The Island President

The Island President is a 2011 documentary about the president of the Maldives and his fight to save his nation, which is being overcome by the rising sea levels of global warming.

The Maldives is a nation in the Indian Ocean, comprised of almost 2,000 islands, 200 of which are occupied. Its president during the production of this film was Mohamed Nasheed. Nasheed granted the director and crew close access during the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference and during the summit itself.

Nasheed is passionate about the issue of climate change — understandable when we see the delicate, improbable beauty of his native islands. He is articulate, with a grasp of the influence of the worldwide media and how they could leverage his own efforts when he interacts with the powers of the world.

The film intersperses interviews with Nasheed with footage of the islands, many of which are only a few feet above sea level. Then the film crew follows Nasheed to Copenhagen. We watch him there as he networks with world leaders and pushes for the agreement of the developed nations to the Copenhagen Accord.

This sounds rather boring. It’s not.  It’s intriguing to see global politics from the viewpoint of a small participant. In America, we are only now feeling the first effects of global warming, as seen in the increase in severe storms. For the Maldives, it is seen in the steady eating away of the land people live on — so severe that the government has looked into purchasing land elsewhere for its citizens to move to when the islands must be abandoned.

The odd thing is that this film ends on a note of success — and Nasheed did succeed in getting an agreement to a nonbinding accord in 2009. But the crisis continues. The polar ice caps are melting fast, which will only push sea levels higher. The Maldives, and other low-lying places, are still at risk. In 2012, I don’t see any reason for celebration about the climate at all.