Hildegard Diemberger, working in the Porong and Dingri areas of Tibet, shows that local environmental knowledge can have both an ecological and a moral dimension. Recent deteriorating environmental features have often been at the center of conflicts between rural communities and state administrations. Many decisions that are currently made on a day-to-day basis concern the destiny of many people who need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. The decision-making process itself is as important as the knowledge that informs it. People in charge address these unprecedented challenges by envisaging the future with reference to their recent and ancient past. They often navigate different knowledge regimes. In the market stalls near the main temple in Lhasa, new objects have recently appeared: solar powered prayer wheels, incorporating the power of Buddhist—and now “green”—aspirations. Made of plastic or metal alloy in a factory in China and with soaring emissions from the expanding industry, they remind us of the gap between aspirations and the messiness of real life.
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