The issue of global warming nowadays to a certain extent affects every country in the world. Some of them may even face disappearance from the Earth. Jon Shenk’s 2011 documentary The Island President depicts the tragedy of the small island nation of the Maldives endangered by the global rise in sea level. The story of President Mohamed Nasheed’s strivings reflects how hard but still possible it is for a developing country to oppose the planet destruction.
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The film covers the first year of Nasheed’s presidency in 2009. Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the country and an ardent advocate of sustainable environmental policy. From the beginning of this term, Nasheed developed a plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the Maldives for the following decade. Those measures were vital because the Maldives is situated at a very low altitude and a slight increase in the sea level resulting from the global warming and greenhouse effect put the country in danger of being flooded (Carrington par. 3).
Nasheed planned that all the energy in the country should be solar and wind. He argued that the cost of switching to renewables would be less than the money that the Maldives were spending on energy. As a part of his environmental campaign, Nasheed conducted his first ministerial meeting under the water. In 2009, Nasheed traveled to the Copenhagen Climate Summit where he tried to draw the attention of the world superpowers to the fact that they should reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Thanks to Nasheed’s persistence and firmness in his beliefs he managed to agree with the US, China, and India on gas reduction. His efforts brought the “climate change issue back into political fashion” (Bradshaw par. 1).
The Island President is one of the brightest depictions of the rising problem of environmental refugees. Environmental refugees “are defined as those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption that jeopardizes their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life” (Westra 3). As a coastal state, the Maldives are a likely source of refugees fleeing from the rising sea level.
Scientists suggest that under current pollution level and continuing temperature rise the Maldives may disappear in the next 30 years (Sykes par. 1). It may be almost impossible for nearly three hundred fifty thousand of Maldivian people to migrate anywhere. The impending threat of submergence of the whole country under the ocean may lead to social uprisings, cultural and spiritual devastation, and crash of economic ties (Cafaro 109).
Moreover, the legal state of environmental refugees is very hard to define. If the state ceases to exist because of flooding it will be unclear whether the citizens of this state will be considered its citizens anymore (Barry and Frankland 182). Such developments require urgent measures to come with global warming and the establishment of a reliable legal framework in the question of environmental refugees.
All things considered, it can be said that The Island President is another striking evidence that the issue of global warming cannot be underestimated by the actors of the international arena. As the primary responsibility for climate change lies on the shoulders of the developed countries, it is up to them to decide whether they want to be responsible yet for hundreds of thousands environmental refugees or to curb their insatiable desire for increased profits and save the environmental situation at least at its present level.
Barry, John, and Gene Frankland. International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics. London, UK: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Bradshaw, Peter. The Island President – Review. 2012. Web.
Cafaro, Philip. Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation. Athens, GA: U of Georgia, 2012. Print.
Carrington, Damian. The Maldives Is the Extreme Test Case for Climate Change Action. 2013. Web.
Sykes, Patrick. Sinking States Climate Change and the Next Refugee Crisis. 2015. Web.
Westra, Laura. Environmental Justice and the Rights of Ecological Refugees. London, UK: Earthscan, 2009. Print.