Climate Leader Recognition: Tenzin Jamyang
Ben Sackler
140 Posts

Sometimes, things don't happen the way you expect them to. If you're lucky — and, of course, if you put in time, effort, and care — the actual outcome can be even better than the expected one. This mentality has guided much of the life of Tibetan Climate Reality Leader Tenzin Jamyang of Dharamshala, India. If it weren't some fortuitous timing and happenstance, Tenzin may not have ever become a teacher — something he says he always will be, even if not formally — he could have missed out on becoming a Climate Reality Leader, and he could have lacked funding for his new teaching initiative, "Youth Engagement in Climate Change."

Born and raised in Dharamshala, India — an incredibly beautiful city located in northern India on the edge of the Himalayan Mountains — to two Tibetan parents, Tibet has always been a very present part of Tenzin's life, even in India. He attended a Tibetan school throughout his entire career as a student. Tenzin, along with many people in his community, make up a portion of the estimated 94,000 Tibetans living in India, according to a 2009 census. In total, approximately 128,000 Tibetans are currently living in over 40 countries and regions around the world, with India being the main base. Many of these Tibetans and their families have been living in exile since 1959, a time when Tibet increasingly came under Chinese control. Thousands of people, including the Dalai Lama — one of Tenzin's greatest influences — fled the Chinese suppression of an uprising by Tibetans. Through community and Tibetan pride, political representation, and the foundation of 62 Tibetan schools throughout India, Tenzin's family and the many other Tibetan families living in India have been able to feel comfortable calling India home. However, a desire to return to Tibet for many of these families remains largely strong, yet not currently possible.

It was at one of these Tibetan schools — in fact, it was the school Tenzin attended throughout his childhood — where he found his calling as a teacher. After Tenzin graduated with his undergraduate degree in India, he was contacted by his childhood school; they were down a science teacher, and with the knowledge that Tenzin just received a bachelor's degree in science, they thought he'd be a good fit for the job. Tenzin never anticipated becoming a teacher, and he had other ambitions. However, this opportunity allowed the chance to serve the school that served him. It wasn't long after he committed to teaching when Tenzin realized his passion for his new job.

An integral part of Tenzin's experience as a teacher was educating his students on climate change and environmental degradation. However, when Tenzin began teaching, he didn't have the same sensitivity to environmental issues that he does now. Teaching children about topics such as conservation and their personal impact on the environment allowed Tenzin to realize that he needs to embody the spirit and practices of an environmentalist. This embodiment manifested in the creation of the "My Climate" club at his school, which ran from 2009-2013. Through this club, which had around 30-40 members, students were able to accomplish incredible feats and change their schools to become more sustainable. Namely, when one student was disheartened by the lack of healthy snack options at school, as well as the plastic wrapping in which the snacks came in, the club began a fruit shop at school. To this day, the fruit shop is still running, providing food that is healthier for both the physical health of the students as well as the planet.

Tenzin's passion for environmentalism spurred his accomplishment of receiving a scholarship from the US State Department to get his master's degree at the University of San Francisco. Perhaps even more notable, after receiving his master's degree and returning to India, Tenzin was elected to Parliament in India (where he served from 2016-2021), after running on a campaign of environmentalism.

Youth Engagement in Climate Change — Tenzin's current project, which educates 9-12 grade Tibetan students in India about the climate crisis — was always an idea he wanted to act on, but never felt he had the right knowledge or circumstances, until this past year. In 2020 — a year that saw everyone in the world modifying their typical lifestyles — Tenzin finally got the opportunity to become a trained Climate Reality Leader, something he had been wanting to do since 2013 when he first learned about the trainings. Although the pandemic has been a disaster worldwide, the virtual nature of the trainings since the pandemic began allowed Tenzin to participate. Just like how becoming a teacher fell into his lap and ended up being an integral part of his life, this Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in 2020 was not something Tenzin had been planning on taking part in, but it provided many opportunities for him. Following the training, with access to an immense number of resources through The Climate Reality Project, Tenzin finally felt prepared and confident enough to begin his new program.

This newfound knowledge and wisdom gave him almost everything he needed to get started. The only thing lacking was funding. In a fortunate twist, the Tibetan Scholarship Program, of which Tenzin was part, reached out to members with applications to get funding for projects and initiatives. After applying and receiving the grant, Tenzin had the resources he needed to fund his program. Although he had to pivot his strategy a bit — he was originally going to physically go to every school throughout India participating in the program and teach from there, but the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India did not allow for this — he is still going strong with his program virtually. With the help of at least one teacher from the Tibetan schools throughout India he is working with, he has run 10 virtual sessions for a total of 2,000 Tibetan students, and he hopes to complete at least 30 sessions. Using the presentation slide decks provided by The Climate Reality Project to Climate Reality Leaders, he is educating students on the dramatic impacts of climate change on our planet. Additionally, he is empowering students to come up with their own climate action plans, so they can put their learning into action. Tenzin has set up Facebook and Instagram pages for students to share their climate action plans, as a way for them to engage with a wider community and share what they are personally doing to fight for a greener planet.

Although Tenzin's career as an environmental educator wasn't entirely intentional, he has been able to find his true path through hard work and dedication. Two things essential to his identity — Tibet, and his religion, Buddhism — compliment his unexpected passions quite well. In regard to Tibet, Tenzin feels an extra sense of care and accountability for the planet. As he notes, Tibet is often referred to as "the roof of the world." It has many glaciers — several of which are melting (glaciers in the Tibetan plateau have melted by about 7% since the 1950s, and scientists say Tibet may lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2050) — and the temperature increase in Tibet is about double the average increase in temperature measured globally. Tenzin's religion plays into his activism as well. He notes the Dalai Lama and Buddhism teach about compassion and wisdom, and how the combination of these two things can solve any problem faced in the world. Tenzin views this in a modern perspective relating to the climate crisis by seeing the wisdom side as emphasizing science, analytics, interdependency (specifically within the climate conversation, relating to how systems work together to create a healthy planet), and impermanence. He sees the compassion side as being good morally (specifically within the climate conversation, and how we must be accountable for our home, the place that nurtures us and gives us life). Through his motherland and his religion, Tenzin is able to access what about the climate crisis is so essential to address.

Hopefully, we are all lucky enough to have a teacher in our lives — whether it be in school, or in life — who is as compassionate, caring, and wonderful as Tenzin.

Tenzin Jamyang was born and raised in the Indian city of Dharamshala, which is in the state of Himachal Pradesh. You can see the social media pages for his program Youth Engagement in Climate Change, which include some of his student's climate action plans, below:



8 Replies

Truly an inspiring story sir. I am extremely glad that you were our Climate reality mentor during our online training in October. Happy to learn from you.

Congrats, Tenzin! Your story and experiences of being put in situations you did not expect are truly inspiring!

Please keep up the great work!

Thank you! It was wonderful to hear about Tenzin and all he has accomplished. Congratulations and I will look forward to hearing more

Congratulations Mr. Tenzin and thank you for being such a wonderful Mentor for the Climate Reality Training 2021.

Jonas Adam
1 Posts

Inpiring Work

Wonderful work and inspiring action!

Congratulations Tenzin, inspiring work, and wonderful story. Thanks for all you do!

Thank you so much Climate Reality for this incredible honor and recognition. Thank you so much Ben Sackler for covering my passion and work. I could feel the warmth and love while reading through the lines. It was such a great time conversing with you last time. Through the Youth Engagement in Climate Change Project, which I am currently pursuing, I came to realize that our youngsters are charged up, excited, and ready to act with proper guidance and direction.

Climate Reality is like a family now and I will remain passionate and dedicated as ever to serve our mother earth and to find better ways and means to engage people to act on this humane-made Climate crisis. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “nine times you fall; nine times you rise up.” Let's get this going, every one! We must, We can and We will.

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