The virtual world is truly the last resort for the Pacific Islands threatened with extinction by 2100: the islands of Tuvalu will be the world’s first digital nation.
It is the extreme gesture of a people who are afraid of no longer having a home. Tuvalu will be swallowed up by the ocean in less than 100 years, and to save itself it has chosen to emigrate to the Metaverse. “We have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told COP27. “Since no one has acted, we have to do it. »
The Metaverse is a false promised land but the Tuvluvians have no alternative. Sea levels will rise and destroy the three Pacific islands, among the first victims of global warming. “We will preserve the earth piece by piece, to bring comfort to our people and leave a reminder to our children and grandchildren of what was once our land,” Kofe said.
What happens to the Tuvalu archipelago
Tuvalu is a Polynesian state made up of three islands scattered in the middle of the ocean. After the Vatican City, it is the least populated state in the world, with 10,645 inhabitants. The UN has classified the country as “extremely vulnerable”: in 2100 it could no longer exist.
“Our land, our ocean, our culture are our people’s most precious possessions, and to protect them from harm no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them into the metaverse,” Kofe said. “The idea is to continue functioning as a state, as well as preserve our culture, knowledge and history through a digital twin. »
Simon Kofe had already made headlines during the COP26 in 2021. He had in fact connected remotely semi-submerged, to show how climate change was affecting sea level rise, threatening the survival of the island.
What is a digital twin?
A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately mirror a physical object. They are generally used for manufacturing and predictive maintenance. They are not simple copies, but dynamic and “alive” entities that evolve in real time. Smart cities have already been created where digital models are connected to real cities through a network of sensors that create a communication channel for updates and data exchange. In the case of Tuvalu it will be different, since the country no longer exists, its digital twin will remain an only child.
“When that happens, when Tuvalu is gone, all of its people will have their own virtual version, to remember them as they are,” explained Dr Eselealofa Apinelu, former Attorney General of Tuvalu and current Fiji High Commissioner. “Tuvluvians need to hold on to something. He then added: “there must be a trace, to prove that somewhere there was a country called Tuvalu”. This is the last option”.
Tuvalians looking for a new home
A massive migration is already starting, the inhabitants have to leave the island to look for a new home. “Australia and New Zealand have been our closest partners, also offering job opportunities” but visa applications are complex, migration faces all bureaucratic hurdles. “It would be useful to have concessions for small islands. It’s time to leave to plan your future, rather than staying on the island in constant fear of rising waters,” explained Apinelu. “If we can slowly allow people to leave at their own pace following the laws of the individual countries they want to migrate to, it will be easier than packing up an entire nation at once and putting it somewhere. »