“To save ourselves we migrate to the Metaverse”

The virtual world is indeed the last resort for Pacific islands threatened with extinction by 2100: the islands of Tuvalu will be the world’s first digital nation.

It is the extreme act of a people who are afraid that they will no longer have a home. Tuvalu will be swallowed by the ocean in less than 100 years and to save himself he has chosen to migrate 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 must do it. »

The Metaverse is a false promised land, but the Tuvluvians have no choice. Sea levels will rise and destroy three Pacific islands, among the first victims of global warming. “We will preserve the land piece by piece, to bring comfort to our people and to leave a reminder to our children and grandchildren of what our land once was,” Kofe said.

What happens to the archipelago of Tuvalu

Tuvalu is a Polynesian country consisting of three islands scattered in the middle of the ocean. After the Vatican, it is the least populated country 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 the most precious possessions of our people, 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 to function as a state, as well as preserve our culture, knowledge and history through a digital twin. »

Simon Kofe had already made headlines during Cop26 in 2021. He was actually attached half-submerged in the distance, 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 created to accurately reflect a physical object. They are typically used for production and predictive maintenance. They are not simple copies, but dynamic and “living” 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 its people will have their own virtual version, to remember them as they are,” explained Dr Eselealofa Apinelu, Tuvalu’s former Attorney General and Commissioner of Current High of Fiji. “Tuvluvians have to hold on to something. Then he added, “there must have been a trace, to prove that somewhere there was a country called Tuvalu”. This is the last option.”

Tuvalians looking for a new home

A mass migration has already begun, the inhabitants must leave the island to look for a new home. “Australia and New Zealand have been our closest partners, also offering employment opportunities,” but visa applications are complex, migration has to face all the bureaucratic hurdles. “It would be useful to have concessions for small islands. It is time to leave to plan your future, instead of staying on the island with the constant fear of rising waters,” Apinelu explained. “If we can slowly allow people to leave at their own pace by following the laws of the individual countries they want to migrate to, it will be easier than rounding up a whole nation at once and putting it somewhere. »

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