Here’s the end of a long and wonderful profile from the German newsweekly Der Spiegel. It’s about our friend Mohammed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, who officially kicked off our campaign by taking his entire cabinet underwater to pass a 350 resolution on Oct. 17:


Mohamed Nasheed  knows his diving stunt hasn’t solved any problems, either local or global. But he has sent out a clear message. Since Oct. 17, the Maldives are no longer seen as simply a cool place to spend your honeymoon.

 In recent weeks several thousand schoolchildren have been taught the meaning of "Copenhagen," what "greenhouse gases" are and what they have to do with their island.

Some 4,000 children squat on the floor, the girls in black headscarves on the edges. From the high-rise surrounding buildings it is clear to see that they are spelling out a number: 350. As in 350 parts per million; the figure climatologists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.


"That’s the goal. Otherwise we’re in for a disaster." Those were the words of 10-year-old Fathmah Nahula, a pupil at Ishandar School. She may not be informed about the latest developments in the high-level debate, and has probably never even heard of "parts per million" or model algorithms, but Fathmah Nahula knows that "350" is harmless — and that we’ve already hit 390.

The children chant, one block at a time. "Three," shout the pupils in the three group. "Five," shout the fives. "Zero," cry the remaining students.

"We have tried to explain to them what global warming means. It was difficult at first. Some of the boys were pleased they’d soon be able to swim to school," recalls Ramziya Unsman, a teacher at Thaajuddeen School.

"Three … five … zero!"

"Of course I’m scared. We can see the difference already. Fish has become more expensive. Apparently that’s a consequence of global warming. We eat more vegetables. And I plant trees. No, not in the garden: In flower pots," says pupil Mariyam Zaki.

"Three … five … zero!"

This may only be another of Nasheed’s symbolic gestures. After all, 350 is just a number, not a policy. Global climate change is more complex than a single value, but the generation assembled on the sports ground in Male will have a sense of just how fragile their islands are. The children have understood the message, and when they grow up, they’ll be ready. Because they will grow — and faster than waters will rise