Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Island President

Did you know that the Maldives are sinking and one day fairly soon may be under water?  Did you know that the president of the Maldives was recently ousted in a political coup?


Well, neither did we...At least not until we checked out The Island President, a documentary about Mohamed Nasheed, a surprisingly interesting figure in world politics, particularly in the area of climate change and rising sea levels.

Nasheed has spent his life advocating for democracy in his home country of the Maldives, a series of 2,000 or so islands in the Indian Ocean.  By his own account, he has been arrested nearly 30 times and has spent a year and a half in solitary confinement.

A few years ago, however, the "Mandela of the Maldives" overcame all of this institutional opposition and became the country's democratically elected president.

Upon winning office, Nasheed made global climate change one of his administration's top priorities.  Given that the Maldives are so low lying, the country represents a front line in the battle against rising sea levels.  A rise of just a few feet in sea levels will result in the entire country becoming submerged.

Nasheed's aspirations took him to Copenhagen a few years back, when world leaders were meeting with the intention of coming up with a first-ever accord in the area of climate change.  It was there that Nasheed became a favorite of environmental activists in the West, by pushing for standards beyond those envisioned by the leaders of major world powers.

Over time, however, Nasheed ran into difficulties back home, where he was buffeted by supporters of the country's former leader, as well as those opposed to his religiously moderate policies.  And so, two months ago, Nasheed was ousted from the presidency.

Pressing to gain his office back, Nasheed has made the rounds, visiting leaders in India, Australia, and the United States.  Nasheed has also had time to squeeze in a visit to The Daily Show, promoting The Island Presidency and his cause for early elections in the Maldives.

I'm thinking the Maldives would be a good choice for a Ph.D. dissertation in electoral politics, climate change, religion and name it!  Just think about all of the snorkeling you can do at the end of a hard day of fieldwork!



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