Mohamed Nasheed, president of the climate-change-threatened Maldives, speaks via email with Foreign Policy's Charles Homans about the difficulty of diplomacy, the promise of protest, and why moving his whole country might be more difficult than he once thought.
- By Charles HomansCharles Homans is a special correspondent for the New Republic and the former features editor of Foreign Policy.
Foreign Policy: You put in a great deal of effort trying to get the world to understand the importance of last year’s Copenhagen climate-change summit. A year later, the U.S. government has basically given up on climate legislation, and the U.N. process seems to actually be moving backward. What do we do now?
Mohamed Nasheed: We need to talk a step forward at Cancún. We need to reach an agreement on a few key parts of the climate problem, for instance on protecting forests and ensuring finance is available for adaptation and green growth in the developing world. If we can demonstrate some success at Cancún, this will leave us in good stead to reach a comprehensive, legally binding agreement at COP 17 in South Africa in 2011.
It is heartening to note that there is a growing group of developing countries that are moving away from dirty development. Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Samoa, as well as the Maldives, have all declared carbon-neutral targets. These countries want their economic development to be powered by renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels, and I think these pioneering countries should be supported.
FP: You’ve recently become a vocal proponent of using direct action to push governments to act on climate policy. What can demonstrations accomplish that democratically elected politicians can’t accomplish on their own?
MN: Politicians rarely move on an issue unless the public moves first. It is not good enough for people to sit at home and blame their elected representatives for inaction over climate change — the public must make its voice heard. One of the best ways to do that is to take to the streets and demand change.
FP: How are your plans to relocate the people of the Maldives coming along?
MN: The more I think about relocation, the more I think it is impossible, certainly in the short or medium term. Simply put, Maldivians do not want to leave their homeland. Earlier this year, I visited a severely eroded island. An elderly woman asked me what I could do to save her island. I said that it might not be possible to save it and perhaps people would have to move to a neighboring island. She bit and kicked me! I think it is wise for the government to save for a rainy day and keep some funds in reserve, but we need to invest in sea walls, water breakers, and revetments to ensure people can continue to live on their islands for as long as possible.
FP: It’s been a grim year for climate change policy. What’s the best reason not to lose hope?
MN: In the past 12 months, thanks to huge increases in Chinese production, the price of solar photovoltaic panels has fallen 40 percent.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.| Passport |