Bhutanese man on climate mission in Nepal to collect Everest ice

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Lalitpur, May 18: Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, a 41-year-old Bhutanese actor, film producer, and environmental advocate, has embarked on a mission to raise awareness about the impact of climate change, calling for urgent action as glaciers continue to melt rapidly even in the highest mountains.

Jamyang, the initiator of the ‘The Messenger-Ride for Action’ campaign, has cycled all the way from Bhutan to Nepal, talking with various communities and individuals to learn about the local experiences of climate change and how they are adapting to its challenges.

Recently, Jamyang undertook a trek to Thorthomi Glacier Lake in Bhutan, where he collected a symbolic bottle of water to represent the effects of climate change. This bottle, filled with glacial water from the Thorthormi glacier, serves as a powerful emblem of climate action. 

To further highlight the issue, Jamyang plans to collect ice from the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, as he makes his way to the Everest base camp. The ice will be obtained by a Sherpa climber and combined with the glacial water he collected earlier.

In an interview with The Rising Nepal, Jamyang stressed the urgency of the situation, citing a research article published in the Nature Portfolio Journal in February 2022. The study revealed that the ice on the South Col glacier of Mount Everest, which took 2000 years to form, has disappeared within the last three decades due to climate change. 

This alarming trend highlights the need to disseminate the message of climate change and inspire collective action. According to the same study, Mount Everest’s South Col Glacier, a critical route for climbers, has likely lost half of its mass since the 1990s and could completely vanish by the middle of this century.

The research findings obtained from the 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition, which involved the collaboration of 34 international and Nepali scientists, multiple Sherpas, and the navigation of various logistical challenges, as reported by an article published on nationalgeographic.com in February 2022.

Jamyang’s campaign focuses on three key messages -- the cessation of deforestation and the adoption of renewable energy, and the inclusion of climate crisis studies in school curricula. He believes that these actions are crucial for mitigating the effects of climate change.

“I am here to convey to the world that even the highest glaciers are being deeply impacted by climate change. The glacial water in this plastic bottle represents the melting glaciers, while the bottle itself symbolises the widespread issue of plastic pollution in our world,” Jamyang explained, showcasing the bottle during a programme organised by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Lalitpur recently.

Over the next two weeks, Jamyang and his team will trek to the Everest base camp, where they will retrieve the melted snow. Along the way, they will collect stories from the Sherpa community, including the renowned glaciologist Tenzing Chogyal Sherpa, who is the grandson of Tenzing Norgay, the first person to ascend Everest.

“This has been an exhilarating journey across Bhutan, India, and now Nepal. While it has been a pleasure to meet and interact with people in these wonderful countries, the primary objective is to raise awareness about the precarious state of the world’s highest mountains and the far-reaching impacts of rising temperatures on downstream communities,” Jamyang expressed.

Additionally, Jamyang intends to create a documentary using footage from these treks, which will portray the stories of people affected by climate change and their resilience. The documentary will cover the journey through India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan, shedding light on local communities’ experiences and their responses to the climate crisis.

“My father will be joining me on this trek. As a former Cabinet Secretary and dedicated civil servant, he instilled in me a love for nature during our hikes through dense forests and visits to remote villages. Now, it is my turn to give back. We believe that the father-son dynamic will add an emotional element to the film, which otherwise deals with a serious subject,” Jamyang said.

In the second phase of the campaign, which is scheduled for September 2023, a bicycle ride will resume from Kathmandu, passing through New Delhi, Islamabad, and Karachi, before continuing to Dubai on a wind or solar-powered boat. The objective of this journey is to deliver the symbolic bottle of water to the Bhutanese delegation at COP28 and urge them to address the issue in front of world leaders.

Ben Clark, an independent filmmaker from the United States, is providing support to Jamyang’s journey. A small team, led by Ben, will follow the campaign in a support of electric vehicle (EV) and capture footage for a documentary film. 

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