Tibet: Where Continents and Cultures Collide

Simon Klemperer, Lyman P. Van Slyke, Tenzin Tethong, Emily Yeh, and Michael Zhao
with Orville Schell

Thursday, February 19, 2009 | 7:30 – 9:00pm | Kresge Auditorium | Free and Open to All


The Tibetan plateau, a land mass about the size of Western Europe, has great biodiversity despite its high altitudes. Known as “Asia’s Watertower,” Tibet’s glaciers feed rivers in China, India, and Southeast Asia. The region’s importance cannot be overstated, nor can the short- and long-term effects of environmental problems such as the declining quality of grasslands, melting glaciers, and rising population. Our conversation begins with a look at the physical geography of Tibet and will assess the impact of development projects and efforts to protect and restore an ecological system that is crucial for much of the planet.

Presented with the School of Earth Sciences

SIMON KLEMPERER. Professor of Geophysics at Stanford
Simon Klemperer earned a bachelor's degree in mineralogy and petrology from Cambridge University in 1980 and a doctorate in geophysics from Cornell University in 1985. He is the director of the Stanford Crustal Geophysics Group, which is interested in regional tectonics, including Project INDEPTH (International Deep Profiling of Tibet and the Himalaya). He was awarded the Allan V. Cox Medal for Faculty Excellence Fostering Undergraduate Research in 2008.

LYMAN P. VAN SLYKE, Emeritus Professor of History at Stanford
Lyman P. Van Slyke joined the Stanford faculty in 1963 and helped establish the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei and directed Stanford's Center for East Asian Studies. He has lead over 25 Stanford Travel/Study tours to all parts of China, Tibet, the Silk Road and Southeast Asia. His book, Yangtze: Nature, History, and the River, discusses geography, geology, plate tectonics, earthquakes, climate, weather, history and the Three Gorges Dam.

TENZIN TETHONG, Distinguished Fellow and Chair, Stanford Tibetan Studies Initiative

Tenzin Tethong is the founder of key Tibet initiatives in the U.S. including the Tibet Fund, Tibet House-New York, and the International Campaign for Tibet. He is a former Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama in New York and Washington, D.C., and former Chairman of the Kashag, the Tibetan Cabinet. He currently serves as Chairman of the Committee of 100 for Tibet and as president of the Dalai Lama Foundation.

EMILY T. YEH, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder

Educated at MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, Emily Yeh is interested in the relationship between society and nature in Tibetan areas of the PRC. She has conducted research on property rights, natural resource conflicts, environmental history, emerging environmentalisms, and the political economy and cultural politics of development and land use change in Tibet. In addition she has worked on the cultural politics of identity and race in the Tibetan diaspora.

MICHAEL ZHAO, Asia Society Center on US-China Relations

As a multimedia producer at the Asia Society Center on US-China Relations in New York, Michael Zhao creates online resources about China’s environmental issues. Before completing his master’s thesis on electronic waste dumping at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, he worked as a reporting assistant for the Beijing Bureau of The New York Times and as a program officer for the Chinese Academy of Sciences Bureau of International Cooperation. He earned his bachelor's degree in English from the Beijing Language & Culture University in 2000.

ORVILLE SCHELL (moderator), Arthur Ross Director
of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society

From his days as a student of Far Eastern History at Harvard College through his graduate work in Chinese History at the University of California, Berkeley, to his latest work on China, Hong Kong, Tibet and the media, Orville Schell has devoted his professional life to reporting on and writing about Asia. Author of 14 books—nine about China, including Virtual Tibet (2000), Mandate of Heaven (1994), and Discos and Democracy: China in the Throes of Reform (1989)—he has also written widely about Asia and other topics for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times, The Atlantic and other national magazines. He has also served as correspondent and consultant for several PBS Frontline documentaries as well as an Emmy award-winning program on China for CBS' 60 Minutes.

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