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Weather wise, month-by-month, the first half of 2016 is the hottest on record according to the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, and the news has been filled with extreme events - wildfires in California and Alberta, Canada, flooding in West Virginia and Paris, super typhoon Nepartak wreaking havoc in Asia.  But while these high-profile effects of climate change capture our attention for the news cycle, there are much more subtle changes occurring in the more remote, less populated places in the world.  Though less dramatically so, these effects are as disruptive to the lives of the people who are having to adapt to them.

 
 

The inhabitants of the Altai Mountains in Russia, the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, and the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan are among those whose traditional lifestyles are threatened by one of the less reported effects of climate change - retreating glaciers.  

The isolated communities in these mountain ranges seldom make the news, but their stories are nonetheless important, and Russian filmmaker Ivan Golovnev teamed up with the United Nations University to film them.

 

The borders of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan converge in the Altai Mountains, and the area for centuries served as a cultural crossroads.  Recent anthropological research suggests that this area “may have been the genetic source of the earliest Native Americans.”*  The tribes in this region speak languages that are Turkic in origin, and they hold a wholistic view of nature in which the elements of the environment - water, grass and forests - are considered sacred, believing all of nature is animate.  Their traditional way of life depends on water from the glaciers in the peaks above their pastures, and with each passing year there is less water as the glaciers retreat.  

 

 

Land has breath - Rediscovering Altai’s human-nature relationships (8:35)

(If you cannot see the video below, click here).

 

 

 

The story is much the same for those living in the Tian Shan Mountains, which border Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and China.  And in the Pamir Mountains, in which Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and China converge.  

The glaciers in Tian Shan Mountains are reported to have lost 27 percent of their mass since 1961, a retreat rate that is well above the worldwide average during the same time period.**  

In this second video, shepherds Sariev Dookasy and Anarkul Bakirdynova explain the impact the shrinking glaciers are imposing on their way of life and livelihood.

 


Finding a place to feed: Kyrgyz shepherds and climate change (8:09)

(If you cannot see the video below, click here).

 

In Tajikistan, the Institute of Water Issues and Glaciers keeps a close eye on the glacial retreat in the Pamir Mountains.  The country’s Ministry of Emergency Situations has declared an emergency in the area because of the threats of land slides and flooding due to rapidly melting glaciers.  This last video takes an intimate look at what climate change means for three generations of Pamiri women.

 

Pamiri women and the melting glaciers of Tajikistan. (9:41)

(If you cannot see the video below, click here).


The challenges that climate change presents us with are great and vastly complicated.  There are no easy solutions.  But the more we know about the plight of others and increase our understanding of the monumental adjustments they are forced to make in their lives, perhaps the more willing we will be to make voluntary adjustments in our own in an effort to arrest the process of global warming that threatens communities around the globe.   

 

*”Tiny mountainous region in Siberia may have been genetic source of earliest Native Americans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120126123655.htm>.

**Naik, Gautam (August 17, 2015). "Central Asia Mountain Range Has Lost a Quarter of Ice Mass in 50 Years, Study Says". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 18, 2015.


Map and Photos from Wikipedia
 

Videos:

Developed and produced for United Nations University (UNU) by UNU Media Studio & Institute of Zoology and Parasitology -Tajikistan Academy of Sciences, in association with UNU-IAS Traditional knowledge Initiative and The Christensen Fund.

Further information, for this film can be found at film’s website: ourworld.unu.edu

United Nations University has published this work under a Creative Commons license - share alike, attribution, no derivatives, non-commercial

 
 

 
 
 
 
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