Society

Maldives: In A Flawed Paradise, 100 Months To Get To Carbon Neutral

The effects of global warming are very real for this tropical haven, where ocean waters threaten a delicate ecosystem. A closer look two years after Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed pledged to reach carbon neutrality with solar and wind power.

One of the Maldives' less than pristine beaches
One of the Maldives' less than pristine beaches
Matthieu Quiret


LES ÉCHOS
/Worldcrunch

MALDIVES – At first sight, the Maldives looks like paradise on earth, with its turquoise atolls, sparkling sand, fish in all the colors of the rainbow, and numerous luxury hotels. Maldives is a democracy with a dynamic young population, and its high-end tourism is currently overtaking famous destinations such as Mauritius and the Seychelles as a top destination. In 2011, the number of Chinese tourists caught up with the number of British visitors: the future looks bright.

But put on your scuba fins and you'll discover a slightly less romantic picture. The reality is a seascape of floating bottles and cans, next to diapers washed out from beach landfills – the inhabitants don't really have a choice. The coral is not in good condition either, as oceanographer Fabien Cousteau was able to see while diving there last week. Over-fishing is partly to blame, as it deprived the reef of its cleansing fish. The coral is also recovering from El Niño's last visit in 1998, from a tsunami in 2004, as well as from a general warming of waters.

Marine species can't cope with the wastewater, which is hardly being treated among the 300 inhabited Maldivian islands. Financially speaking, the atolls' nebulous political past is responsible for the country's persistent public debt. The small paradise, 1,000 nautical miles away from any other coast, is following the same path as many other territories going through an ecological and financial crisis. The Maldivian government is adopting a more proactive approach, as it is well aware of the consequences that a decaying ecosystem could have on tourism, which accounts for 40% of the island's GPD.

But another threat has the government concerned: just barely above sea level, the islands risk going under rather sooner than later, as ocean water levels rise from the effects of global warming. It was in the face of this threat that President Mohamed Nasheed, back in 2009, made what was a stunning pledge. He vowed to make the Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade, by moving to wind and solar power. His aim was simple. His goal was to raise general awareness and set an example for other small, less energy-integrated countries to follow.

Strategic plan

It has become the core of Mohamed Nasheed's advertised diplomatic speech. In October 2009, a few days before the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Maldivian President organized an underwater cabinet meeting. His commitment even led to a documentary called "The Island President." The film was recently shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. Last week, Nasheed's archipelago welcomed a panel of international experts. On Monday, the Maldivian President met with France's minister of foreign affairs, Alain Juppé, and spoke in favor of an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

The first democratic president after more than 20 years of dictatorship, Nasheed knows that this ecological issue is not going to get him reelected. Polls suggest Maldivian voters care little about the environment. So he decided to underline the importance of carbon-neutral economic growth by calling peoples' attention to the fact that more than 30% of the island's GPD is spent on fossil fuels. Tired of not seeing a sign of the money Europe promised to give, Nasheed is now betting on cheap renewable energies for electricity, which has so far been produced by diesel generators that are accountable for half the carbon dioxide emissions. Other emissions, linked to road or water transport, will be neutralized by progressively introducing electric vehicles. As far as the impact of air transport is concerned, buying carbon credits seems to be the only medium-term solution.

Since last year, things have become clearer. A strategic plan was written down. It is now possible to buy green electricity, and a first photovoltaic contract was signed with the Maldivian hotels and resorts owner Kaimoo. The whole movement is catching momentum as Samoa, Costa Rica and Ethiopia have all joined Norway in the club of countries that pledge to go carbon-neutral before 2030.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Badruddeen

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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