Dr. Carol Harden had the opportunity to be part of a 7-person delegation to meet with the king of Bhutan for nearly an hour on November 17, 2014. Bhutan is now democratic, but retains its royalty, who are much loved. The King, who is 34 years old, was very impressive, and they had a relatively open conversation about a number of things, including his visions of the future, his interest in the environment, his excitement about social media, and why he recently cut his hair. Check out the blog (google national geographic voices Bhutan). The other members of the group were Gary Knell, president of National Geographic, Terry Garcia (VP for mission programs), Peter Raven (chair of Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) and member of NGS board of trustees), John Francis (Research director), Kamal Bawa (CRE, UMass, and ATREE), and David Braun ( Nat Geo communications).
In the evening, her Magesty (the queen) addressed the entire group of about 40 persons, and joined them for a reception and exhibition of dance from different parts of the country. Most of the visit in Bhutan involves natural history, for example, meeting a researcher to try to see the white-bellied heron and hear her story of conservation of this endangered bird, and learning about the Buddhist perspective of responsibility for the environment. This morning, before spending a day traveling eastward along the country’s only E-W road ( which is under construction to become 2 lanes), The group heard three social science talks – one about history and philosophy, one about Gross National happiness, and one about the economics of hydropower. Tomorrow, after the pre-dawn search for the white-bellied herons and a lecture about heron conservation, this group will visit the country’s most important temple.