An outline of topics suitable for additional campus presentations
and discussion relating to the Himalaya and South Asia

The Himalaya
Mountains of Mystery, Cauldron of Change

In a customized, informal, illustrated lecture, College Speaker Broughton Coburn can speak on academic subjects and topical issues of the Himalaya, drawing upon 20 years of experience and an archive of carefully selected slides (or PowerPoint images). He generally confers with the professor in advance, in order to adapt the orientation, length and subject matter to fit the class or study group.

In the Himalayan context, he can address topics of anthropology, ethnography, sociology, natural sciences, geopolitics, humanitarian foreign aid, alternate energy sources, cultural change, protected area management, etc. Each topic comes with its own thought-provoking questions, and more are generated by the students.


Specifically, he can present images and discussion that cover:

  • The immobilization and translocation of Asian one-horned rhinoceros to create a new founder population as well as efforts to study and protect tiger, wild elephant and snow leopard, and their habitats.
  • The creation of national parks and protected areas, from Everest (in both Nepal and Tibet), to Annapurna, to the sub-tropical jungles of the Terai. Among other related topics, he can discuss the designation of World Heritage Sites, and efforts at establishing an international peace park straddling the Himalayan range.
  • Issues of exploding population growth, industrialization and natural resource use that face current and coming generations.
  • Seismic research into the relative movement of the continents that the Himalaya sit on the juncture of; historic and inevitable earthquakes and their frightening consequences; the threat and increasing occurrences of glacial lake outburst floods; the roles of weather, soil erosion and mans impact on a changing landscape.
  • Vignettes of daily village life -- an insider's view of the dynamics of a traditional village.
  • Homegrown insurgencies, and strife between diverse ethnic groups and religious traditions; struggles with democracy.
  • Geopolitics and international relations, especially between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India and China.
  • Religious pilgrimage and ritual at sacred sites such as Mt. Kailash in Tibet and remote headwaters of the Ganges River in Nepal and India;
  • In depth look at all aspects of restoration of two magnificent 15th century Buddhist monuments in the great walled city of Lo Manthang, near the Tibet border, overseen by Italian artisans who worked on the Sistine Chapel. (Can show clips from an Emmy-nominated PBS-NOVA film.)
  • Health issues -- including childbirth, AIDS, sanitation, water and medical care delivery, featuring inspiring relief efforts such as a children's orthopedic hospitals that economically patches kids together, mobile cataract removal camps, rural cleft lip and cleft palate camps, rehydration and Vitamin A campaigns, etc.
  • The cultural, religious and political history of Tibet; its natural history; issues of education, environment, cultural dilution, self-determination, etc.
  • Tibetan refugees and their dangerous flight into exile over high glaciated passes, and their varied reception by the UNHCR and the Government of Nepal.
  • The pioneering assistance that Sir Edmund Hillary has brought to the Sherpas -- building hospitals, schools and bridges, and the training of a new generation of Sherpas to manage them.
  • Unusual successes and promising trials in "alternate" energy generation, such as micro-hydroelectricity, methane gas recovery from cow manure, and solar photovoltaics.
  • Issues, results and implications of US humanitarian and military aid in countries of south Asia.

This is a partial list. If desired, Coburn can develop a full lecture on one or more of the above topics. He crafts these presentations to be unusual, compelling and inspirational, with the goal of opening students' eyes and senses to our complicated, intricate, paradoxical, poorly-documented, challenging and fascinating world -- hopefully guiding them toward a broader and more nuanced world view. He also enjoys providing career counseling in international development and conservation.