Sherpa Perceptions of Climate Change and Institutional Responses in the Everest Region of Nepal
Sherpa, Pasang Yangjee
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In light of recent scientific reports and local observations in the Everest region in Nepal revealing the vulnerabilities of Sherpa people to the effects of climate change, this dissertation shows how Sherpa perceptions of climate change differ in various socioeconomic conditions, what causes these differences and how these differences affect the effectiveness of risk management policies and practices. This dissertation presents a case of how small scale socio-cultural systems are increasingly interconnected to global geopolitics and global commerce, and yet the voices of the local people remain unheard and their concerns continue to be masked by what elites in the global scale socio-cultural systems deem to be important. This dissertation shows that Sherpas in Pharak, gateway to Mt. Everest, have first hand knowledge of the effects of climate change and are knowledgeable about the short term and long term environmental changes that have occurred in their region. This dissertation demonstrates that social heterogeneity in Pharak, a popular tourist destination, has an impact on how Sherpas perceive climate change. Depending on the age, gender, occupation and residence in an on-route or off-route village, informants have varying perceptions of climate change, which are likely to change based on their exposure to other members of the society, institutional activities to the effects of climate change and the media.This dissertation reveals that, for more than a decade now, governmental and non-governmental institutions have organized several activities in the Everest region as responses to the effects of climate change. However, the term `climate change,' as the researchers and governmental and nongovernmental institutions use it is still a foreign concept for the majority of Pharak Sherpas. The participation of local Sherpas in these activities is minimal and in some cases limited to their symbolic representations to promote institutional agenda. This dissertation suggests that unless institutions can treat local peoples as equal partners with credible knowledge, capable of making significant contributions, and accommodate to the existing social heterogeneity, institutional responses to the effects of climate change at the local level will not be effective and may be detrimental.