By Katie Sanders’13
This last Wednesday—October 26, 2016—the Peace in War Center joined the university-wide effort to host Johnathan Mingle as a lecturer in the Writer’s Series. This particular lecture exemplified the Peace and War Center’s mission: “to advance interdisciplinary knowledge.” Mingle gave a presentation on his book entitled Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity and Survival on the Roof of the World which is a telling of his experiences in India and the stories of his friend, Urgain Dorjay.
They lived in one of the harshest climates in the world, Zanskar, with winters lasting about seven months out of the year and temperatures frequently dipping to 30 and 40 degrees below zero. In such a harsh climate, heat and community are the major necessities for survival. Mingle goes on to explain how their way of life and the need for fire and water are intertwined and heavily impacted by climate change. While some villages are privileged enough to have been given—by the government or various other organizations—means to heat their homes with clean-burning fuel, water, and electricity others have not been so fortunate and are forced to burn garbage or dried yak and sheep dung in order to survive. These are certainly not the best or cleanest means for fuel but their options are limited.
Soot, the main by-product of these unclean fuel sources, is the second biggest contributor to climate change and the people in Zanskar are feeling the repercussions the heaviest. With rivers shirking, winters shortening, and glaciers disappearing water sources and windbreaks are becoming scarcer and making an already difficult environment impossible to live in and people are being forced to leave their homes. In addition to the environmental implications, there are also major health concerns for those having to breathe in the smoke from these “dirty” fuel sources. Mingle delivered the breakdown of these terrifying and all-to-real environmental struggles with whimsical tales from the villages in Zanskar. For more information and photos of Johnathan Mingle’s novel, Fire and Ice: Soot, Solidarity and Survival on the Roof of the World, please feel free to explore his website here.
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