At its highest point, the island of Tuvalu rises just five meters out of the water. As other countries discuss how to save homes and infrastructure from rising sea levels, the tiny Pacific island nation is at stake for the existence of the entire country.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said in a video his ministry tweeted at the ongoing climate conference in Egypt: “Islands like this will not survive rapid warming, sea level rise and droughts, so we’re building them virtually.”
In the video, Kofe can be seen on a virtual island on a palm-fringed beach, with computer-generated birds flying overhead. After his speech, the camera zooms out and shows the small island in an otherwise black virtual space.
As our country disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe
At the 2021 United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Kofe drew attention to the problem with a bit of drama: Kofe stood thigh-deep in water – in a suit and tie. The action may seem funny at first glance, but it had a serious background.
The Pacific islands are particularly affected by climate change. Located between Australia and Hawaii, the island kingdom of Tuvalu, with its nine coral atolls, has long been threatened by rising waters as rising sea levels due to global warming are expected to overwhelm the nation by 2100.
The island kingdom could be flooded to a large extent over the next few decades. This will render Tuvalu uninhabitable and its 12,000 inhabitants will have to leave their beloved homeland. This is why people are already planning how the legacy of the Pacific State can be preserved despite its likely demise.
residents will have to leave their dear homeland
“As our country disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” Kofe said. Eselealofa Apinelu, former attorney general of Tuvalu and current high commissioner of Fiji, agrees. She told a Pacific conference in late September that Tuvaluans needed something “to hold on to”.
As a possibility, she mentioned a so-called digital twin of the island state, in which Tuvalu’s culture and values would also be embedded. To preserve Tuvalu’s land and culture, “we’re moving it to the cloud regardless of what’s happening in the physical world,” Kofe said.
“Little by little, we will preserve our land, bring comfort to our people, and remind our children and grandchildren of what our home once was.” Perhaps the rest of the world will soon join Tuvalu online, Kofe said.
The digital twin collects information and data through sensors and drones, which are then combined using analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence tools. The twin could be housed in some kind of metaverse, a digital world that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is planning.
“It must be stored somewhere that there was a country called Tuvalu,” Apinelu said in his conference speech, as quoted by the Guardian. The whole thing is a bit like “the last option” for the island state. If disaster actually happened and Tuvalu disappeared, generations of Tuvaluans could at least see the digitized idea of the country. Foreign Minister Kofe also mentioned last year that his country was looking for legal ways to remain a state even if the island nation physically disappeared.
The existence of the islands being threatened for years, the subject of resettlement of the population has been debated on many occasions. Apinelu asks that other countries facilitate the migration of Tuvaluans. People should be able to explore potential new homelands before rising tides force them to migrate. New Zealand, for example, was the first industrialized country to recognize climate change as a reason to flee in 2014. At that time, a family from Tuvalu in New Zealand had been taken in.
In June, Singapore-based company Vizzio Technologies showed that the idea of a digital twin isn’t far-fetched. Vizzio has recreated the Asian city-state, creating the digital twin of an entire nation. The virtual clone of the city-state was created in just two weeks. The digital twin reconstructs the entire city, block by block, street by street. (with dpa)
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