A leader for the times: Maldives President Nasheed

You have to give Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed gold stars for perseverance and creativity. At a time when our planet is in desperate need of creative leaders willing to “think outside the box” to address a host of critical common threats to the human family, Nasheed stands out as a man unwilling to give up in the face of indifference.

Nasheed took 11 of his cabinet ministers out to a coral reef near one of the Maldives islands for the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting last week. Decked out in scuba gear and seated around a horseshoe table amidst the coral, the officials passed around an “SOS” agreement calling for carbon gas emission cuts.

The Maldives, an archipelago popular with the rich as a tourist destination, faces the gloomy prospect of being mostly underwater within a century.

“We are trying to send a message to the world about what is happening and what would happen to the Maldives if climate change isn’t checked. If the Maldives is not saved, today we do not feel there is much chance for the rest of the world,” Nasheed said after the 30-minute meeting.

For months and months now I have been reading media reports on the efforts of small island nations to highlight the danger they face from rising sea levels as a way to galvanize the world into serious action on climate change. Many of the threatened island countries contribute minute amounts to the global tally of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, yet they will be among the first to experience catastrophic climate change effects.

Nasheed has been the single most outspoken island nation leader in this regard. Despite the determined effort, bickering over emissions targets and financing the climate change battle continue just six weeks away from the start of the Copenhagen talks. The differences virtually assure a legally binding comprehensive climate treaty is out of reach.

Under such conditions you can’t blame President Nasheed for feeling the need for desperate action – we can only hope his message gets through.