When the plane prepares to leave the arena of the blue sky and approaches the tiny lagoons and atolls of the Maldives emerge from nowhere in the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the stark vulnerable beauty of the Earth becomes nakedly evident. The island city Male from the height looks quite similar to the barricaded and fortified village of ancient Gaul, made famous in the comic book-series called Asterix.
The only difference is that the unnamed village was surrounded by the forest and Male is surrounded by the vastness of ocean. The city is so crowded that only open and green spaces that one can see from the plane are of a football pitch and national stadium. The people of Male zealously guard their land, just like the Gaulois of the first century BC.
There, in that immense water space dotted with petite floating lands lives the modern protagonist Asterix, along with his team of modern Gaulois. He gains superhuman strength when he drinks a magic potion called ‘Climate Change’, brewed by druids of the post industrial era. After gulping that magic potion he demonstrates amazing might and power disproportionate to his modestly built figure. He gathers all his strength and skills when he encounters with those who caused the climate change. “I love my country the way you love yours and hence I would stay here and here only. You cannot take away that pleasure from me by raising the sea level resulting from your indiscriminate emissions of GHGs,” he tells the modern Roman soldiers and comforts loving arrogant Julius Cesars of the world.
That Asterix is the President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed. Yes, he is the same President who said, “We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades.”
I was on the island of Bandos close to Male for the launching ceremony for the implementation of the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan called ‘HPMP’. The ceremony organized by Maldives in cooperation with UNEP OzonAction was graced by President Nasheed. That morning on the coast of island Bandos, I was waiting to greet President Nasheed. I welcomed and shook hands with him when he emerged out from the speed boat. His smile was infectious.
He presented me, as a token of appreciation of UNEP’s efforts, a vase made of lacquer that is locally known as “Laajehun” made from a combination of the juice of trees. I dreamt that this Asterix must be drinking the magic potions from a similar vase to get powerful ideas like under water cabinet meetings.
In his brief speech he talked about the importance of phasing out hydrochloroflurocarbons-HCFCs-in 2020 to match with the year in which Maldives would become carbon neutral. HCFCs are also GHGs and hence unless they are phased out, carbon neutrality would not be complete, he stated. HCFCs being 2000 times more global warming than carbon dioxide, the case is so evident. ‘Stone age did not disappear because the world ran out of stones. It vanished because humans were able to develop better and more efficient technology and more effective tools by using other materials. Humanity at that time did not wait for the stones to be in short supply. We have to get rid of fossil fuels without waiting for their reserves to dry up. We have to use alternative technologies to come out of the age of fossil fuels”. His words were as amazing, as striking and as powerful as the blows of Asterix after gulping the magic potion.
I am sure the Julius Cesars of the world must be saying – “Ils sont fous ces Maldiviens”!!