Ladakh, or ‘Little Tibet’, lies deep in the Himalayas in northernmost India. Isolated for centuries by high mountain passes, Ladakh was spared the impacts of colonialism and development that erased so much of the planet’s cultural diversity. In this Tibetan Buddhist culture, people had created a remarkably successful culture, one based on cooperation and sharing. There was no homelessness, no poverty, and no one went hungry. There was no shortage of resources, no pollution. The status of women was remarkably high (higher than in the west), and relations between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority were peaceful and friendly.
Then, in 1974, the Indian government decided to open the region to tourism and development. Almost immediately, problems unknown in Ladakh became endemic. The rapid breakdown of Ladakhi culture after exposure to the global economy brings to light the root causes of many of our most pressing problems — environmental, social, economic, and spiritual.