Is this our last resort to saving Tuvalu?
Tuvalu is an island nation consisting of nine islands in the Pacific Ocean and it is set to be the world’s first “Digital Nation.” Currently, about 40 percent of Tuvalu’s capital district is regularly underwater during high tide, and it is predicted that the entire nation will be underwater by the end of this century.
In November of 2022, Tuvalu announced its digital initiative to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27). Tuvalu is creating a digital reconstruction of each of its islands in the Metaverse. In addition to preserving the country’s geography, the project also aims to preserve Tuvalan culture itself by digitally recording historical documents, traditional songs, family albums, and cultural practices. In a video shown at COP27, Simon Kofe, the project lead and Tuvalan Minister of Justice, Communication, and Foreign Affairs explained: “Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people and to keep them safe from harm […] we will move them to the cloud.”
Tuvalu is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Lying low on the sea level and extremely flat, Tuvalu is easily susceptible to flooding and cyclones. As Tuvalu loses land to rising sea levels, its people are increasingly exposed to the effects of climate change.
This digital island is not the first time Tuvalu has used the internet to try and save itself. You may know Tuvalu primarily from its country-code domain of .tv. Most notably used by Twitch, the .tv brings in about 1/12th of Tuvalu’s annual gross national income. This money is instrumental in Tuvalu’s fight to save itself against the rising tides. Some of the money goes to helping Tuvalu rebuild after structures are destroyed by cyclones. A large portion of it also goes to funding research on reversing the effects of climate change.
Unfortunately for Tuvalu, its efforts have not been enough, bringing us to the digital island. Though their first choice would be to save their islands, Tuvalu worries that a physical existence is not in their future.
Progress on their digital nation can be found at Tuvalu.tv, where you can also find information on saving the real Tuvalu by demanding climate action from your nation’s leaders.