Kingdom of Bhutan Received Murie Spirit of Conservation Award
The Queen Mother of Bhutan, Her Majesty Tseyring Pem Wangchuck, accepted the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award from Teton Science Schools, on behalf of the Kingdom of Bhutan on Tuesday night at Center for the Arts.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the first country to receive the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award. The queen mother was also awarded the Champion of Rising Leaders Award for her environmental and conservation efforts.
“Like Wyoming, my country too has treaded lightly upon Mother Earth,” the queen mother said. “I’m wonder-struck by how similar the people and the environment of Wyoming are to my own people and country.”
The Kingdom of Bhutan is located in the eastern Himalayas with over 72% of its land covered in forests, 51% of the country is protected and it is one of only two carbon-negative nations in the world. Bhutan pledged to remain carbon-negative 15 years ago and the country’s constitution requires that at least 60% of the land is covered by forests in perpetuity. Bhutan is home to tigers, snow leopards, the endangered white-bellied heron and 700 species of birds.
“The air is so pure you feel like you are breathing in the whispers of the mountains themselves,” said the narrator in the introduction video sharing clips from Bhutan.
“Restoration of the health of our natural ecosystem or at least the halting of further adverse human activities is not a choice, but a matter of life and death for our species.” - The Queen Mother of Bhutan, Her Majesty Tseyring Pem Wangchuck.
Amongst other initiatives, the queen mother has a goal of planting a million high-carbon sequestering trees in a 10-year period.
According to Teton Science Schools CEO and Head of School, Shawn Kelly, Teton Science School’s connection to Bhutan goes back to 1991 when two Bhutanese conservationists attended classes at the Kelly Campus. Since then, 3,000 Bhutanese educators have been trained in place-based education by TSS.
“Leadership has always been important but in today’s world, it’s critical,” Kelly said during opening remarks. “Unfortunately, there seems to be a prevailing cynicism that infects many of our conversations and attitudes; we are quick to point out flaws and imperfections, rather than celebrating the beauty of the human spirit and the positive contributions each of us can make.”
The Queen Mother spoke about how the Kingdom measures success through Gross National Happiness (GNH), rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a concept championed by the current King’s father, the queen mother’s husband, over 30 years ago.
“In his wisdom, he realized that whereas we human beings can thrive even with the bare minimum of material comfort, we cannot survive a moment in an environment that is incapable of supporting life itself,” the queen mother said. “He convinced his people that Bhutan must pursue an integrated, holistic, balanced development wherein development in one dimension of human need does not bring harm to other dimensions.”
She explained that progress is monitored through a happiness index that measures the status of nine equally vital domains of happiness, which are psychological wellbeing, health, time use and balance, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience and living standard.
The Queen Mother spoke of the inherent flaws of the GDP including “limitless economic growth and the reduction of humanity to an irrational, voracious environmental consuming monster.”
“We need to act urgently before the point of no return and no remedy befalls us,” the Queen Mother said.
“Restoration of the health of our natural ecosystem or at least the halting of further adverse human activities is not a choice, but a matter of life and death for our species.”
Bhutanese environmentalists and conservationists were also in attendance and participated in a roundtable discussion moderated by Judge M. Margaret McKeown, a Senior United States Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and a Teton Science Schools Board member.