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Ousted Leader Tries to Save Nation from Drowning

Two years ago, the new president of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting in the ocean as he tried to draw attention to the fact that his island nation is being submerged  by the rising sea.

Today, Mohammed Nasheed is still trying to do something about climate change, but now he’s doing it on talk shows in the United States, where he’s promoting his movie, The Island President.

Two months ago, Nasheed was deposed by the same corrupt regime he’d replaced when, after being imprisoned and tortured, he went on to win a national election in 2008. Back in power, the old regime, according to most people, is more interested in lining its own pockets than solving the nation’s problems, even as the Maldives slowly disappear under the waves.

The Maldives are an archipelago of some 2,000 islands in the Indian Ocean. Nowhere on these islands is the land more than eight feet above sea level – the average being just under five feet. But the ocean is rising as the global climate changes and polar ice melts, and the entire nation, like others in the neighboring South Pacific, will be under water in probably just a few decades from now.

While he was president, Nasheed allowed film maker Jon Shenk almost unrestricted access to his government. His purpose was to help produce a movie that would draw international attention to the plight of his nation:

Last night, as part of his movie tour, he was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

To help explain the danger his own nation is in, Nasheed points out that it’s hardly alone.

“Manhattan is an island, too” he said. “If the Maldives have difficulties, Manhattan will have difficulties.”

A study last year reported that rising sea levels could threaten 180 U.S. cities during this century.

Nasheed argues for a new kind of world economy.

“We have to come up with a new economy, we have to come up with another system, where we are able to deal with what is happening to the universe. The technology that we have is obsolete. The ideas that we have are obsolete.

“We have to start thinking outside the box. We have to be able to call a spade a spade. We have to find ways through which our public is made aware of the gravity of the issue. Reduction of carbon emissions and a decent life have so many links between them. We must be able to sell that to our people, and a good leader can.”

Nasheed had hoped to be that leader for his own nation. As a fugitive now in that same nation, he still hasn’t given up.

For more insight into the Maldives, and an interview with Mohammed Nasheed, check out this article in The Guardian.