What would you do if you lived on an island 1.5 meters above sea level and faced the dangers of climate change? A new film shows how in the island nation of the Maldives, one brave leader is helping make climate change a global human rights issue.
Mohamed Nasheed is the former President of the Maldives, and a global environmental activist with a creative knack for publicity. Since being ousted this February as a part of an alleged coup, Nasheed has continued to fight for the environment and for the country he once led.
The Maldives is a low-lying archipelago (actually the lowest country on Earth) made up of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Nasheed himself casually describes the islands as “a cross between paradise and paradise.” However, with current sea level rise, studies suggest the nation may be uninhabitable by 2100.
In 2008, Nasheed gave unprecedented access to filmmakers who wished to make a documentary about the President and his fight to save his former nation from sinking.
Directed by Jon Shenk and produced by Richard Berge and Bonnie Cohen, The Island President follows former President Nasheed from the time he takes office in 2008 until the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. The Island President is now playing in select cities (to see if it’s playing near you, click here).
Nasheed has spent most of his adult life fighting for what he believes is right. As an outspoken critic of former six-term President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nasheed spent 20 years fighting for democracy in the Maldives. He was beaten, arrested over 10 times, tortured and spent years in prison. Nasheed helped form the Maldivian Democratic Party, became the nominee in 2008 and won the Presidency in the nation’s first multi-party election.
While people were still celebrating, Nasheed made a point about the rising seas threatening his islands in this newly-democratic country. “It’s great, but what’s the point of having a democracy if we’re all dead?”
Faced with the problem of Maldivian people becoming the first permanent climate refugees, Nasheed made climate change and rising sea levels his top priority. In 2009, Nasheed made a pledge for the Maldives to become the first carbon-neutral country.
In the film, during the summit in Copenhagen, a reporter asked Nasheed about climate deniers. “There are people who still believe the world is flat or that we did not land on the moon,” Nasheed responded. “A few skeptics do not change the reality of fact.”