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Event Report

• May 24 th, 2010

132 P e r r y S t r e e t, N e w Yo r k , N e w Yo r k 10014

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Happiness the Only Meaningful Measure of Development


ver the course of two days, Trace Foundation, through

underdeveloped western regions, including Tibetan areas in

Local Knowlegde & Sustainable Development in the

Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Himalayas, initiated a conversation on models for

Across the border in India and Nepal, remote Himalayan

economic development that preserve the environment and local

communities face many of the same challenges as those on the

cultures. On Friday and Saturday, May 14 and 15 , a mixed

Tibetan plateau. For these communities, both in the PRC and

group of academics, development professionals and members

India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bhutan the cost of bringing Tibetan

of the local community gathered for an intimate discussion on

items to market is prohibitive. “The wool of Tibetan nomads is

development models for the rural communities of the Himalayas.

more expensive [in local markets] than that of Australian herders”

On the second day, during a full-day workshop and panel

Tsering Shakya explained “and even beer in Lhasa is made with

discussion moderated by Tsering Shakya, an influential historian

barley grown in Canada rather than from the fields of The Yarlung

of modern Tibet, opinions diverged widely as panelists sought to

Valley.” With no outlet for their products, rural Tibetans struggle

define the key terms of the day’s discussion, “sustainability” and

to escape poverty.



“development.” For the latter, the panelists were able to agree that greater happiness must be the goal of development.

Today, there is near universal agreement that development is imperative and that that development must be sustainable; what is

In the past thirty years more than 400 million have been lifted

meant by the two terms, however, is frequently unclear. Across the

out of extreme poverty in the People’s Republic of China according

Himalayas governments, NGOs, and influential individuals are all

to the World Bank. From a high of nearly 60% of the population,

advocating for a wide-array of development strategies. Saturday’s

today less than 10% of the population falls below the World Bank’s

panelists represented a broad spectrum of opinions.

$1.25 a day poverty line. Of those, the vast majority live in China’s

Jigme Gyaltsen, the first speaker of the day’s event, focused

To lear n more visit us on our website at w w or at faceb o ok .com/TraceFoundation

“those who attempt to protect local culture





or the environment and ignore economic

collecting initial investments from them,

development, and those who think only

the association has allowed the nomadic

of economic development. The primary

herders of Golok access to both Chinese

mission of the association we’ve created is

and international markets. Making use

to combine all three: traditional culture,

of local resources and local manufacture,

with concern for the environment, and

the nomads are given greater incentive to

economic advancement.”

ensure protection of the environment as

Trace Foundation’s Tibetan his discussion on his vision of social

Cheese Project began with

entrepreneurship as a means of eradicating

a single vision, to use local

poverty on the Tibetan Plateau. A senior

materials and traditional tech-

monk at Ragya Monastery in Golok

niques to provide a source of

Prefecture, Jigme Gyaltsen has worked as

income for the nomadic commu-

an educator for nearly twenty years. “In the

nities of Golok Prefecture and to

beginning,” he said, “I focused exclusively

ensure their long-term prospects

on education. Eventually I realized that

through high-quality education.

education alone could not achieve my goal.

Throughout much of history

Some form of economic development was

this remote corner of the Tibetan plateau remained isolated, protected by its topogra-

necessary, and it would support my effort

phy, climate, and its inhabitant’s fierce reputation. In the past few decades however, it

to improve local education.”

has faced significant changes along with the rest of China. Today, new pressures have

The drive to permanently settle the nomads has caused dramatic change in the

emerged, and the modern, globalized world sits at the doorstep of the high pastures of Qinghai Province.

lives of the Tibetan pastoralists with whom

In 1996 Trace Foundation received a grant application from an exceptional senior

Jigme Gyaltsen works. Through unique

monk named Jigme Gyaltsen. Using traditional methods, including Buddhist debate,

initiatives and vocational education, Jigme

to teach new subjects like biology and math to the young students of his free school,

Gyaltsen seeks to allow Golok’s nomads to

Jigme Gyaltsen was turning the centuries old traditions and customs of the plateau to

continue their traditional way of life while

the advantage of its people in the modern era. Trace Foundation was inspired. In 2003,

achieving much needed economic growth

in collaboration with the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and the Veterinary

and conserving the natural environment.

Association for Collaboration with Developing Countries (AVEC-PVS), Trace sought

His first major effort towards this goal

an equally innovative solution to the free schools’ perennial shortage of funding.

was The Snowland Yak Cheese Factory,

By crafting a European-style cheese from dri milk, provided by the prefecture’s

the fruit of a long-term collaboration with

nomadic pastoralists and cooked over traditional yak dung fires, Trace Foundation

Trace Foundation. At the factory milk from

has sought to allow the nomads of Golok to engage with global markets on their own

nomadic herders is crafted into a European

terms. Sales of the cheese throughout the world not only provide a source of income

style cheese for sale across China and in

for local pastoralists, but further support the educational activities of Jigme Gyaltsen,

the US. In 2009 he organized the Tibetan

ensuring a brighter future for the community.

Nomadic Entrepreneur Association to

For centuries the high pastures of Qinghai Province have been grazed by the herds of

further his vision. “There are two major

Tibetan pastoralists. Trace Foundation seeks to ensure that these communities are able

groups of people working on these issues

to make a decision about continuing their traditional way of life out of genuine choice,

[in Tibetan areas],” Jigme Gyaltsen said,

rather than dire necessity.

May 24th, 2010

Trace Foundation | | page 2

it is both their home and their economic lifeline. On the other side of the Tibetan Plateau, in Ladakh, Helena NorbergHodge is promoting a different model for development. As the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, she has worked over the last thirty years to examine the root causes of social and environmental crises. The Swedish national first visted the region in 1975. While living in the area, she was struck by what she perceived as a radical drop in the well-being and self-confidence of the Ladakhi people as they came

strict use of GDP as a measure of human

need for deeper dialogue between Tibetans

increasingly under the influence of global

development, Norberg-Hodge asserted

and the West,” she asserted. There ought to

consumer culture.

that today we need an economics that has

be “an opportunity for Tibetans to see the

an understanding of the interdependence

reality of life in the west in order to better

of all living things.

understand the limitations of western style

The sudden influx of mass-media and foreign culture came on the heels of the general opening up of Ladakh to foreign

While Jigme Gyaltsen helps Golok’s

products and trade in the 1970s. Rather


than improving the lives of local residents

cope with the increasing

however, she argues that this process has

encroachment of the global

created homelessness, social strife, and

economy, Helena Norberg-

environmental degradation, as well as a

Hodge advocates for drastic

crippling loss of self-confidence amongst

changes in the system itself,

the local populace, both in themselves


and in their culture. Arguing against the




increasingly production,

especially of food, clothing and shelter.

May 24 , 2010 th


“Eventually I realized that education alone could not achieve my goal. Some form of economic development was necessary, and it would support my effort to improve local education.”

By reducing the distance


- Jigme Gyaltsen



between production and consumption,

the risks inherent in the dominant,

she asserted, we can help rebuild both


biodiversity and the diversity of the world’s

Sangay Gya stressed the fundamental

cultures. Localization, she contends, is


particularly important in the areas of food

Tibetan culture.

and energy production, with decentralized

deputy director of Qinghai Snowland

renewable energy technologies being a

Great Rivers Environmental Protection

centerpiece of her vision of development in

Association, Sangay Gya asserted, “in

the region. While advocating limitations

Tibetan culture we have various ideas and

on the flow of consumables, Norberg-

methodologies with regard to the idea of



sustainable development.” “Personally,”

continued flows of information. “There is a

he continued, “I find the definition of











An educator and the

Trace Foundation | | page 3

happiness, and of sustainable development

other panelists. He asserted: “when we

tourism, microcredit, and community

within the teachings of Tsongkhapa [the

talk about happiness we have to see the


eminent 15th century Buddhist master

interdependent nature of the happiness of


and founder of the Gelukpa sect]…what Tsongkhapa


is what happiness is, how you can attain it, and how you can enhance it.”

“What Tsongkhapa

taught is what happiness is, how you can attain it, and how you can enhance it.”

In his focus on happiness


- Sangay Gya


key metric of sustainable development Sangay Gya echoed the concerns of the







ourselves and others,

Himalayas represents only the beginning

and the happiness of

of a conversation to be continued in

the present and the

our upcoming lecture series, Visions

future, the happiness

of Development.



event, however, Jigme Gyaltsen best

the wellbeing of our

captured the panelist’s definition of

physical environment

sustainable development: “buildings may

and those who inhabit

be constructed, and factories may be


producing on a tremendous scale, but if


With many questions left to explore and





For this weekend’s

there is no benefit for local people it cannot be considered development.”

Trace Foundation Website’s Resources Section Now Live

Trace Foundation is working to make more of our resources available to the public. In April, we

launched the new resources section of our website, containing several new tools and references for use by academics, development professionals, and interested members of the general public. First launched in 2009, the resources section of our website initially held only the Universal Tibetan Font Converter (UTFC). A web-based application, the UTFC allows users to submit electronic documents to convert between different methods of Tibetan encoding, including the new standard, Unicode. The resources section has been updated to include our Trilingual Lexicon, a Tibetan-English-Chinese word list of important terms for development practitioners and academics; the Tibetan Font Compatibility Chart, showing the compatibility of different encoding methods and fonts with different software; and our Trilingual Place Names List. The Place Names List is a trilingual list of places located in Tibetan areas of China. Sources used for the Tibetan and Chinese names include official publications as well as local scholars. The Tibetan transcriptions follow the transcription system established by the Tibetan and Himalayan Library, the same system used in all Trace Foundation publications. Currently, we have posted place names from the province to county levels. The township level names will be made available in the near future. Village level place names are currently being compiled. Maps and tools will also be made available in the three working languages of the Foundation. In the months ahead we will continue to release new tools and resources for use by the general public.

For more information on our events and resources, and to catch up on all the visit us at May 24th, 2010

Trace Foundation | | page 4

Happiness: Only Meaningful Measure of Development