- Jack Elvey
Tuvalu joining the metaverse - the World's first online Nation?
With the onset of rising sea levels, the island country of Tuvalu will become the first nation to face entire obliteration due to the climate crisis. Located in the sub region of Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean, the country has slowly become unliveable as rising sea levels and cyclones destroy homes, buildings, crops, and water supplies. Yet another poignant impact caused by climate change.
Made up of 9 islands, the nation that lies mostly 2 to 3 metres above sea cannot cope with the ongoing climatic changes that are devastating the country. Despite initiatives to fight back against the tide, Tuvalu has announced plans to recreate itself in the metaverse, in an attempt to preserve the nation before global sea level rises compromise its existence.
Source: The Guardian
The metaverse is an online platform that operates via augmented and virtual reality that enables users to interact completely online. The Foreign Minister Simon Kofe revealed the nation’s plan to build a new digital version of the country’s islands and landmarks to conserve Tuvaluan culture and heritage. Known not to shy away from technical endeavours as the country receives a large proportion of its GDP from .tv internet domain royalties, the country’s aim of joining the metaverse however, paves a dystopian path for the future of Tuvaluans.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister announced the metaverse initiative at the United Nations Climate Change conference COP27. This comes just a year after the Foreign Minister’s speech at COP26 whilst knee deep in water calling for urgent climate action.
Kofe stated at COP27 that “last year (he) addressed this assembly proclaiming that we must take bold and alternative action to secure tomorrow”.
He emphasised that despite “needed global collaboration to end the climate crisis, we in the Pacific would not sit idly by and wait for the world to act […] since COP26, the world has not acted and so we in the Pacific have had to act.”
Kofe held the speech “from a small islet that is likely to be one of the first spots in Tuvalu to be submerged by rising sea levels.”
“As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” whilst delivering his speech against the backdrop of a digitalised version of the islet.
“Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people - and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we’ll move them to the cloud.”
“We have seen temperature rise projections remain well above 1.5° Celsius, foretelling the imminent disappearance of islets like this one.”
Kofe believes that this digital worst-case scenario will allow Tuvalu to “fully function as a sovereign state”, despite its population being forced to relocate. “The tragedy of this outcome cannot be overstated. Tuvalu could be the first country in the world to exist solely in cyber space, but if global warming continues unchecked it won’t be the last,” he said.
Tuvalu not only faces destruction of people’s livelihoods and homes, but also faces crucial economic consequences should the nation go underwater. Retaining its recognition as a state under international law and retaining ownership of Tuvalu’s maritime zones are high profile issues that may plague the nation’s future without physical land to provide a justified existence as a nation.
Former Attorney General of Tuvalu Eselealofa Apinelu has also called on countries, including Australia, to allow Tuvaluans easier access in the meantime so they can explore other potential homes before the rising tides force them to migrate.
Tuvalu’s days as a physical nation are numbered but could this metaverse plan become a blueprint for the future of humanity? Climate migrants will be next on the list of preventable international disasters and the existential threat that may seem far fetched in our home comforts may soon become reality. The dystopia of our nations’ cultures existing in pixels is becoming an ever-approaching certainty in this climate crisis.