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Yak Dung – A Treasure Cast Away

2016-06-23

Director: Lanze (Tibetan), issued by Through Their Eyes Rural Culture Research Centre Nyanpo Yuzee Environmental Protection Association

At the International Conference on the Future of Mountainous Places that was held in Kunming, Yunnan early last March, participants watched three films that explored the relationship between human beings and Nature by depicting the impact of modernisation on the life of mountain people and the problems that mountain people faced.  “Yak Dung”, one of the films, was co-produced by Through Their Eyes Rural Culture Research Centre, Shan Shui Conservation Centre and Nyanpo Yuzee Environmental Protection Association.  It depicts the life of the mountain people who live on the Tibetan plateau, where temperatures often fall as low as -40º C.  Yak dung, which urban dwellers find dirty and useless, is the raw material for nearly all the daily necessities of the impoverished mountain people.  For example, yak dung is used as natural fertiliser, fuel, medicine and even detergent.  It is also used for building houses and walls, as well as kennels and icehouses, and even for making toys.

In a scene at the end of the film, a female villager explains that yaks are herbivorous and have no teeth in the upper jaw.  Yaks do not eat meat and their dung is not dirty.  If there is no more yak dung, Tibetans cannot possibly live on the plateau anymore.  What she says shows vividly the interdependence between human beings and Nature.  In the face of challenges posed by modernisation, the director of the film said: “……we are getting closer and closer to the days when we will have no more yak dung.  When that day arrives, it will be the day when we lose our selves.  It will be the day that brings disaster to our lives, and the day when we set ourselves against Nature.”

The International Conference on the Future of Mountainous Places was organised by Kunming Institute of Botany under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and was partly funded by PCD.