Clio Speaks: History Today

Trip to Nepal: Dr. Tom Taylor

November 22, 2023

Dr. Tom Taylor in front of a mountainIn October my wife Laurie and I completed a magical trip to Nepal,  visiting the Kathmandu Valley and then trekking in the mountainous Khumbu region.  Beyond the beauty of the mountains and the hospitality of the people the trip offered many opportunities to think about how the stories of this region illuminate the larger themes in world history that I emphasize in my classes:  to note a few. 

While I was trekking in the Khumbu region the UN General Secretary António Guterres happened to visit the region.  He focused his trip on illuminating the challenges that these remote regions and their people were facing from climate change. Rapidly melting glaciers are increasing risks from flooding in the steep valleys below Mount Everest. Shifting monsoon seasons are also threatening the agricultural foundation of the region as well as the tourist industry which sustains many who live there. The impacts of the development of a fossil fuel economy in the nineteenth century and its impact on our world today is a major theme of my course.

Tengboch Monastery in NepalMany Sherpas in the Khumbu region, facing the challenges of a limited economy in the high mountains, are leaving the area, either seeking work in the Kathmandu Valley or abroad.  These migrations, exacerbated by the issues of climate change, are depopulating many of the villages in the region and threatening the cultural survival of these Sherpa communities.  These stories of the push and pull of migration are a central theme of my world history courses.

Nepal is also a fascinating mix of cultures.  About eighty percent of Kathmandu is Hindu and about twenty percent Buddhist.  Both religious identities were proudly and strongly on display (there were several religious festivals underway while we were there) but there seem to be little or no tension between peoples of different faiths; their culture of acceptance and tolerance is a lesson worth noting for all of us in the modern world.

Mount Everest on a sunny day in Nepal.

Photos courtesy of Tom Taylor. Top to bottom: Dr. Taylor at Ama Dablam base camp; monks blowing horns at Tangboche Monastery; Mount Everest.