Graduation year: 2021
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS single major
Other major (if applicable):
Minor(s) (if applicable):
Water is an essential part of any living thing and has been a focal point of human life as it’s in manufacturing, agricultural practices, and a beverage. The term water resource refers to any amount of naturally occurring freshwater (in any state) that can be used by humans. This includes the most widely thought of resources such as the river systems, reservoirs, and groundwater (Brooks Kenneth. 2011). In and around the high altitudes in mountain regions are communities mobile throughout the mountain range in search of agricultural land and viable spaces to live. Particular for these cultural-ecological groups high altitude water resources are necessary to sustain their livelihoods. Our alpine or mountain glaciers supply many water resources like rivers and reservoirs that many lives depend upon for food, hygiene, and recreation. Glaciers are impacted due to climatic variation which occurs on seasonal scales as well as annually. Depending on the region of the high altitude glacial ice extent (the amount of ice that stays on the mountain year after year) can vary on these time scales. Due to increased land use and consumption of natural resources anthropogenic causes have elevated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere resulting in an observed trend of longer seasonal melting and overall annual ice loss occurring in high altitude regions (Hock et al., 2019, Meier and Post, 1995). Other impacts of ice loss include questions of water quality and how to manage scarcity. The rate at which this is occurring and the impacts this has on communities can be observed through careful analysis of case studies such as the Nepal and Indian Himalayan Mountain region, and the South American Andes.
Within mountain glaciers there exist different cultural communities that rely on glaciers as a direct water resource for their livelihood. Historically, communities in the Himalayas, people have lived and migrated across the mountain range over a large time scale and adapted to various minimal regional climatic changes. Subsequently due to greater climate changes precipitation and melting of mountain glaciers have impacted freshwater resources and their subsequent streams flow. Streams are a focal point for biodiversity and important food for these communities and more permanent fluctuations challenge their ability to adapt to new crops and agricultural systems (Price et al.,2013, and Mark et al. 2015). Along and around river systems are copious amounts of thriving vegetation and organisms that feed on the surrounding vegetation. This emphasizes the role of food systems with water systems by which these communities rely on for survival in harsh high altitude climates.
Similarly in the Andes, indigenous communities have experienced glacial retreat and also face issues relating to agricultural practice particularly during the dry season. Due to the remote locations of the Andes and Himalayas, communities are more susceptible to the spread of disease and often left behind in the wreckage for urbanization (Crate, and Nuttall.2009). As much of the growth in Andean countries rely on natural resources exploitation for economic growth requiring large amounts of water contributing to concerns about water availability. Not only is the amount of water a concern, but the quality of water is important as glacier recessions are linked to altered water quality, natural hazard risk, food supply, and impacts on the cultural landscape (Mark et al. 2015). Much of the water that was once stored in these communities are used to build infrastructure for urban communities such as the use of hydro-power. Deeply rooted in historical significance, these long-standing mountain communities have a strong relationship and knowledge about changing glaciers which often contradict modern water policy in terms of scarcity (Savanna. 2009).
In my Area of Interest, I discover the people and the scale at which water resources matter for different communities. As glaciers are the source of freshwater for streams, reservoirs, and groundwater their presence (or lack thereof) has a significant and differing impact on different cultural groups and human societies. In the face of urbanization, knowledge from indigenous high altitude communities who have had first hand experience in the changes in glacial properties plays an important historic role in managing climatic changes.
- As climatic conditions change how are communities and subsequent cultural traditions adapting to the changing water availability in terms of water consumption and agricultural usage?
- What mitigation strategies are already in place?
- What climatic influences drive the changes in glacial ice extent and water resources that are important to determine water availability?
- What other human effects impact water resource availability and water regulation in communities living at high altitudes?
- At what scales do changing glacial resources impact freshwater supply for different groups of people?
- As the degradation of alpine glaciers continues and water resources become scarce who is disproportionately impacted in terms of access to water rights?
- How can we better understand the dynamics associated with glacial processes and water policy to better understand water resources in a changing climate?
- How can policy support adaptive practices for different communities?
GEOG 1202 (Environmental Systems: Hydrology, 4 credits) Winter 2019- This geography course from the University of Denver gives the geologic background in understanding the fundamental aspects of water resources and insights into water policy in the United States. This incorporates various aspects of water including scientific dynamics of water flow, the distribution of water in a community and human impacts on climate and water resources.
GEOG 1203 (Environmental Systems: Landforms, 4 credits) Spring 2019- This geography class is in sequence with 1202 where it builds on the ideas of hydrology, but has a focus on geologic processes involved with landforms. This includes an examination of the glaciers’ role in shaping landscapes and the geologic impression this makes.
GEOG 1410 (People, Places & Landscapes, 4 credits) Spring 2018- This human geography class from the University of Denver, highlights the importance of place and the cultural resonance people feel in specific places or landscapes. This multifaceted course offers insights into humans cultural interpretations and use of the land as a resource and religious practice.
ENVS 270 (Issues in Oceanography, 4 credits) Fall 2019- This course offers an evaluation of oceanic glacial processes and problems associated with anthropogenic climate change. This class gives scientific meaning to the climate systems that impact water movement and glacial ice extent.
SOAN 215 (International Migration, 4credits) Alternate years Spring/Fall – This course explores the movement of people and the policy challenges they face. This focuses on the use of economic models that drive policy decision making in conversation with human migration.
HIST 261 (Environmental History, 4 credits) Fall 2020 – This course concentrates on the changing relationship of people and their environment particularly in Asia, Europe, and North America. This includes a variety of informational sources that are crossed referenced creating a picture of the past political, and socio-economic relationship people share with their environment.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: CHEM 110, GEOL 150, ECON 260, ENVS 460, PHIL 215, RELS 102. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Revisions to date
- 3/1/2020- Initial overview and small edits to the citations and grammar errors in the body paragraph.
- 3/15/2020- I review all my sources and corrected the errors in the citations and added any necessary information that was lacking. I focused on definitions of key elements in my Area of interest and providing better resources. I also spent some time editing and review my questions.
- Meeting with Jim Proctor 4/6/2020
- Firstly, we discussed the meaning of indigenous, and the cultural component of alpine communities. Most often than not many of the communities discussed in alpine regions in the Andes are indigenous as they have lived and migrated around the mountain range for centuries. This is an important aspect of these regions as it carries cultural significance in terms of water adaptation.
- Secondly, we discussed the idea of cultural ecology and the movement of the mountain communities in search of food and shelter resources. I have attempted to weave this idea throughout the area of interest without distracting from the focus of alpine glaciers and the climate systems that are being impacted due to climate change.
- 4/14/2020- Final review and editing stage. I incorporated some of the ideas discussed in the meeting with Jim, such as the concept of cultural ecology. Final edits to the body paragraphs, citations, and questions.
- Barua Anamika, Suparana Katyaini, Bhupen Mili, and Pernille Gooch. 2014. “Climate Change and Poverty: Building Resilience of Rural Mountain Communities in South Sikkim, Eastern Himalaya, India.” Regional Environmental Change 14 (1): 267–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0471-1.
- Brooks Kenneth N. 2011. Water Resources. In Environmental Encyclopedia, 4th ed., 2:1738–40. Detroit, MI: Gale.
- Crate Susan, and Nuttall Mark.2009 .“The Glaciers of the Andes are melting: Indigenous and Anthropological knowledge merge in restoring water resources.”.Anthropology and climate change: From encounters to actions. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press
- Hock, R., G. Rasul, C. Adler, B. Cáceres, S. Gruber, Y. Hirabayashi, M. Jackson, A. Kääb, S. Kang, S. Kutuzov, Al. Milner, U. Molau, S. Morin, B. Orlove, and H. Steltzer, 2019: High Mountain Areas. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]
- Mark, Bryan G., Michel Baraer, Alfonso Fernandez, Walter Immerzeel, R. Dan Moore, and Rolf Weingartner. 2015. “Glaciers as Water Resources.” In THE HIGH-MOUNTAIN CRYOSPHERE, edited by Christian Huggel, Mark Carey, John J. Clague, and Andreas Kaab, 184–203. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107588653.011.
- Meier Mark, and Post Austin.1995. United States Geological Survey (USGS). Glaciers, a Water Resource. Denver, CO : http://hdl.handle.net/2027/msu.31293011887803.
- Price, Martin, Byers, Alton, Friend, Donald, Price, Martin F., Byers, Alton C., and Friend, Donald A., eds. 2013. “People in the Mountains.” Mountain Geography: Physical and Human Dimensions. Berkeley: University of California Press: 623-699
- Saravanan, V. S. 2009. “Decentralisation and Water Resources Management in the Indian Himalayas: The Contribution of New Institutional Theories.” Conservation and Society 7 (3): 176. https://doi.org/10.4103/0972-4923.64735.