This post comes to you from the foothills of the Himalayas -- Dharamsala, India, to be exact. It is here that my wife and I have come this holiday season, largely as tourists, but also to visit with the Dalai Lama, who resides here as head of Tibet's government in exile.
More about which in a moment.
This is my second trip to the Indian subcontinent. The first trip, in early 2000, was a weeklong, whirlwind speaking tour of four of India's largest cities: Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai (Bombay), and Hyderabad. This year's three-week, largely non-business trip, is far less rushed - and far less urban. It has taken us from Delhi to Dharamsala, after which we will roam the state of Rajasthan, then visit a tiger preserve and bird sanctuary over New Year's, followed by an obligatory visit to Agra, site of the Taj Mahal, then back to Delhi and home.
It is comforting, in a perverse sort of way, to see, via the local news, a country like India grappling with similar environmental issues as the United States. Among the headlines of the past few days:
It's simply dishonest for major Southern emitters like India and China to argue that the North accounts for three-fourths of [greenhouse gas] emissions; their own per capita emissions are below the global average (4.1 tonnes of CO2); and so they needn't undertake reductions. The global average is unacceptably high. China and India are fast approaching it -- although they are below the US's criminal level of 20 tonnes.
(The U.S. seems to take it on the chin even when other countries are berating themselves.)
But all that is behind us here in Dharamsala, a mystical mountain village in northernmost India. On Wednesday, the winter solstice, my wife and I have a private audience with the Dalai Lama.
How, exactly, do two non-Buddhists, non-Tibetan scholars jump to the front of the line of thousands (millions?) seeking to meet His Holiness (as he is referred to in these parts)?
More on that -- and on the audience itself -- shortly. (Here's a hint.)