I’m guessing most of you have heard that song that goes, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Back when the composers wrote that song, they were probably imagining things like forests, jungles, and natural wonders. What they probably didn’t have in mind was the ocean. Still, now that we’re in 2012, it’s looking like that song is as true as ever. We just need to switch around the lyrics a little bit: “They drowned paradise and put up a fishing spot.”
What I’m referring to, of course, is the Maldives, a small country composed of a bunch of islands that is considered by many to be the most beautiful country on the planet — and it’s sinking. Well, sort of. The ocean’s water level is rising, which means that their islands are gradually being swallowed up.
The documentary film The Island President follows one man, Mohamed Nasheed, as he goes on a global quest to fight rising water levels. He fears that a global temperature increase of just a few degrees will cause his nation to literally be swallowed up by the ocean. As the president of this small island nation, he is charged with the unenviable task of saving his beloved country by raising global awareness about global warming.
But this is an aquatic architecture blog, and not an environmentalism blog — so why is all of this relevant? Global warming is a serious issue, but what makes it such a huge threat is that the ocean is slowly eating away at our land. With so many of our cities bordering the ocean, it’s only a matter of time before we begin to lose buildings to the sea. We have to fight the encroaching ocean — if not through policy than through architecture. After all, President Mohamed Nasheed warns that Manhattan is just as low as the Maldives.
The people of the Maldives are using a variety of techniques to save their country. They’re using bulldozers to push beach sand back onto dry land, and they’re looking to develop a few floating islands. On top of all that, they’re even bouncing around the idea of buying land from India if all else fails.
More than likely, the Maldives is going to end up being a bit like the Netherlands. Because both of these countries are so low-lying, they’re probably going to become foremost advocates of sustainability, all while developing some of the most revolutionary aquatic architecture concepts. Water-loving design fans like you and me, should keep our eyes on Maldives over the next couple of years, because we’re bound to see some truly remarkable buildings and projects that will help allow mankind to make the transition to aquatic living.