Jon Shenk’s The Island President is the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.
The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies—leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.
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UPDATE: ON FEBRUARY 7, 2012, MOHAMED NASHEED RESIGNED THE PRESIDENCY UNDER THE THREAT OF VIOLENCE IN A COUP D'ETAT PERPETRATED BY SECURITY FORCES LOYAL TO THE FORMER DICTATOR. THIS FILM IS THE STORY OF HIS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE.
Take Action. Here's how you can help:
• Use Facebook & Twitter to get the word out about the film and Mohamed Nasheed's message about democracy and climate change
• Join the global movement to solve the climate crisis. Get involved at 350.org
• Support efforts to expose human rights violations in the Maldives and around the world: Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch
• Tell world leaders to support immediate, early elections in the Maldives: AVAAZ.org
Read More:The Fight for Democracy and Survival in The Maldives by Mark Hertsgaard He's been called "the Mandela of the Maldives." And like anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Nasheed began public life as a courageous democracy activist who was jailed for years by a repressive regime he eventually helped to overthrow. Also like Mandela, Nasheed was a stunningly handsome, charismatic candidate who went on to win the first free and fair elections in his country's history. To the outside world, however, this 44 year old Liverpool John Moore's University graduate and father of two has been best known as a crusader against climate change, a reputation he acquired by holding the world's first underwater cabinet meeting, in 2009, to dramatize the threat that rising seas pose to the Maldives, a scattering of 1,200 low-lying islands off the southwest tip of India that boast some of the most beautiful beaches and high-end resorts on earth. Nasheed solidified his hero's status at the otherwise discouraging Copenhagen climate summit later that year, where I saw his star power first hand. Covering the summit for Vanity Fair and The Nation, I interviewed the Maldivian president hours after he had addressed a large gathering of climate activists in downtown Copenhagen. Introduced by Bill McKibben, the author and activist who founded the grassroots group 350.org, Nasheed thrilled the crowd by doing what no other head of government had done: endorsing the goal of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. The 350 ppm target was derided as impossible, even naïve, by most of the negotiators at Copenhagen; after all, the concentration was already 387 ppm and climbing as global population and fossil fuel burning increased. Nevertheless, more and more science indicated that returning to 350 ppm was necessary if humanity was to preserve a climate similar to that under which civilization has developed over the past ten thousand years. After leading the crowd in a chant of "350, 350, 350," Nasheed exited the stage to thunderous applause, passing a sign that read, "You Are Our Global President." Read the rest.