Setting the Stage
Show students a map of the Tibetan Plateau within China, pointing out the mountain ranges on all sides, including the Himalayas on the south. Tell students Tibet is known as the "land of the snows," because the average altitude of this area is almost 15,000 feet. Ask students if they have heard of Tibet or of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. What information have they heard, read, or viewed? From what sources? The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk, who fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded that country in 1950. He was forced to flee and in 1959, he began a permanent exile in India. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, which recognized his nonviolent campaign to cease the Chinese domination of Tibet.
Explain to students that today, nomadic peoples who have lived close to the land for thousands of years are being pressured to leave their homes in the grasslands of Tibet and resettle into modern Chinese villages. Even the nomadic peoples who are retaining their traditions are propelling towards modernization with the increased exposure to technology such as cell phones, television, motorbikes, and energy improvements.
Ask students what their own lives might be like if they gave up cell phones, computers, and television. What would be lost if students resisted these forces of modernity? What might be gained?