While the lost continent of Atlantis was the 19th century’s submarine fantasy and the drowning city of Venice the 20th’s reality check, the tiny Pacific island-nation of Tuvalu is on its way to become the 21st century’s first digital nation. A coral atoll formed of nine islands, of which eight are inhabited by 12,000 people (Tuvalu means ‘eight standing together’), Tuvalu is literally going under as the sea level rises 3.9 mm per year – twice the global average – its cusp barely 4.5 metres above the ocean surface.
At last November’s United Nations Convention on Climate Change, COP27, Tuvalu’s prime minister, Kausea Natano, announced that the country would become fully virtual, transferred ‘piece by piece’ into the Metaverse. This announcement followed a previous presentation at COP26, where Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s foreign minister, stood knee-deep in water on the island’s rugged edge, the remnants of a World War II US airbase in the background. Tuvalu to the world: we’re sinking and so will you. It was a radical SOS for collective awareness and international cooperation in the age of global warming.