I recently saw a screening of the movie, The Island President, a stirring documentary of the Maldive’s President Mohammed Nasheed’s rise to power and his fight against climate change. I urge you to go see the movie at a screening near you, you can find out more at the documentary’s website and facebook page.
“Global warming will destroy the Maldives. As President, the most important fight is the fight for our survival.”
The Republic of Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean is the world’s lowest country. The average ground level of the Maldives is 1.5 meters (4 feet, 11 inches) above sea level, and the highest point of the 1,200 island country is only 5 meters (16 feet) above sea level. Over 80 percent of the Maldives are at their highest point only a meter (3 feet) above sea level.
Climate change is affecting the Maldivian fisheries, flooding many of the 1,200 islands, and eroding the shore lines. Beaches are eroding at an alarming rate, up to 300 feet of erosion can happen in a single monsoon tidal surge. A rise of 3 meters (10 feet) in ocean water levels would inundate the country. Not only is climate change affecting the shorelines of the Maldives, the gradual warming of the ocean is affecting the local fisheries. From 2005 – 2006, the fishing totals were very low, instead of averaging 3 ½ tones of fish a day, the local fishermen were only catching ½ a ton of fish a day. Each year the total amount of fish caught in the Maldives are dwindling, with 2009 being the worst year for fishing at the time of filming of the documentary. The Maldives are in a unique situation where an entire nation, culture, and national identity will be lost because of the effects of climate change. In October of 2009, President Nasheed held a cabinet meeting underwater to show what would happen to the country if climate change was not stopped. The Maldives are forced to spend less on health care and education to use the available funds on concrete for sea walls.
“We must find a way to save the Maldives with our own resources.”
President Nasheed recommends that the Maldives invest in green energy, and The Maldives plan to be carbon neutral by 2019. “Maldives is a front line state. We can die knowing that we’ve done the right thing.” In 2009, President Nasheed traveled to the Copenhagen United Nations Conference of Parties Climate Change Panel (COP15) and pleaded on behalf of his country for the major emitters to produce enough green energy to keep the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels at 1.5 parts per million (ppm.) President Nasheed stressed that there has to be a deal that benefits and applies to both developing countries and developed countries. The Maldives have been around for the past 3,000 years. “We have a culture, a language, a shared history.” He said that “the Maldives will need to make concessions in the terms of [climate change] mitigation, but cannot make concessions in the terms of adaptation.”
The Copenhagen accord was the first time that China, India, the United States all agreed to reduce carbon emissions. The Maldives, Samoa, Costanzia, Norway and Ethiopia all agreed to be carbon neutral. In 2009, the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were at 387 ppm. Atmospheric levels have since risen to 390 ppm.
“The world has never had to face a crisis like the increasing effects of climate change . . . . We can lose many battles, but we cannot lose the war.”
*All quotes are by President Nasheed, from the movie: The Island President