We left off in Part One with a brief overview of the Maldives, a tiny country made up of a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean with a huge threat looming over them: the risk of their country simply vanishing into the ocean due to the rising sea-level. This is what former President Mohamed Nasheed did about it when he was president of the Maldives from 2008 to 2012. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should watch the Island President to see this inspiring story in action.
First of all, the Maldives have seen (and are still living in) a particularly gnarly political turmoil over the last few decades. Before Nasheed began his term, there had been a president who was in office for 30 years. Getting elected was a struggle all on its own, and Nasheed battled for democracy though he was jailed and tortured multiple times.
Once Nasheed became president, it was obvious that climate change was one of the priorities of his agenda. Nasheed understood that the root of the problem was the amount of greenhouse gases the world was emitting, since that makes the climate hotter and the sea-level rise. Instead of conceding that his country had little chance of resisting such a global threat, Nasheed set out to make a difference, without thinking of the possibility of defeat. Nasheed learned all he could about global warming with other countries, stood up for the Maldives at international conferences, wasn’t afraid to point his finger at the rest of the world, pleaded for help with emotional speeches, and set an example in his own country.
Here are some of the highlights of his career.
- Nasheed implemented policies to make the Maldives the first carbon-neutral country by 2020.
- Nasheed held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting to call attention of the media to the dire straits that the Maldives are in.
- Nasheed addressed world leaders at the UN Secretary General’s Summit for Climate Change with a very heartfelt message.
- Nasheed constantly pushed for a reduction of the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 ppm, a level that is considered “safe” by climate scientists, but was not afraid to settle for less if it meant reaching an agreement with other countries. The level at that time was at 389 ppm, and the level today is at 404 ppm.
- Nasheed attended the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009 and for the first time, world leaders agreed in intending to restrain their greenhouse gas emissions. Though the Copenhagen Accord wasn’t binding, and aimed at much less than what Nashed had in mind, it was still an agreement among key countries – which was a milestone.
- Nasheed envisioned a booming business in clean energy. He visited countries such as India to push this idea forward and was often received with stubborness and disbelief, but was not discouraged by unbelievers.
Nasheed’s story is incredibly inspiring and successful. His speech helped countries agree to the Copenhagen Accord, he inspired people around the world, and he effectively called the global attention to the matter of the Maldives disappearing into the ocean.
Sadly, in 2012, Nasheed was ousted from office, was sentenced to jail in the Maldives in 2015 on account of “terrorism” and is currently in exile in the United Kingdom. The country is no longer fighting to be carbon neutral. However, Nasheed’s message has circled the world and fought its way into the global scenario. Nasheed’s story shows us that no matter how small you and your country are, it’s the size of your hopes that count.