What oppositional forces in the United States, the Maldives, and other endangered countries like it must understand in order for real change to happen is the sheer risk posed by climate change and the likelihood that, without action within the next few years, humanity may not be able to avoid catastrophic economic damage and loss of life, writes Lane Kisonak for the The Miscellany News.
It has been known for some time that the government of Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, a former human rights activist who has been called the Nelson Mandela of the Indian Ocean, has been amassing a “sovereign wealth fund” for the purchase of land in India, Sri Lanka or Australia in order to eventually resettle the Maldivian people.
But after all that, Nasheed resigned in February, likely having been forced to do so by allies of Maumoon Gayoom, the dictator Nasheed had unseated in the Maldives’ first democratic elections in 2008 after 30 damaging years in power.
Nasheed’s efforts to protect his people from global warming are, I believe, illustrative of two truths for all societies interested in climate change mitigation: first, the localized nature of climate change politics, and second, how easily it gets pushed aside in favor of other matters due to personal agendas and institutional inertia.
In the Maldives, the chief rationale for the removal of Nasheed after three years of high popular support and decisive action repairing the wounds of Gayoom’s dictatorship was the purportedly wrongful arrest of a criminal court judge on corruption charges. Political forces friendly to Gayoom found it in their interest to take advantage of this incident and align against Nasheed (BBC, “Dramatic fall for Maldives’ democratic crusader,” 02.08.12). In the end they successfully took him down, likely dealing a harsh blow to the Maldives’ climate change efforts and introducing political instability all in the interest of gaining power.
What the United States and the Maldives have in common is the potential within smaller, geographically based units to make large strides in protecting people from climate change. They additionally share institutional roadblocks to getting the job done. Sadly for the Maldivians the obstacle they face—the machinations of the party of a dictator attempting to return to power—may prove much harder to overcome. It is telling, for example, that Nasheed’s efforts were as much about working around his parliament to raise awareness abroad as they were internally focused.