The Maldives is a tiny country of huge importance. You might have heard of it because it looks and feels like paradise. It is a popular tourist destination because of its beautiful beaches and high-end resorts. But it has a terrifying history, is host to an inspiring battle against climate change, has a powerful voice that confronted big countries, and has known big victories and tragedies over recent years.
The Maldives is comprised of over a thousand islands and is home to a population of roughly 350,000 humans. 80% of its land lies one meter below sea level. If we keep on releasing carbon dioxide emissions at our current rate, the sea level will rise by a meter at the end of this century, and in 2100, the Maldives will become uninhabitable.
Part of the Maldives is already eroding – noticeably. Residents have complained that huge chunks of the beaches have been eaten away, and in response the government has built sea walls around the islands. This erosion is of huge importance not only for the residents, but for us – it is living proof that climate change is real, that it is happening within our lifetimes, and that it has an enormous impact on people. For the Maldives, they not only will lose the very land under their feet, but they will lose their “national identity”. That means that even if they escape to other nations, they will become dispersed and absorbed into those other nations, losing their own culture, language, customs, dances – things that make a Maldivian, a Maldivian.
Every Maldivian lives with this threat hanging over his or her head. Many are at loss as to what to do. Some believe the answer lies with building higher sea walls. Others see sea walls as a short-term solution that is insufficient given the enormity of the threat. And a precious few believe that the solution is to go to the root of the problem – climate change – and fight it with all their heart. Impossible? That’s not what those people think. They may be fiercely optimistic in having faith that they can change the world, but not blindly so – they are well aware of the seriousness of this issue and what will happen if they do nothing.
I am writing this article to shine a light on their efforts, which they well deserve, and use this story as an inspiration for the other people in the world who think that they can make a difference. The Maldives may be a small country, but they are mighty, and their story is impressive to say the least. Stay tuned for Part Two.