Noble Nasheed Inspires Future Actors on Climate Change
I was asked by the President of the Queen Mary Geography Society to write an article on the visit of the former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. I have been given the right to post it on this blog. I’m guessing because no one reads it. In any case, this is my proudest achievement to date.
I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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University harbours umpteen opportunities to discover your passions and specialities, especially for first year undergraduates like myself. I got my first taste of the quality of extra-curricular geographical lectures, at the 13th David M. Smith lecture delivered by Tom Slater of the University of Edinburgh, in late November 2016. From the jest and jeers related to comments and an attendee referring to Savills; the real estate client, to the striking social stigmatisms associated with housing, only wetted my appetite for more intriguing and life-changing lectures to come. Here we are, mid-February, another lecture that I could only have imagined witnessing. Former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed offering his perspectives on the struggles of Maldivians, a culture and heritage rapidly sinking into the Indian Ocean.
A few words on the distinguished guest only encapsulates the importance of his role in achieving global environmental justice. As well as being the first democratically elected President of the Maldives in 2008, Nasheed attributes to human rights and environmental activism as his primary concerns in today’s society. Holding office for 4 years, the former President implemented revolutionary schemes to the Maldives. In 2009, the Maldives committed to moving to a state of carbon-neutrality by 2019, and the introduction and sustained use of renewable sources of energy such as; wind power and solar energy. His actions were so incredibly innovative; I distinctly remember learning about carbon-neutrality in the Maldives at A Level. Creativity seems endless with Nasheed, he held the first underwater cabinet meeting in October 2009, cleverly hinting at the possible fate of Maldivians in years to come. In an effort to save the planet and reams of paper in the process, I won’t be delving into all of Nasheed’s accolades. Some highlights to commemorate his truly international standing; September 2009 listed as one of Time Magazine’s, Heroes of the Environment and was a UNEP Policy Leadership laureate in 2010.
Nasheed is no stranger to the UK, having studied his A Levels here, similar to many of us, and attending university at Liverpool Polytechnic (now known as Liverpool John Moores). Now living in the UK, his presence at QMUL is of strong importance for our community. Acting as a strong advocate for the Maldives offshores, Nasheed continually has fought for environmental and human rights issues. As every leader with a controversial and thought-provoking agenda, the former President has suffered some hardship in his political career. Yet he is still spreading the word of the Maldivians and battling on the global stage. Personally, I feel his appearance will trigger and excite the crowd, to truly re-evaluate their position in society and how they can adapt to limit the devastating effects of climate change.
Short and sweet. That’s how I would describe Nasheed’s lecture. The audience got all angles of the former President’s appeal, and his theories to solving the problems that the Maldives, moreover the world, faces. Dr Simon Carr, preceded the main event with some interesting yet disturbing figures relating to the current science of climate change. He hypothesised, based on advanced climate modelling, that in our lifetimes, there will be an increase of 2 degrees Celsius as a result of climate change. It’s not all doom and gloom, Dr Carr offered some hope. Crunching down the numbers, the reality of solar power energising the planet seems just over the horizon.
This introduction, perfectly set the stage for Nasheed’s talk. The Maldives “risk becoming a modern day Atlantis”, as stated by the former President, and preventing this from happening set the tone for the lecture. The power of the lecture could be enveloped through his use of war metaphors. Labelling the Maldives as a “frontline state”, these short phrases eternally resonates the strength of the issue and its urgency. Despite vastly oppressive outlooks for the Maldives, Nasheed remains optimistic. He recognises that the days of the Maldives are numbered, but surprisingly is in high hopes. Even more so, by his delivery of subtle humour related to the possible sinking of his beloved country. Additionally, he mentions about his eccentric carbon-neutral idea in 2009, he recalls dealing with criticisms extensively. He mentions that as of November 2016, 47 countries have committed to go carbon-neutral within the next two decades. A large stepping stone in the right direction for Nasheed’s forward thinking. One aspect that the lecture was centred around, was highlighting that a good governance in a country holds unlimited political leverage. Both locally and globally. Nasheed holds righteous objections over the current leadership of the Maldives, identifying the regime as fraudulent and unaccountable. Characteristics not helpful in the fight for environmental freedom for over 300,000 Maldivians.
Nasheed finishes by stating a well-known fact, capitalist economies and the global outlook declares “air, a free good”. He mentions that present economies encompass this value but emphasises that new economies are available, with the falling price of renewable energy, all a country needs is a just governing manifesto. Nasheed is positive, the Maldives will one day reach such tremendous heights.
So… what does former President Nasheed’s visit signify for the School or Geography and furthermore the wider Queen Mary family? The question rather should be; what doesn’t such a momentous occasion perform? An event set up by the Queen Mary Geography Society, led by Jason Lynch has enthralled students and guests to no end. The opportunities are boundless and the enthusiasm flooding from the lecture theatre could only be infectious for the broader community. I, for one, have been dazzled by a man who has so much to give, foraging all the support humanely possible, in one last gasp to save his esteemed country from becoming a distant memory.