The angry sea will eat us all: Tuvalu seeks to be the first digital nation in the world as a result of Climate Change

“Nature is the perfect example of the harmony between the beautiful and the brutal” – Sarah McLashlan

Tuvalu, formed by a group of islands in Oceania, is suffering firsthand the consequences of Global Warming: the whole country is migrating to the digital world as half of its capital will be flooded by tidal waters by the year 2050. Even though it might seem that Tuvalu still has a few years to prepare, its 11.000 citizens are already facing the harsh reality of extreme temperatures, food insecurity, and struggling with energy efficiency, which started a race against the clock to save as much of Tuvaluan culture as possible while promoting safe immigration to neighboring countries.

Tuvalu consists of nine reef islands that rise an average of only four meters above sea level. As floods have overripe Tuvalu during the past year at a much faster rate than predicted by scientists, a new pact with Australia, signed by prime ministers Anthony Albanese and Kausea Natano, deals directly with climate-related mobility and the well-being of the community: 280 Tuvaluans will be reallocated to Australia every year, with equal opportunities to live, study, and work, until all population is safe from the harms of the Pacific Ocean in a new land.

Despite the agreement, Tuvalu is still fighting climate change through the “Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project”. Some of the adaptations made so far include the much-delayed construction of a sea wall to protect the capital, the improvement of infrastructure to lessen the coastal hazards, and the implantation of communal living systems to lessen the use of finite resources and the emission of polluting gasses. Tuvalu is also investing a large amount of funds in its youth: even though schools are preparing kids to adopt sustainable behavior, they are mostly immersing themselves in their culture and history as to leave a legacy for future generations. 

Although Tuvalu is doing all in its power to protect its land, the main goal is to gain time. Because the damage inflicted by global warming is now irreversible, Tuvalu has partnered with consulting firm Accenture to build the country in the metaverse and maintain its sovereignty as a Nation in the digital world. The intention is to map 124 islets and develop a digital passport, seeking with the inhabitants what they want to save and record narrated stories, dances, and folklore. Softwares such as Unreal Engine 5 and Lumin produce accurate wave sounds and light effects, so those who visit Tuvalu in a few years might do it from home through an immersive 3D experience.

Tuvalu Traditional Dance – 3D exhibition in Metaverse 

Credits: Minister Simon Kofe through social media

Although moving to the metaverse might sound like a video game or any other immersive technology experience, Tuvalu and its citizens are embracing the digital world to even have their own elections and keep existing as a nation. In September 2023, Tuvalu changed the definition of State in its Constitution to “the State of Tuvalu, within its historical, cultural and legal framework, will remain in perpetuity in the future, despite the impacts of climate change or other causes that result in the loss of physical territory”. Although only twelve other world nations have recognized this new definition, Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that the country will continue to exist as long as it does in the metaverse and that its sovereignty is non-negotiable.

While we don’t know if all countries might accept such a definition in the future, one thing is certain: Tuvalu is proof the climate change consequences are serious and also a matter of disappearing from the surface of the Earth. While moving to other countries in Oceania might keep Tuvaluans safe, the cultural heritage of the people is invaluable and should be preserved at all costs as a testament to future generations. Finally, we must remember when approaching Global Warming matters, according to Tuvalu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Kofe: “Tuvalu is sinking, but so is everyone else”.



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