The future is already here, its just not evenly distributed. – William Gibson
The Maldives are sinking. The island chain’s 350,000 inhabitants live within 5 vertical feet of sea level. While not the only island nation facing land loss due to rising sea levels, the strategic location of the Maldives within the expanding military, communications and trade infrastructures of the Indian Ocean as well as its newly minted tax haven status make this a site of complex 21st Century conditions. Our speculative proposal imagines a possible future for the Maldives in order to generate critical insights into present conditions. The proposal tweaks existing transnational flows to produce a new 21st Century virtual citizenship.
As the new realities of the Indian-Chinese cold war unfold, the atolls of the Maldives are eroding into the sea. Exerting influence in the Indian Ocean is paramount for hemispheric dominance and the sinking Maldives are prime territory. Tourism is giving way to virtual economics and imperial ambitions are finding roots in this small atoll nation. Mechanized planetary infrastructures and transnational corporations are territorializing off shore economic scenarios in the form of off shore banking, speculative resource development and special economic zones.
The Maldivian government is in the market for a new homeland, building a sovereign wealth fund for the purchase of new territory and negotiating for land within Australia. The complications of relocating a nation to a new territory within another nation may be insurmountable. There are however, extraordinary possibilities in a new virtual homeland. As the islands disintegrate, the real territorial value in the Maldives are its statuary claim on coastal waters - through which 50% of all global oceanic mercantile goods and 75% of Middle East oil exports pass. Although it is likely that Chinese and Indian shell corporations have covertly, yet legally purchased a number of individual islands for their governments, the Maldivian government maintains sovereignty over remaining land and surrounding waters.
A Maldivian diaspora is likely to spread throughout India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia and the threat of humanitarian crises for Maldivian climate refugees is quite real. In this speculative reality, the Maldivian sovereign wealth fund is invested in a new virtual homeland by tapping the transnational fluidity of the Maldivian waters to provide security and economic mobility to the Maldivian diaspora through virtual citizenship.
The ship breaking beaches of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are harvested for their redeemable creaking hulks. These relics of 20th century global trade become the raw materials of the Maldivian virtual society. Used for land fill and recombined into new bodies, these broken ships become re-purposed physical ruins for virtual gain.
A floating transshipment port and air cargo matrix located within the northern most Ihavanddhippolhu atoll create a new hub of global activity. An off shore banking data center and virtual public forum float within the sinking city of Malé. Planetary logistical networks and virtual life styles quickly adapt to the new transfer points in the supply chains. The scalar possibilities of floating infrastructure allow for unfettered growth. In the near future, this off shore hub could become the central distribution node in the Indian Ocean for cargo, petroleum exports, and virtual financial transactions. Taxes and tariffs levied in this new bottleneck fill the coffers of a generational Maldivian trust - financing the lives and virtual citizenship of the Maldivian diaspora. Maldivian refugees are welcomed into new nations because they bring wealth and robust connection to the global supply chain. The planetary supply chain that is a primary mechanism of climate change, becomes an apparatus for redemption through strategic and systemic catalytic intervention.