Posts Tagged ‘Maldives’

Bluepeace

Writer, filmmaker, adventurer and contributing Earthkeeper blogger Jon Bowermaster rounds out his recent visit to the Maldives:

Saffah Faroog sips a mango juice and continues explaining the history of the Maldives oldest environmental group, Bluepeace, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. He is its communications director, a volunteer like the rest of its staff, and has a great story to share – the organization has a great web presence and a long history of doing the right thing in the Maldives by keeping environmental stories in the news. There’s no lack of subject matter with beach erosion, species loss, the impact of climate change and rising sea levels and the still lingering after-effects of the 2004-tsunami still daily stories.

“Perhaps the most impressive thing for us here in the Maldives,” he says, “is that just two years ago I would never had a conversation in public with you like this, not about these subjects. We had to be very careful about everything we wrote, anything we said in public or private, because almost anything could be construed as a potential criticism of the government, thus possibly resulting in recrimination.

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Going Carbon Neutral in the Maldives

Bird’s eye view of the Maldives, courtesy of Jon Bowermaster

The call to Friday prayers on Eydhafushi are spread island-wide by plastic loudspeakers affixed to poles and buildings scattered around the Maldivian sand-spit, home to three thousand. When it comes I’m floating a quarter mile offshore and it wakes me from a heat (90 degrees F) and calm-sea reverie; a reminder that here, near where the Arabian Sea melds into the Indian Ocean, we are in an all-Muslim nation. (I was reminded last night too, with a chuckle, when the man in matching linen who brought me a bottle of chilled rose and bragged about it’s ‘fruity’ taste admitted his lips had never touched alcohol.)

Earlier in the morning, before the day’s heat arrived, I’d walked a nearby jungled island, crows and rails darting among the pandanas and palms, camouflaged lizards and introduced rabbits scooting across the sandy paths. The foliage was dense and green, the island far more substantial than most in the Maldives, which are typically little more than sand and sea rubble piled up on coral. Given that even a substantial island here rises just six feet above sea level, as much as anywhere in the world the Maldives are threatened by rising sea levels.

The first democratically-elected president in the nation’s history has quickly turned into a vocal leader.  One of his first pronouncements was that he was going to start setting aside money for and start looking at land to buy to move his people, to get them out of harm’s way if sea levels rise as expected.

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Climate Change and Survival in the Maldives

Jon Bowermaster is a writer, filmmaker, adventurer and fellow Earthkeeper who has spent the last 20 years exploring remote corners of the globe and documenting his experiences for a variety of national and international magazines, as well as in his own books and documentary films.  We’re honored to feature periodic posts from Jon here on Earthkeepers, and you may follow his travels anytime on his own blog.

The last time I was in the island nation of the Maldives – nearly 400,000 people scattered among 1,200 tiny islands running south for a thousand miles off the tips of Sri Lanka and India – the place was on edge. It was early in 2005 and the tsunami waves had rushed over the islands just a few weeks before. Fortunately for the Maldives a combination of deep channels running between islands and the sizable coral reefs that surround many of them prevented the giant wave from sweeping its entire population into the sea. Only about 100 people were killed, far fewer than drowned on the coast of Somalia hundreds of miles further west.

I came to report on the post-tsunami impacts for the New York Times and as I wandered among the homes badly cracked by the wave and saw decades-old garbage dumps swept into the sea by waters that rushed over the islands – which rise less than six feet above sea level – everyone was talking about the possibility of another such incident.  “What can we do to prevent the next wave from taking us all,” was the collective concern. “What if there is a second wave coming?”

The Maldives new president is talking louder than any elected official in the world about the need to slow the seas from rising.  He obviously has a vested interest.

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