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350ppm Ensures the Survival and Incurs the Support of Maldives Islanders

12/17/09

Interactions with the founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, and youth from the Maldives presented an urgent yet hopeful message at Klimaforum Monday evening.

Walking through the Bella Center early afternoon on Monday, I found myself swept up by a conglomeration of press members and delegates all converging on one person, hidden from my view by the masses. When the crowds briefly parted, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the delegate of interest was Mohamed Nasheed, the up-and-coming president of the Republic of the Maldives. As I had, earlier in the year, heard a decent number of his speeches and become quite familiar with his stance on climate change, and knew that at one point he was not planning on attending the negotiations due to a lack of funding, it was a pleasure to see him present, involved, and quite popular. Though chief negotiators from around the world do not seem ready to change their reduction targets and improve mitigation actions because of Nasheed’s message, he has been gaining support from a great many other people, evidence that at least some concerned with climate change are not content to see the beautiful Maldives islands sink.

This brief “Nasheed sighting” was augmented later in the day when I had the privilege of hearing him speak alongside Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, an NGO that stresses the importance of keeping CO2 levels within 350 parts per million. McKibben proved to be a powerful speaker as he showed a great number of pictures from the global 350 day of action. These impressive displays from countries all around the world demonstrated the support that non-governmental citizens give to limiting climate change. Because Nasheed was delayed at the Bella Center, McKibben was forced to speak for a much longer time than he had planned – a feat that he executed professionally and eloquently. Through his presentation, McKibben focused on the need for action, and emphasized that the seemingly-unimportant actions of NGO’s can spur the action of political leaders. He stressed that politicians who fail to properly address climate change need to know that citizens will not tolerate their reelection.

Nasheed’s entrance, significantly later in the program, was comparable  to a pop star’s entrance into a youth gathering . A sign hailing that “Nasheed Is Our Global Climate Leader” was joined by a multitude of similar others. In a brief yet inspirational speech, Nasheed staunchly supported the 350ppm target, and surprisingly, did not overly-emphasize the fact that his islands are sinking. Though the fact was mentioned, he realizes that dwelling on future calamity is not the way to promote action in the present. Instead, Nasheed recounted briefly his days as a political prisoner, and highlighted the need for continuing hope and persistence in dealing with a seemingly impossible yet necessary action. Again and again, the audience chanted three words. 3-5-0. 3-5-0. 3-5-0. Climate justice for the world. Greeted with enthusiastic cheering and an overwhelming mob of supporters at the conclusion of his statements, Nasheed is truly the hero of political climate activists.

I was also fortunate to interview two young ladies from the Maldives who traveled to Copenhagen in support of their leader. Their testimonies, while pervaded with a somewhat desperate tone since the future of their island homes is quite uncertain, are still filled with hope. See my interview below.

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