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Earth The Almighty Buck

As Seas Rise, Maldives Seek To Buy a New Homeland 521

Peace Corps Online writes "The Maldives will begin to divert a portion of the country's billion-dollar annual tourist revenue to buy a new homeland as insurance against climate change. Rising sea levels threaten to turn the 300,000 islanders into environmental refugees as the chain of 1,200 island and coral atolls dotted 500 miles from the tip of India is likely to disappear under the waves if the current pace of climate change continues to raise sea levels. The UN forecasts that the seas are likely to rise by up to 59 cm by the year 2100. Most parts of the Maldives are just 150 cm above water so even a 'small rise' in sea levels would inundate large parts of the archipelago. 'We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere. It's an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome,' says the Muslim country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, adding that he has already broached the subject with a number of countries and found them to be 'receptive.' India and Sri Lanka are targets because they have similar cultures and climates; Australia is worth looking at because of the immense amount of unoccupied land in that country. 'We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades.'"
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As Seas Rise, Maldives Seek To Buy a New Homeland

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  • A myth. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Daryen ( 1138567 )

    They have nothing to worry about, Global Warming is just a myth!


    If the summary is correct, and they are only 150 centimeters above water... than this isn't a very good place to build regardless of global warming or not. Your average over-sized wave could swamp the entire island.

    • Re:A myth. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:28AM (#25732439)

      only 150 centimeters

      Obviously the islamists are helping their librul friends with their global warming scam by scraping the top off the island so that they can claim it is disappearing!

  • Australia? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:20AM (#25732343)

    Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn't most of that "unoccupied territory," "unoccupied" because it's a very harsh environment, basically desert, that isn't really suitable for settling?

    • by DDLKermit007 ( 911046 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:36AM (#25732503)
      A little more suitable I think than home underwater...
      • Seeing as how their country is being turned into a desert []. I'm not sure which is worse, personally. Having your homeland washed out to sea, or being told that you have to make do with land that would require probably tens of billions of dollars (that you don't have, and probably will never have) to start turning into semi-usable living space.
    • Re:Australia? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:18AM (#25732929)

      Actually you're wrong. Yes the very center of Australia is harsh unpopulated desert. However there are also large stretches of the north coast of Australia which remain uninhabited. These areas are tropical, have large monsoons and could sustain a fairly large population. In fact it's been proposed for a while now that in North Western Australia there be more settlement of people/industry. (I'm an Aussie by the way.) I don't know how receptive the general population will be to a new settement in the north. Especially with heavily islamic Indonesia next door which does house terrorism. I'm sure the Maldivean people are friendly and all but I don't know what the general Australian population will think of it all. On the other hand it does look like the Maldives are pretty relaxed about morality considering it is a massive tourism destination, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • by Zouden ( 232738 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:21AM (#25732349)

    Australia is worth looking at because of the immense amount of unoccupied land in that country.

    Yes, but Australia, the country, is entirely contiguous with the continent. I can't imagine us (now or in the future) being very receptive to the idea of another country buying their way onto the continent and having to set up borders etc.

    Besides, who'd want to move from a tropical archipelago to - let's face it - a desert? Sri Lanka is a much more likely candidate.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      Yes, but Australia, the country, is entirely contiguous with the continent.

      Ehhhhhh? What continent is New Zealand in, then?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by the_womble ( 580291 )

      Sri Lanka is a much more likely candidate.

      A country that is fighting civil war to prevent an ethnically based breakaway state? If that is justified, how can selling part of the country be justified?

      The war has also made people very nationalist, so giving up territory is likely to go down pretty badly. The Buddhist fundamentalists are not going to like having 370,000 Muslims added to the population either. See here [] for one example.

      The same objection as you have to Australia selling land, that it would introduce land borders for the first time,

    • by Chrisje ( 471362 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:37AM (#25733165)

      *sarcasm* Yes, specially since Australia has always been of the Australians, and nobody has ever tried to muscle their way into the territory before. It would be a totally new concept for the continent of Australia. */sarcasm*

      Good grief. At least the inhabitants of the Maldives are suggesting to *pay* for the land they're looking at. 385,925 (July 2008 est.) people should be able to find a home somewhere and it saddens me to think that people's first reaction is like yours.

      Having said that, I feel for the people's plight since I am a Dutch citizen. Lord knows we won't be keeping our feet dry easily if the water levels rise that much. At present, my birth place is already 7 meters below sea level as it is. Thing is that there are 17 million of us, not ~400000.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Having said that, I feel for the people's plight since I am a Dutch citizen. Lord knows we won't be keeping our feet dry easily if the water levels rise that much. At present, my birth place is already 7 meters below sea level as it is.

        Well, you only have about 90 years to prepare for the possibility that your birthplace will be 7.5 meters below sea level. Better get started right away.

        Seriously, this problem is moving in slow motion - it's not like we're talking sea levels rising a meter a year or anythi

  • by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:24AM (#25732375)

    Nasheed's quote at the end of the summary really made me recall Bangladesh, where my parents are from. It's another country that is under major threat from climate change. I've often wondered what Bangladeshi people would do when the flood waters finally get bad enough to make the country uninhabitable, through no fault of their own (most of the people there are remarkably poor). I once read a touching BBC article where a village farmer complained that he was losing his country so Westerners could drive in their cars.

    I always thought most Bangladeshis not killed by cataclysmic flooding would escape into neighboring countries, especially West Bengal in India, but the Maldives seems to have a "good" (at least practical) idea. Sadly the Bangladeshi government is too inefficient, corrupt, and schizophrenic to manage something as well thought out, costly, and long term as that.

    I fully expect to have to explain to my kids that Bangladesh was where their grandparents were from but that it no long exists (above the ocean, anyway).

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      I'm guessing they'll migrate to other countries, something many of them seem to have no problem with. A lot of Londoners are Balgladeshi.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dancingmad ( 128588 )

        Well, I'd argue that it takes some money to immigrate, especially these days - the vast majority of truly poor people in Bangladesh can't do this (which is why the Indian government is so angry about poor Bangladeshis sneaking into India).

        There's actually an interesting class distinction here - many of Bangladeshis in England were poorer (and did things like manual labor, restaurants, etc.) while those that immigrated to the U.S. in the 60s and 70s where much better educated and middle class and entered tho

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Olix ( 812847 )

          I couldn't point at someone and say "he is Bangladeshi", so I don't know if there are communities of Bangladeshi immigrants in London who are so tightly nit that they refuse to intergate, but for Indians and other peoples from that region of the world, they tend to become "Londeners" by the second generation.

          The UK is not the country it was 150 years ago. London today is a very multicultural place.

          • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:16AM (#25732881) Homepage Journal

            The UK is not the country it was 150 years ago. London today is a very multicultural place.

            That, in my experience, tends to remove people's sense of UK identity and tie them more strongly to that of their homeland. I worked with a Bangladeshi as my boss for a year in London, who was clearly second-generation or later. He still referred to Bangladesh as 'my home'.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Darby ( 84953 )

          Incidentally, how long before a Londoner of Bangladeshi background is no longer Bangladeshi and is just a Londoner? Three generations? Four?

          If you can eat a pork pie slathered in marmite without puking, you pass the test.

    • by stiller ( 451878 )

      Sadly the Bangladeshi government is too inefficient, corrupt, and schizophrenic to manage something as well thought out, costly, and long term as that.

      Yes, that is too bad. Or they might have been able to build something like this. []

      • One would hope - but the government's poor and there is no political will to do anything. Bangladesh is no Maldives.

  • by Shin-LaC ( 1333529 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:24AM (#25732385)
    As tourism takes a hit from the economic crisis, this is a great piece of advertising. "Visit the beautiful Maldives while you still can!"
  • How interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:25AM (#25732395) Homepage
    I just emailed my senator yesterday because I was concerned about the mention that environmental refugees (which there have already been several groups) are not recognized by the international community, and was hoping to at least get the idea mentioned before the senate.

    I hope he reads it, or a staffer does - seeing as he just got a promotion and might be a little busy.
    Keep One Eye Open on - Search hundreds of communities from one place with one click []
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DataBroker ( 964208 )
      The most likely way that they can raise awareness is by suing a large country. If they were to sue the US government for providing an environment which encourages companies to pollute in, they could then collect for damages in the form of a replacement parcel, or enough money to buy a replacement parcel. Granted they would likely lose their country due to eminent domain, but they would gain awareness and money in the meanwhile.

      Ps - I'm not trolling by saying the Gvt is encouraging it, that's just how I w
    • Good luck. It is a hard thing I think. Partially because there are a lot of natural disaster prone areas in the world. I can just imagine a large storm hitting say Cuba and everyone trying to leave for Miami as "refugees". I don't think it would go over too well.

      I think the problem is defining what is an environmental refugee and when do you send them back. Clearly if your country is underwater now isn't the time to send you back. But what if your island gets hit with a category 4 hurricane 3 times a yea

  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:27AM (#25732419)
    I'd try to post some offbeat humorous comment, but I don't see a damn thing funny about this.

    I helped a photographer assemble footage for a piece he's doing about this. He's gone there and stayed with Mohamed Nasheed for a few years running. The place is small enough that everyone more or less knows everyone. From what I saw they are incredibly pragmatic and dignified about this. They don't want a handout but would like to bring the world's attention to it. There are dozens of similar smaller nations that will not have the luxury of money to perchance buy their way out of this. I suspect, when this reaches critical mass, money won't be much of factor anyway. I hope the entire world will be able to be as calm and dignified and take a cue from the way they're currently dealing with it.
    • I mentioned this in a comment about Bangladesh on this story - and I agree, fundamentally, this is a dignified way to try and deal with this problem - but is it unreasonable for a country to be "undignified" if "don't have the luxury of money" to buy their way out of this problem? If you agree that global warming is man made, then is it unreasonable to think that the people suffering the most consequences (like the Maldives or Bangladesh) or some of the people least responsible?

      • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:27AM (#25733041)
        Most places will never be able to even consider buying other land. Nasheed has been running a program for a few years now to make his people viable transplants to new cultures. He knows they need new skill sets and will need to be highly adaptive to make this viable. He does not seem to think buying huge tracts of land will work. He even states in much of what I've seen that they'll eventually lose their culture and just be absorbed by the new nations they disperse into.

        (I'm uninformed on Bangladesh so I cannot comment on them specific.)

        Other places either wait for help (which will never arrive from the uninformed or the uncaring) or will be forced to just make a run for it at the last moment. Displaced refugees NEVER works. This proves out time and time again. Even the poorest of nations could start asking to allow very small groups to be allowed in now in an effort to begin a relocation program. Nasheed, when queried on keeping his people together, says that in 50 years he does not expect them to maintain much if any of their culture. He knows the idea of just displacing one group into another never works and is planning on blending his people in small increments.

        As for agreeing it's manmade, I'm still on the fence on that. Man-helped, no doubt. And should we carbon-whores pay into a sollution, yes we should. The people of nations like this are on the very low end of responsible. (But even the Maldives have concrete roads and cars!) But we've only walked erect a few million years. The face of this planet in that space of time has changed. In a billion years this planet's face has changed dramatically. So change is a constant. We just don't adapt as well as other species. We like finding blame and do not seem to flow well this type of change.
  • by duanemc ( 758821 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:28AM (#25732431)

    "Australia is worth looking at because of the immense amount of unoccupied land in that country. "

    There are very good reasons why we have an immense amount of unoccupied land in Australia...

    Picture Fallout 3, minus the radiation and ruins. And water. And trees. And people. Feel free to leave in the giant bugs and mutants though...

    • by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:31AM (#25732455)

      Feel free to leave in the giant bugs and mutants though...
      Hey, if you're going to talk about John Howard at least mention him by name!

      I leave it to the reader to guess whether he's a giant bug or a mutant. Or both. ;-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geckipede ( 1261408 )
      You can leave the radiation in the picture. Australia is the most active Uranium mining country in the world, and early British nuclear weaponry was tested there.
  • by iammani ( 1392285 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:35AM (#25732495)
    I know a guy who visits maldives often (mainly to go scuba diving). Their language is very similar to singalese (lang spoken in srilanka) and their food is a combination of Srilankan and Kerala (a state in India) food. I would tend to think they would look at buying land at these places rather than Australia
  • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:35AM (#25732497) Journal

    Is 7 meters(ca. 21 feet) below sealevel and we are not leaving. Running is a bad solution. Fight the water because it will fight you. Feet getting wet? Build dams and dykes and stay safe. That idea is probably 10 times cheaper and more efficient than the whole "move everyboy out and buy a new homeland plan".

    • by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:44AM (#25732593) Homepage Journal

      The article specifically says that building seawalls around the many islands is prohibitively expensive.

    • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:45AM (#25732603)

      Methinks there's a big group of Dutch architects & builders trying to get themselves on an all-expenses paid "fact finding mission" to the Maldives here...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by thered2001 ( 1257950 )
      It's a little harder to build dams around hundreds of islands. In the Netherlands, you pretty much had only one direction to worry about.
    • by Krupuk ( 978265 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:57AM (#25732693)

      Build dams and dykes and stay safe.

      Ever tried building dams and dykes around 1190 small coral islands? Look at this picture of Malé, the capital: [] Is it still worth living there with a 10 meeter dam around your city?

      • They should consider connecting the islands together where it is fysically possible. If they do that they will kill 2 birds with one stone that way. They're able to stay safe and are able to get extra land.

        Second point unrelated to this reply; Look at this picture, the island was never safe to start with. One big wave and the island's gone.

    • Um (Score:3, Funny)

      by copponex ( 13876 )

      If Denmark was a series of extremely tiny islands, you'd have a point. But it's not, so you don't.

      • Re:Um (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:11AM (#25732833) Journal

        Old chart of the Netherlands(not the same as Denmark, go read a map): []

        Modern chart of the Netherlands: []

        Massive areas were flooded in the Middle Ages in the Netherlands. Instead of hiding on high ground we beat the water and founded a nation that is mostly below sea level. It takes a certain state of mind to do this. Once you start surrendering to the water, you lose. And you will keep on running from any danger that comes in your path.

        • Re:Um (Score:5, Informative)

          by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @11:11AM (#25733613)

          It takes more than a state of mind, and you're dismissing their problems too easily.

          1. The Netherlands took 1000 years or more to get where we are now. For the last 100 years, we've been continuously building major infrastructure to keep dry feet.

          2. The Netherlands has money to burn (and has been in that fortunate situation for hundreds of years now). We spend on the order of the Maledives' entire GDP ($ 1.5 B) every year.

          3. For a long time, land reclamation projects were extremely unambitious, no more than what a farmer and his personnel could achieve in the off-season. Each year the farmer would add another few hundred m of dikes and reclaim a patch of land. After 100 years of that, you've got quite a bit of land, but this only works if the area you're working is shallow marshes. The Maledives don't have that easy option. They would need to go for the expensive option (working directly against the ocean) immediately.

          4. All of our (.nl) efforts were directed at shortening the coastline, which is easy enough if most of the area is land with low marshes in between. The Maledives would need to fortify 650 km of coastline in short order.

    • by DrXym ( 126579 )
      I think the difference is that the Netherlands has dry land on one size and the sea isn't especially deep either in reclaimed areas. It's feasible to ring fence off sea / river channels because you can dredge up sand from one place and deposit it in another to form a barrier. Once done you can flush the sea water out and you have land. I doubt this is the case in the Maldives. I don't know the sea around the islands but it would not surprise me if the depth becomes precipitous very rapidly. There would be n
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Fight the water because it will fight you.

      I hate to break it to you but Mother Nature/Gaia will always win. You might get lucky and never see that day but all the Netherlands is doing is postponing the inevitable. Something will change (earthquake or water rising higher than expected or whatever) or someone will make a mistake (engineering error or faulty construction or whatever) or _something_ and then Mother Nature/Gaia will remind you that she is boss. We live at her mercy. Seriously, not to be all n
      • by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @12:12PM (#25734415)

        I hate to break it to you but Mother Nature/Gaia will always win. You might get lucky and never see that day but all the Netherlands is doing is postponing the inevitable.

        Don't worry. We've got lots of lifeboats in case our country sinks. Which has already been happening for quite some time now, by the way. Even when you're not comparing with the sea level, our land in sinking. The continental shelf is moving downward, the soil is drying out. Were sinking it at least three different ways at the same time. We're good at sinking.

        Here's a recent example - New Orleans was almost destroyed _by a storm._ Building a city in a region that is dangerous is stupid. Sorry to be so blunt, but it is.

        Not at all. It's quite often very profitable to build a city in a dangerous area. Slopes of volcanoes are very fertile, for example. The mouth of a river (like Netherland or New Orleans) is a great place for a port.

        I don't know about New Orleans, but Netherland is rich enough to continue fighting for a few more centuries.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 )
    Sounds preposterous, but the UAE has already built several artificial islands of a size that could easily house the population of the Maldives. If the UAE can then surely the Maldives can too. The major issue of course is that any new island would have to be raised to anticipate sea level changes otherwise it would be as flat and vulnerable as the old one. I don't know the details of any plan to purchase land but it seems doubtful to me that it would ensure a place to live if the Maldives sunk under the wav
  • by bugeaterr ( 836984 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @09:47AM (#25732623)

    Not only will he lower sea levels in the long run,
    but in the short term, he can teach them to walk on water. ;)

  • Manhattan (Score:4, Funny)

    by techstar25 ( 556988 ) <techstar25 @ g m a i> on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:45AM (#25733273) Journal
    Apparently residents from Manhattan will be watching closely and anxiously taking notes on how this gets resolved.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @10:57AM (#25733417)

    There was a group of dreamers a while back with an idea they called the Millennium Project. One of their ideas for solving the population crunch was creating artificial islands to populate the empty reaches of the equatorial waters. I don't remember all of the details of their plan, it's been years, but the islands themselves would be created by pulling calcium out of sea water, I think using some form of electrolysis. You lay metal grids in the water, run a current, and the calcium grows on the grid like sugar on a string with rock candy.

    The islands themselves would be like giant dinner plates floating on the water, but I assume with enclosed flotation chambers so a good sloshing wouldn't sink them as it does with the dinner plate. The goal here would be extremely green and low-impact living so the islands would generate their own power via green and renewable methods, crops would be grown on the upper surface, and waste would be recycled. The experience here would be less like a cruise ship and more like low-impact commune living.

    The habitat itself would have a submerged lip around the edge that would be perfect for the formation of corals and home for shallow water fish. Even if the island were moored in deep water, it would be a a fine habitat, much like a volcanic island can rise from the abyssal plane and suddenly there's a nice shallow water habitat for fish.

    The really cool part is that these islands could theoretically be free-floating, drifting with the currents and floating around the world, using powered propulsion only when pushed too close to obstructions.

    These islands represent a fairly interesting idea in population management. Right now, we have too damn many people on the planet. Now I know we're not going to get people to reduce population the way we're living now, there'd be blood in the streets if anyone forced them to. And not doing anything will just lead to ecological collapse, mass starvation, wars, and the population will be whittled down through attrition. But if we could get people a safe, clean, sustainable standard of living away from the cycle of poverty, the west has already shown that birthrates will naturally stabilize and begin to decline. The problem manages itself without coercion.

    I don't know how likely it would be but I think it would be extremely cool if the islanders could just build their own replacements and say "fuck global warming, we're ready for it." Maybe the Dutch can join them, not sure how much longer their dikes can hold out.

  • by rmanchu ( 1405785 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2008 @12:46PM (#25734833)
    Am a Maldivian and am surprised by the amount of coverage this is getting. The comment (by our president) was in the context of, IMO, "we need to save money - have a fund, for the worst case scenario". Sooooo not what is being made out of it. :)

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