The Maldives are a picturesque chain comprising over 1,100 islands and atolls in the Indian Ocean. However, this paradise may soon be lost to rising sea levels. The highest parts of the Maldives rise to no more than 8 feet. This leaves its nearly 400,000 residents at great risk of storm surges and rising seas.
6 island nations threatened by climate change
In 1998, Rishi Sowa built his first artificial island using 250,000 plastic bottles to keep it afloat, and today he lives on Spiral Island II, a smaller island that he built using 100,000 bottles. The island features a house, beaches, ponds and even a solar-powered waterfall.
Even more ambitious than Sowa’s island is architect Ramon Knoester’s plan to build Recycled Island, a floating island the size of Hawaii made entirely of recycled plastic. The island would be completely self-sufficient, supporting its own agriculture and getting its power from solar and wave energy. When it’s complete, Knoester hopes the island will house half a million residents who can enjoy the artificial island’s seaweed harvest and compost toilets.
Not one of the 1,200s island that make up the Maldives is more than 6 feet above sea level, and the island nation is doing everything it can to cope with rising oceans. The country has gone carbon neutral, it’s built retaining walls around every island, and in January 2011 the Maldives government signed an agreement with Dutch Docklands to develop five floating islands. The star-shaped, tiered islands will feature beaches, golf courses and an environmentally friendly convention center, and indoor areas will be nestled under green-roof terraces. The project will cost millions to complete, but it’s a small price to pay when your entire nation is expected to be underwater one day.
The 33 islands that make up Kiribati sit barely above sea level these days, and more than half of the country’s 100,000 people are crowded onto the capital island of South Tarawa. Land is scarce and drinking water is in short supply, so to combat both overpopulation and rising seas, Kiribati has begun sending young citizens to Australia to study nursing. The Kiribati Australia Nursing Initiative is sponsored by the foreign aid organization AusAID and is aimed at educating Kiribati’s youth and getting them jobs. Most students who receive AusAID scholarships are trained and then sent home to help their developing countries; however, the KANI program is a little different because the graduates will work in Australia and someday bring their families to join them. KANI seeks to educate and relocate the people of Kiribati because their entire country may soon be underwater.
How nations are coping with rising seas
North Captiva Island was once part of larger Captiva Island, but storms during the 1920s severed the landmass, leaving the 4-mile-long crescent known today as North Captiva Island. In addition to no cars, the island has no paved roads, no hotels and no grocery stores. Visitors can book beach houses and tour the small island’s sandy trails by foot or golf cart, and they’ll quickly discover that North Captiva’s dolphins and gopher tortoises outnumber its people.
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If a country disappears beneath the sea, is it still a country? Does it have fishing rights? What about a seat at the United Nations? Many small island states are seeking answers to these questions and exploring ways that they can exist as legal entities even if the entire population lives elsewhere.
Take an intriguing look at how nations are coping with rising seas.