotse glacier flood Byers observed and recorded last June. The combined volume of water cascaded over the Langmale’s terminal moraine, creating a huge torrent that picked up more material and debris as it cascaded down the Barun River channel, carving out massive new river channels and flooding large areas of grazing and forest land. Regmi and Byers spoke with 16 villagers in Yangle Kharka, who said that they would be rebuilding them and returning home soon. The villagers expressed deep concern about the impacts of the flood on the coming tourist season. The damaged trails and bridges make it difficult for local porters and foreign trekkers to reach the region, and the dramatically changed landscapes, with landslide scars, are less visually appealing to tourists. McKinney, Regmi and Byers were only able to fly another 10 km or so down valley because of fuel shortages before returning to the upper Barun and Khumbu, but they noticed another very large and fresh torrent scar on the right bank of the Barun. They plan to study it as well and learn more about its possible role in...

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Upcoming Conference Examines Trans-Asian Indigeneity

Posted by on Feb 8, 2017 in All Posts, Classroom Hub, Featured Posts, News | 0 comments

Upcoming Conference Examines Trans-Asian Indigeneity

Spread the News:ShareMarking the ten-year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), this year’s Asian Studies Summer Institute at the Pennsylvania State University will focus on the theme of “Trans-Asian Indigeneity.” The Institute, June 18-24, 2017, will be directed by Neal Keating, Pasang Yangjee Sherpa and Charlotte Eubanks. For the Institute, we invite applications from the humanities, arts and sciences —anthropology, environmental studies, history, political ecology, geography, art and literature— that examine “Indigeneity” as a protean concept and lived reality in Asia, Asian America, and Asian diasporic communities across the globe. Applicants must have completed their PhDs between August 2012 and 2017, or be advanced graduate students who are completing their dissertations. Institute participants spend a week reading and thinking about the annual theme, as well as significant time workshopping their work in progress. Particularly strong work may be considered for publication in the “Indigeneity” special issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias. We are especially interested in attending to the concept’s travels between Asian and western settler societies, or those following the movement’s historical concurrence with the rise of neoliberal political economy and the onset of massive anthropogenic environmental change. We explore the possibilities of strengthening collective indigenous identities that are not antithetical to state sovereignty and citizenry, but nonetheless challenge the status quo of nation-states and finance capital to make political space for “other” peoples with collective human rights that are now recognized in international law. We are also interested in the current historical, political and ecological moment, and the growing realization of planetary limits to unchecked economic growth. New forms of human organization are becoming imaginable, and Indigeneity may be among the most sustainable of these. We encourage applications that connect discourses of ‘Asian’ indigeneities with the larger planetary flows of capital and people. Participants whose work draws on any region in Asia are welcome. For the readers of GlacierHub, we note that the indigenous peoples of the high mountain regions of Asia represent a variety of forms of engagement with indigeneity. Lying along the frontiers of the former Russian, British and Chinese empires, they negotiated with rulers in distant capitals who applied different systems of classification to them, and who often ran borders through the lands of specific peoples. At this time, some indigenous peoples began diasporas that have continued to the present. Their encounters with independent nations after the end of these empires have also been complex and marked by a growing number of new diasporas. We note as well that the lower mountain ranges of southeast Asia and the easternmost Himalayas have been characterized as a large zone of peoples who resist state rule altogether, as James C. Scott argued in his 2009 The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. This Institute provides a venue to reflect on how far the indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change in Asia have come in 2017, as we also mark a decade since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). How are indigenous mountain peoples like the Sherpas dealing with threats from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs)? How are Bhote Khampas adapting to the changes in the availability of forest herbs? Penn State will provide a graduated travel stipend ($400 from the East Coast, $600 from the Midwest, $800 from the West Coast; $1000 from Europe; $1350 from Asia). We will also cover the costs of housing and most meals for the week of the Institute. To apply, please send the...

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At Family Game Night, Glacier Retreat is in the Cards

Posted by on Mar 24, 2016 in All Posts, Classroom Hub, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics, Uncategorized | 0 comments

At Family Game Night, Glacier Retreat is in the Cards

Spread the News:ShareA game that focuses on glacier retreat drew a number of players at a community outreach event held earlier this month in Fairbanks, Alaska, as part of a major international conference, the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW). The game, called Glaciers Then and Now, is played with a deck of 16 cards, each of which  contain a photograph of a glacier–some in black and white, some in color–and the year it was taken. The players are told that these cards form eight pairs of images of individual glaciers taken from the same spot, the second one decades after the first. It’s fairly easy to separate the deck into the earlier and later cards. Six of them have dates between 1899 and 1909, and eight are from 2003 and 2004. The card from 1941 is in black and white, like the oldest cards, and fits in with them. It can take a little more thought to decide where to put the one remaining card in the set, which is from 1976. It’s in color, like the new cards. A player might have to count to see that it belongs with the set of older cards. The players then have to match up the pairs. Some of them are easy, because they have distinctive foreground features like boulders and beaches, which can readily be identified. Others are more difficult, especially the ones in which bushes and trees, which have grown in recent years, block part of the view. Nonetheless, most players complete the matching successfully. They then can notice the striking  differences between the two cards in each pair, and recognize how the newer cards in each pair show photos of glaciers with much less ice. The contrast is striking even for the pair that is separated by the shortest interval, only 27 years, The worksheet that accompanies the game invites the players to compare the pictures, and leads them to see how all glaciers in Alaska are rapidly retreating. The materials for this game draw on a repeat-photography project of the US Geological Service (USGS). Bruce Molnia and other photographers travelled to glaciers for which historical photographs were available, and located the precise spots where these images had been taken.  The images were first developed into a game in 2007 by Teri Eastburn of the Center for Science Education of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. In an email interview with GlacierHub, she wrote that she originally created the game “for use with field trip students interested in learning about polar science and how climate change is impacting the region.” She mentioned “the power of visuals to tell a very important story.” The game was later modified into its current form by Lisa Gardiner for the National Earth Science Teachers Association.  Elena Sparrow, the Education Outreach Director and Research Professor at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, selected this game, along with a number of others, for Family Game Night, a community event at ASSW held on March 16. In an email interview with GlacierHub, Sparrow wrote, “All the games and activities were utilized and children and their parents seemed to enjoy them. We estimated about 75 participants.” Family Game Night drew people from Fairbanks, who were curious about ASSW and eager to learn more about their home region, as well as visitors who were attending the conference. The other activities included puzzles that illustrate Arctic sea ice loss and glacier retreat, EcoChains: Arctic Crisis (a card game, developed by the PoLAR Climate Change Education Partnership at Columbia University, in which players build an Arctic marine...

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