A rise in the sea level of just one meter, and it’s curtains for the Maldivian paradise.

Never thought that one day I’d be in the Maldives.

Why? Well, my travels normally take me to places where I really need to get to for business. The Maldives? No meetings, speeches or conferences, and no business tends to be transacted there…

Of course there are times when I go to this or that exotic country as a tourist, but my preferred tourism tends to feature rucksacks, tents and volcanoes – not sun, sand, and surf. So, again… the Maldives? Eh?

But when it was suggested that ‘we have this year’s management board jolly in the Maldives’, well, I didn’t need much convincing as to the wholesomeness of the idea. Everyone surely knows the Maldives is a sun drenched set of paradisiacal islands, so why would I object? So off we headed in the direction of the Indian Ocean…

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As soon as we got there it was clear that this place truly lives up to its name. An archipelago of arrestingly aesthetic atolls with clear green water, pristine white beaches, the clearest blue sky, the inevitable palm trees, fancy hotels featuring beach houses instead of regular rooms, and assorted other OMGness.

Another thing that was noticeable straight away was how small all the islands that make up the archipelago are. Small – as in area, but also – as in height. I mean, these islands are seriously vertically challenged: in all just two and a half meters tall!

That got me thinking… if the level of the world’s oceans continues to rise at its current tempo… well, eeek: the Maldives will be submerged completely in the not-too distant future. And all this beauty will be gone forever à la Atlantis. Nooooo!

Maldives

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MaldivesOh my word. I thought islands like that were just in the imagination, or Photoshopped for the brochures – not for real!!

Maldives

Maldives

My thoughts began to develop on this theme…

Hmmm, global warming and the seemingly unstoppable rise of sea levels… Sure, everyone most folks want stability, peace across the whole planet, and increases in the wellbeing of everyone, but nature seems to always have a canny knack of doing what it will, regardless, no matter all those good intentions… so what am I getting at here?…

…That, at least it seems to me, the blame for global warming is more often than not placed squarely on the shoulders of man – human beings. They’re the ones short-sighted enough, stupid enough, to slowly rapidly destroy the planet’s ecology with all their filthy exhausts and emissions, and to not give a damn.

But is it really so simple? Global warming’s been going on for several hundred years already! And I don’t just mean from the Industrial Revolution. In fact, I’d say the Industrial Revolution is a consequence of global warming!

The sun starting getting all crazy hot several hundred years ago, the fruit and vegetables on Earth’s surface took advantage of the resulting improved photosynthesis – meaning there were more and more fruit and vegetables, so humans started to multiply, meaning more and more human-hours were needed to be filled with creativity and inventing things; things were invented, and then those things needed to mass produced, and only then did factories and mills start popping up all over the place with their chimneys spewing no end of toxic pollution. That’s one theory, at least.

Anyway, back to present day…

If we carry on as we are and change nothing, it looks like today’s glaciers will melt and water levels will rise, and that would spell the end for places like the Maldives and other low-lying lands. But then, if we take a look at research over the years, we see that there’ve been times in the (albeit long distant) past when the word’s sea level has been 100, sometimes even 200 meters higher than the current level! Then there was the Cryogenian epoch when, it is thought, the WHOLE PLANET (!) was covered completely under a single glacier… for millions of years. There was another time when the polar caps melted and dinosaurs thrived, bathing and getting nice tans in perfectly clement climatic conditions – and that was also when the sea level was 200 meters above what it is today. Ok, ok, that was all hundreds of millions of years ago… Sure, I’m just pointing out – man wasn’t around back then to pin all the blame on, but still – look what happened.

So now what’s occurring climate-wise?

To be honest, no idea. I’m not much of a specialist on this topic – as maybe the above makes clear (these are just musings folks – comments anyone? > the space for them, below). What I do know is that glaciers are melting – everywhere. In Europe, in Alaska, in New Zealand… – I’ve seen it with my own eyes, was shocked and staggered, and took pics.

They’re melting with catastrophic speed. Why?

I just wish the specialists would start agreeing with one another. Meantime, I wonder… could we be coming to the end of a period of warming and soon be entering a period of cooling, when the Dutch once again will start skating along their dikes, London’s Thames will be frozen over, and we’d be faced with advancing glaciers from the poles which would need melting before they overwhelm the landmasses. How would they be melted? That sure would be an interesting and lucrative business. Or will it be just the opposite, and just keep on warming up?

But, briefly, back to the ‘why’ behind the glaciers melting…

I used to believe humans were to blame for messing up the planet and its ecology and climate and thus also to blame for the glaciers melting, but now I’m not so sure. I mean, humans definitely are messing up the planet and its ecology and climate – somewhat. It’s not as if pollution doesn’t exist now is it? But are they the ones to blame for most of the trouble? I’m not so sure now. Why? How? Because I started climbing volcanoes! Different volcanoes. Long dead ones, active ones, even erupting ones. And I’ve seen the real power of nature, Earth-borne nature. But then there’s another, even greater, power that influences the ecology – one from outer space.

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Now, a slight digression, but still a wholly relevant one: since we’re on about the Maldives and its possible flooding… er, so, like… where did the water on Earth come from?

Ever thought of that? And why is there so darn much of it? Well, don’t worry if you’ve no idea – anyone who’s ever thought about this has come away more confused than before thinking about it :).

There are a quite a few theories: Comets brought it to Earth when they collided with it eons ago; it came out of volcanoes; or a bit of both… Which leaves us with one word: mystery. All we do know is that the surface of the planet is covered in a massive quantity of water and that just about every living organism on that same planet happens to consist of it too – by up to 80%! But where it all comes from… no one knows. Spooky!

Writing these words on the beach one evening on the Maldives, my attention was directed towards another enigmatic natural phenomenon, which caught my eye as it moved slowly across the sky: a big round circle of gray with craters on it: the moon.

Moon @ MaldivesThe Light Side of the Moon

Now for a bit of moon-physics…:

If we are to believe certain scientific observations – the moon gets further from Earth by three centimeters a year. That is, the moon’s orbit around Earth – incidentally, whose precise trajectory we know very little about, just like water’s origin – gets pushed a few centimeters away from Earth every year. That’s three meters a century… Or half a kilometer since the era of the Roman Empire. But it’s not going to continue like that ad infinitum; no – for at some point in the very distant future our moon’s going to wave farewell to Earth once and for all: Goodbye Cruel World even.

What? No, I’ve not been at the local moonshine. Turns out Earth’s gravitational pull will one day not be sufficient to keep the unruly moon in its orbit, so off it will pop. But where’s it going to go? How fast? What’s going to come of our poor moon? And when’s this merciful release going to occur?

I wonder, any astronomers among you? If so, I’ve three questions for you:

  1. In approximately how many billion years will the moon break free from Earth’s orbit?
  2. In approximately how many billion years will it start orbiting the sun?
  3. Since the moon will start to orbit the sun on the same axis as Earth, is there a risk that the moon will eventually hit Earth? And if so – when, roughly? Or will it be that by then the sun will have become so massive and hot that it will have eaten up all the planets and moons in the Solar System already?

I’m just curious, that’s all.

And what if the astronomers get it wrong with their theories: the sun doesn’t eat up everything, and Earth and moon do collide – will that mean there’ll be a new Theia?… Nothing’s new in this world universe :). Only the long forgotten. Such were my musings while staring at the moon on the beach on the Maldives. They’re like that, the beaches here. Meditation encouragers, pensiveness assisters :). An entrancing paradise place!

Alas, there can be no good without any bad making it good. The bad here includes rain – a whole season of it. And though the Maldives are quite far from any tectonic activity, it nonetheless suffers from it – in the form of tsunamis. The earthquake of 2004 caused a tsunami to sweep over the Maldives killing scores and causing all sorts of damage. Maybe the fear of another tsunami striking is the reason why lifejackets are supplied in every hotel room here. Just in case…

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I’ll tell you just a little bit about the hotel we stayed at here. A little bit as, yes, times are very… turbulent at present, and here I am sunning it in paradise. (But when isn’t it turbulent, at least somewhere on the planet at any given time?)

We were staying at the Naladhu hotel, and very nice it was too. Very exclusive and private. I particularly liked the personal swimming pool – in each beach house! I wondered where the water came from as there didn’t seem to be any holes through which it could flow. It turned out the water comes via this here shower-cum-waterfall:

Maldives, Naladhu hotel

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Of an evening you sit on the wooden deck to take in the astounding views, aromas and clean sea air:

Maldives, Naladhu hotel

The only problem… it’s impossible to get any work done here! Need to get back to the cold and snow sharpish!

Btw, probably for the first time ever, I didn’t use my door key to lock my room. You just don’t need to here. A nice touch :).

Maldives, Naladhu hotel

One of our posse had to leave early unexpectedly. Later he told me how he had to be rushed to the airport, not in a taxi, but on a boat, naturally. The driver captain just happened to be a keen amateur computer-networks-AV expert, who proceeded to tell my colleague how KL is the outright leader on the islands among private users – and that he himself uses our product. Another nice touch :).

After hearing that, I was loving the Maldives even more. But then to top it all off I got a peak at the Maldives’ national flag. Check out them colors! Now this really is a love to last a lifetime!

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All in all, the Maldives islands: sublimely lush; but what’s going to happen to them sooner or later as the sea level rises?… Just thinking about it is sad and depressing. Let’s just hope it’s later rather than sooner – or, much better, let’s hope the rising sea level many fear will never happen. Let’s hope man gets all super-inventive again, like in industrial revolution, and we can do something to stop it, and save the Maldives!