Things are not looking good for Tuvalu. If the worst forecasts come true, this tiny Pacific country made up of nine islands that do not add nor 11,000 inhabitants and form one of the smallest nations in the world will end up submerged in a matter of decades. By 2100, rising ocean levels could make it a pretty sunken memory between Australia and Hawaii.
The data certainly does not smile. Its highest point is barely 4.5 meters above sea level, so the projections of rising oceans do not leave it standing well. Its inhabitants know this and have already moved to ensure that, even if the water ends up blurring its coastline and devouring its fields and streets, Tuvalu does not disappear.
How? Well basically preserving their identity and memory. And one way to achieve this is to equip yourself with a digital twin. It is already known: to desperate measures, implausible solutions.
“Something to Hold On To”
The idea, picked up by Guardianwas launched days ago during a Pacific summit in which the former attorney general of the micronation and current commissioner for Fiji, Eselealofa Apinelu, stressed that Tuvaluans should have “something to hold on to” if the Pacific finally swallows their islands .
“When that finally happens, that Tuvalu is gone and all it has is this virtual world… we should be able to always remember tuvalu as it is, before it disappears”, he stressed during a conference. The idea is as peculiar as it is apparently simple: that “as a last option” the culture and values of the nation are preserved in a “digital twin”.
“When the unwanted happens and Tuvalu seems to really disappear, I think the idea is to preserve it, to keep it in a state that generations of Tuvaluens can look at… That’s the idea of digitization.” The challenge, he recognized, would be to involve the thousands of inhabitants of the nation so that the initiative, if it finally goes ahead, can capture the spirit of the country.
In a video of #COP26Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe goes into the sea to demonstrate the “reality of climate change” and rising sea levels.
“We are sinking, but so is everyone else.”
📸 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu. pic.twitter.com/2XyPBr31GO
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw_espanol) November 10, 2021
The use of digital twins is more or less usual in the world of companies, factories or even in city administration. Its name clearly indicates what it consists of: a digitaltwin It is nothing more than a digital representation, a virtual version of an engine, a wind farm or a city, to name just three examples, which allows you to work comfortably with simulations.
What do we want to know how a device will respond under certain conditions? Well, they are recreated with the digital twin without the need to take risks with the real piece. In the case of Tuvau, what it seeks is to preserve itself… If not in the Pacific, its natural place, perhaps in the metaverse.
The digital twin is perhaps the most striking movement of the Tuvaluans to guarantee at least part of their future, but not the first not the only one. In November 2021, its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Simon Kofe, managed to make another of his proposals go viral: seek legal channels so that, even if the nation ends up submerged, it continues to maintain two key elements: its recognition as a State and even the ownership of its maritime zones.
What was striking was not so much the idea, as Kofe’s staging. When delivering his speech, the insular minister used a lectern, flags and a blackboard and dressed in a suit and tie, the conventional ingredients in an official act and of a certain institutional category, except for one peculiarity: the act was held in the open air, with his pants rolled up and the water up to his knees.
“We’re actually imagining worst case scenarioin which we are forced to relocate or our lands are submerged,” Kofe told the press.
Anticipating that future, Apinelu himself stressed after presenting his proposal the importance of other neighboring nations, such as Australia, facilitating Tuvaluans’ search for new homes before the tides directly force them to pack their bags.
Images | Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Flickr) and Tomoaki INABA (Flickr)
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism