What if your country disappeared? Nation mulls digital existence as sea waters rise

A country is made up of many elements — land, people, nature, culture, history. But what happens when one by one disappears? How does a country continue its existence then?

Those are the questions posed by the leaders of the tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, but they’re also trying to find creative answers. The country has announced that it is making moves to seek legal protection for a country that may no longer exist in any traditional sense, and it is also turning to the metaverse to try to try to preserve the most important parts of the country, before time runs out.

Last year, Simon Kofe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, stood in deep water off the country’s coast. In a speech that went viralhe called on world leaders to take radical action at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow for the benefit of his country of about 12,000 people.

“Climate change and sea level rise are deadly and existential threats to Tuvalu,” he said.

Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe during the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, Fiji, on July 12, 2022. Kofe addresses viewers in a video at COP27, warning that his country could sink in the country in this century. (Image of William West/AFP/Getty)

‘In part we will defend our country’

This year, Tuvalu’s leaders pushed the issue further. In a new video released during the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Kofe once again speaks to viewers from the shores of one of Tuvalu’s nine islands, located roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii in the South Pacific.

If the world continues on the path of warming by 3 degrees Celsius, because it’s on the right track nowThis island will be the first to disappear, he said. He added that the entire country is forecast to be submerged in water due to sea level rise this century.

“Since COP26, the world has not acted and so we in the Pacific must act,” said Kofe.

“When our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation. Our land, our oceans, our culture are our most valuable assets. And to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we’re moving them to the cloud.”

Kofe said administrative and administrative systems will be moved online so that they are not disrupted. But exactly what a digital country will look like is still unclear.

VIEW | Simon Kofe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, on turning to the metaverse:

Tuvalu begins to digitize nation as rising seas threaten islands

Simon Kofe, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu, reflects in his speech at COP27 on the nation’s plans to create a digital copy of itself as rising seas threaten the very existence of it.

It will start with the creation of a digital twin, according to Nick Kelly and Marcus Foth of the Queensland University of Technology. The researchers describe in an article about Conversation that the super universe will use both virtual and augmented reality to recreate Tuvalu and try to preserve the island nation’s culture.

“Technically, it’s easy to create beautiful, vibrant and territorially rich reproductions of Tuvalu. Furthermore, thousands of different online communities and 3D worlds prove that it’s possible. there are virtual interactive spaces that can completely maintain their own culture,” the article said. .

As Kofe speaks in the pre-recorded video, images of the flags of Tuvalu begin to break and freeze. The rocks disappear and are moved around the beach, creative retouching techniques give urgency to this project as two-dimensional images like these could soon be all that remains. of the country.

“Islands like this won’t survive when temperatures rise rapidly,” says Kofe. “So we will recreate them virtual. Piece by piece, we will protect our country, bring solace to our people and remind our children and grandchildren of our homeland. .”

Protect your loved ones and country

Preserving the country digitally is just one part of a national project called Future Now. The second branch of the national strategy is to try to create a legal framework under which the state can maintain its sovereignty even if the entire nation is submerged.

“We will become stateless, landless,” Tuvaluan Finance Minister Seve Paeniu said at the COP27 conference. “Final [we are seeking] a global solution, an arrangement or an agreement in the international governance structure to legally recognize and protect the sovereignty of Tuvalu.”

Tuvalu, an island nation of about 12,000 people, is threatened by rising sea levels. (Mario Tama/Getty image)

Paeniu said the country is doing this by seeking heritage status from UNESCO.

“We have a heritage project, a collection of our rich, unique culture, our identity to advocate and promote the preservation of our cultural heritage, then we will use that collection to apply,” he said. “To protect our sovereignty, our dignity, our identity, regardless of sea level rise.”

Tuvalu is not the only country facing this threat. The Central Pacific nation of Kiribati bought land in Fiji five years ago as a climate haven. The area is currently being developed into an agricultural project with the help of the Chinese government, according to reported by Guard.

But whether international legal frameworks are prepared for questions of this kind relating to sovereignty, or to those who will be displaced, remains to be seen.

In 2013, a man from Kiribati, Ioane Teitiota and his wife fled the country for New Zealand. When they landed, they were supposed to the first people to apply for asylum as climate refugees. But their request was denied and they were ordered to be deported on the basis that climate change was not currently recognized as a basis for claiming asylum. On appeal, this decision was upheld.

Last year, Environmental Justice publish a report shows that many vulnerabilities exist. In the case of Teitiota, United Nations Human Rights Commission has said that forcing a person to return to their home country if their life is threatened due to the risks posed by climate change, could go against international agreements.

Research by the World Bank Group estimates that by 2050, about 216 million people will be replaced by the effects of climate change. Migration was not an issue in the draft agreements of the COP27 conference.

Dancers from the Tuvalu Youth Dance Troupe perform before the opening of the panel discussion on climate security in the Pacific at the United Nations Climate Summit COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Tuesday, November 15, 2022. (Thomas Hartwell/The Press Association)

There are limits to adaptation

Paeniu said Tuvalu’s leaders have continued to put pressure on Western leaders to provide funding for adaptation in an attempt to reverse the worst impacts on the country, but the extent to which Its possibilities are limited, says Paeniu.

“Sea levels are rising faster – making our country uninhabitable – than we can adapt,” he said.

This echoes the concerns of many researchers at the COP27 climate conference that Adaptation is being relied upon too much to address climate change without focusing enough on reducing emissions.

“The main strategy now for us is to defend our islands,” Kofe told Reuters. “No Tuvalu wants to leave our archipelago and relocate.”

Two conference participants from Tuvalu take a lunch break as they attend the COP27 climate conference on November 9, 2022. (Sean Gallup/Getty image)


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