Amidst a serious drought that badly hurt local agriculture, unceasing development of hotels, and a growing water crisis, Local Futures’ work to tie Ladakh’s problems to larger structural forces was more crucial than ever in 2018. Our summer was especially defined by workshops, which helped young international and local participants explore this bigger picture and imagine systemic alternatives to bring us back from the brink. Media literacy, compassionate economies, zero waste, film screenings, discussions, help with the harvest: we worked non-stop with a heightened sense of urgency this year.
‘Global-to-Local’ Workshop for Operation Groundswell
Our first intervention in mid-July was a five-day workshop for the ‘High Altitude Education’ program of the international ‘backpacktivist’ organization Operation Groundswell. With a group of a dozen participants from North America, we dissected the global economy and connected it to phenomena like the plastic waste crisis in Ladakh. Activities like the spectrogram (posing controversial statements about development to see where people ‘stand’, literally, on the matter, and interrogating the stances), a field-trip to the local waste dump, and connections-mapping helped further elucidate the workshop’s themes. In the latter half, we shifted focus to alternative visions and practices for shifting direction toward the local and ecological. Film screenings, debates, talks, guided walks, and trips to affiliated local NGOs rounded out a rich and rewarding week.
Mindful Futures Workshop
It was one of the best workshops I ever attended. The talks, discussions, interactions, and films shown have posed a very positive impact on my life. Every day, I went home full of knowledge and told it to my parents and friends. These kinds of workshops are a must and an effective change maker in today’s fast-paced high modern techno world. I am really going to attend all the other workshops here so that I could also make a very positive change in the world or at least in Ladakh.
~ Stanzin Jidey Zangmo, workshop participant ~
We barely caught our breath before launching into our next endeavor, a four-day workshop dubbed ‘Mindful Futures 2: Creating a Compassionate Economy’, co-organized with local youth-run ‘engaged spirituality’ group Flowering Dharma. A follow-up to 2017’s Mindful Futures workshop, this event filled us with a sense of hope and possibility born from the spirited participation and genuine socio-environmental concern of the 25 young Ladakhi participants. The days were packed with talks, debates, films and participatory activities focused on understanding the ‘structural violence’ of the corporate global economy versus localized ‘compassionate’ economies. Guest speakers included leaders of the Snow Leopard Conservancy; prominent Buddhist monk and representative of the ‘Go Green, Go Organic’ initiative, Rigyal Rinpoche; and local film-maker Stanzin Gya, who screened his climate change film Jungwa. Long-time Local Futures ally Keibo Oiwa from Japan, who was visiting Ladakh at the time, delivered a closing talk full of humor and wisdom that memorably communicated the essence of the workshop.
Media Literacy and Film-making Workshop
Two days back I had no idea what media literacy or film-making was. But now I feel more confident about what media literacy is and I also learnt many things that were beyond my imagination like about the smartphone producers, the internet, advertisement and things that I would have never learnt from school and other sources.
~ Anonymous feedback from a workshop participant ~
In early August, we moved on to our most intensive workshop of the summer, co-organized with Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation (LAMO). We had around 25 young Ladakhi participants ranging from 14-20 years old. As consumption of media and use of media devices increases in Ladakh, media literacy – understanding its messaging and impacts – is becoming ever more important. Over the course of one week, we conducted presentations, activities, film screenings and discussions about the advertising industry, corporate control of media, and the psychological, social, and environmental effects of ‘screen culture’. Special guest speakers shared their expertise in topics like media ethics, media and junk food, gender and media, and how to create media for positive social change. Experienced film-makers also taught basic story writing, filming, and editing skills. Participants had the opportunity to work in groups to create short films about their own experiences of media in Ladakh, which were screened for an audience of parents and local invitees from Ladakhi civil society. We thank volunteer Aly Sams and Davis Projects for Peace for making this workshop possible.
Other Activities in 2018
Our other activities this summer included fiscally sponsoring the annual festival of traditional food and craft held by the Women’s Alliance of Ladakh; presenting at the ‘Save the Himalayas’ conference and for a group of Naropa Fellowship recipients; meeting with local government administrators to deliver recommendations on combating the waste crisis (prepared by our energetic volunteer Katie Conlon); organizing a ‘Help with the Harvest’ trip in which volunteers helped villagers cut, stacked, and carried barley; and holding daily film screenings of Ancient Futures and The Economics of Happiness.
To cap our summer, we held one final mini-workshop at the end of September for a group of 12 gap-year students from the US and Canada. Skarma Gyurmet from local NGO Juley Ladakh gave a talk, and the workshop culminated in a captivating panel with three bright, engaged young Ladakhis discussing their visions of the region’s future.