Dork Sahagian, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
and director of the Environmental Initiative
, will present “Adventures on top of the world: A visitor’s view of Tibet’s cultural, political, and geological place on the Earth” at Lehigh on November 28 at 4:10 p.m. in Linderman Library, Room 200.
Sahagian has studied various parts of the Earth in his efforts to understand the processes that drive geologic, climatologic, and system-level processes as well as the interaction between humanity and the natural environment.
Sahagian’s emerging interest in global religions and cultures stems from the notion that while peoples’ collective behavior profoundly affects the Earth system, it is often controlled more by a wide range of emotional and philosophical responses and worldviews than by scientific understanding of millennial scale causes and consequences at the global level.
“Tibet is a unique place culturally, environmentally, politically, and geologically, but it is changing rapidly in all areas,” says Sahagian. “It is geologically very active, environmentally sensitive, and until now, relatively isolated culturally.”
In his lecture, Sahagian will reflect on a recent trip to Tibet which took him from Potala Palace to the distant countryside in an effort to determine when the Tibetan Plateau rose to become the “top of the world.” On his way, he encountered the people and places that make Tibet a truly unique, yet endangered gem on Earth.
“Professor Sahagian’s recent trip to Tibet provoked some questions beyond those of the scientific investigator,” says Lloyd Steffen, professor of religion studies and university chaplain. “In his encounter with the Tibetan people and their culture, he has come to wonder more deeply about the ways such important cultural matters as religion and worldviews affect how we are to understand the human interaction with the natural environment.”
“The Tibet of today resembles that of 100 years ago much more closely than it will resemble the Tibet of 10 years from now, so it is timely to examine traditional life as well as political, economic, political, and demographic pressures that are driving changes throughout Tibet, from Lhasa to the distant countryside,” adds Sahagian.
Sahagian previously served as Executive Director of The Global Analysis, Integration, and Modeling Task Force of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP/GAIM
). He conducts research in paleoclimatology, volcanology, stratigraphy, geodynamics and tectonics, global hydrology and sea level. He also served as a contributing author and reviewer for the various Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
, which this year was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former vice president Al Gore.
Sahagian's lecture is the latest in a series of events designed to educate the campus community prior to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit next July. His visit will include a series of teachings as well as a half-day public lecture on July, 13, 2008. The five-and-a-half days of teachings, sponsored by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., will take place July 10-15, 2008.