Climate Change and Democracy in Maldives

Maldives took on a leadership role in the fight against climate change following the country’s first democratic elections in 2008, and has been outspoken at international negotiations. But a military coup in February has thrown the island nation’s records on climate change and democracy into question. Today we speak to a Maldivian activist about what’s happening in the country. We also talk to a scientist who’s on the leading edge of photovoltaics research. Dr. Jillian Buriak is working to make plastic solar panels a reality and bring a thin, flexible, and very cheap source of power to millions of people who live without electricity.

Download this week’s episode.

In 2009 the Maldivian government held an underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to the threat climate change posed to the island nation. Photo by Mohamed Seeneen.

Maldives
Maldives is a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean which has been described as “ground zero” for climate change (map). President Mohammed Nasheed, of the Maldivian Democratic Party, is known for his climate change leadership.  He came to power in 2008 as the nation’s first democratically elected president, following 30 years of authoritarian rule. In 2009, President Nasheed garnered international attention by holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of climate change to low-lying nations. Dressed in scuba-gear, the president and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts to carbon emissions.  On February 7, 2012, President Nasheed was ousted from power by the police and military, and replaced by Vice President Mohamed Waheed. Peaceful protestors in the cities of Male and Addu have been confronted by violence from Maldives security forces. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon speaks with Zaheena Rasheed, a young Maldivian democracy and climate justice activist.

Solar panels made from plastic
The world faces an enormous demand for energy, and climate change concerns mean that it will have to come from sources not yet invented. One technology that’s looking promising is a new generation of photovoltaic solar cells, made from plastic. Unlike the expensive, heavy and fragile existing silicon solar cells, plastic solar cells are light, cheap and flexible. Unfortunately, they only exist in laboratories right now. But there have been some breakthroughs. One of the people making those breakthroughs is Dr. Jillian Buriak, a chemist at the National Institute for Nanotechnology. She spoke with our correspondent, David Kaczan, about how her research is going, and why she believes plastic solar cells are so promising.

News Headlines

Anniversary of Japan’s tsunami
This week marks one year since a massive earthquake and subsequent Tsunami rocked Japan killing nearly 19,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. Reports coming from Japan state that very little has been done to clean up the destruction of the cities and towns which were destroyed. The 2011 Tsunami sent a massive amount of debris into the Pacific Ocean. New concerns regarding the debris, especially the plastic, are being voiced this week. Scientists believe that as the plastics break down, they will retain chemical contaminants such as (PCBs) and other toxins. Fish and other marine life feeding on these so called toxic little pills will cause the chemicals to up the food chain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to track the rubble and predicts the mass will begin to wash up on the coast of Hawaii late this year.

More on this story: Huffington Post, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, The Telegraph

Nation of Kiribati plans relocation of entire population over rising sea level
The South Pacific’s Island nation of Kiribati joins the growing number of people having to permanently leave their homelands due to climate change. The nation of 103,000 people have been bracing for this reality by moving their communities inland, negotiating for permanent land in Fiji and educating it’s young people. The president of Kiribati, President Anote Tong, says the country is determined to come into their new land as immigrants who can gain a foothold in society and wish not to be considered second-class citizens or environmental refugees.

Run-of-river hydro killing BC fish

In British Columbia, the Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee have both obtained documentation through freedom of information requests that shows the effects that BC’s hydro power plants are having on the surrounding rivers and fish populations. The report finds that fish are being killed by water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects. Over 70 per cent of independent power projects in BC are found in water bodies with known or suspected fish populations. Impacts from such projects include severely decreased water flows which rapidly change water levels; negatively impacting river health and fish populations.

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One comment

  1. So-called environmentally induced migration is multi-level problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as ―those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.

    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.

    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.

    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.

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