Posted by: shipbright | January 4, 2010

The third Pole and the third Goddess…The Tibetan Plateau part 2

It’s called the “roof of the world”…

Created by the collision of the Indian and Asian tectonic plates the Tibetan Plateau has been pushed upwards over six miles high to create the highest lands and mountains in the world.  It’s size is about 2.5 million square kilometers, almost twice the size of Alaska — about four times the size of Texas or France with an average elevation over 4,500 meters.  It is one of the, if not the, most remote regions on the earth. 

It’s snows and glaciers are the third largest reservoir of freshwater on the planet.  It is probably the most important reservoir of freshwater on Earth as over 40% of the world’s population relies upon freshwater meltoff of the glaciers and snows from this storied remote land. 

Rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Yangtze [Chang Jiang], Yellow [Huang He], and Indus rivers all have their birthplace in the Tibetan plateau.  It has been called the “Third Pole” for its altitude and the snows and glaciers it holds.

Greenland and Antarctica may hold more freshwater, but no other area of the world holds freshwater for so many people…The problem is that the glaciers are retreating rapidly and changes in the hydrologic cycle are not replenishing the frozen freshwater at a rate that will sustain the people, animals and ecosystems that depend on those waters.

Over the next few weeks Fresh[water] ideas for a thirsty planet will be looking at the Tibetan Plateau and the rivers and people those waters sustain.  While it may seem a bit exotic and esoteric to be considering such a far away and remote place I offer what I had earlier posted on the disappearing islands of the South Pacific with a quote from Laurens van der Post, “..this story is like the wind.  It comes from a far off place but we feel it here.”

These issues will place over 40% of the world’s population under severe hardship with diminishing freshwater from the glacial sources high at the roof of the word.  Those hardships and risks have a way of playing out on the international arena as people strive to survive.

To start off this series we’ll begin AT the roof of the world….Mt.Everest

At 8,850 meters or 29,035 feet above sea level Mt. Everest is THE roof of the world.  The Tibetan name for Mt. Everest is “Quomolangma”  which means “The Third Goddess”.  There are many variations on the mythology of the third goddess-here is one I particularly like: ” During ancient times there was a sea in the region. Then a group of Devils came and destroyed every life. One day, the wind brought 5 colorful clouds that arrived from the Heavens. The clouds were 5 Goddesses. They fought with the Devils and locked the Devils under the snowy mountains. People prayed for the Goddesses to stay and protect them and the Earth. The Goddesses agreed. They made the forests, the grasslands, the farm fields and the beautiful flowers. Then they turned into 5 high Peaks. The Third Goddess was the tallest and bravest one and she became Quomolongma or what we call Mt. Everest.”  It is the mountain of legends, a holy mountain to the people who live there, a birthplace of waters, and a siren call for adventurers…

Here is an excellent video that incorporates local views and insights

Keep in mind from my previous posts that these waters are worth more than oil…no water, no civility, no civilization.

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