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Tuvalu to preserve its culture in the metaverse

Climate change is affecting the Pacific Island of Tuvalu in a serious way. Anticipating its population will be forced into climate migration in the near future, the government is turning to the metaverse to preserve its unique culture.

While COP27 isn’t over, betting on actual environmental policy implementation is risky, if previous summits are anything to go by. This is especially true for the Global South.

The reality is that business as usual will guarantee a global temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2050. By then, the number of people forced to migrate to safer regions of the planet is expected to reach 1.2 billion people.

One of last year’s most hard-hitting speeches was delivered by Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s foreign minister. Standing behind a podium, he was knee-deep in seawater that, in previous years, hadn’t lapped so far up the shoreline.

Rising sea levels do not just threaten land, homes, and livelihoods in Tuvalu. With the climate crisis forcibly displacing Tuvalu’s citizens across the Global North, the unique culture and the identity of its people is also in danger of being lost to climate change.

In an attempt to avoid this, Tuvalu’s government has announced it will preserve its national culture inside the metaverse. In duplicating its island digitally, it becomes the first nation, in what could become many, to do so.


Speaking of his decision to digitalise Tuvalu, Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said, ‘As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation.’

‘Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people. And to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we’ll move them to the cloud,’ he continued.

Already, 20 percent of Tuvalu’s capital district is underwater during high tide. By the end of the century, the entire country is likely to be submerged.

The recent introduction of the metaverse presents an opportunity to preserve its history for eternity in the digital realm.

Arguably, nothing can replace real-life experiences. Still, the use of augmented and virtual reality will allow users to interact with each other in a lifelike digital version of the island that may no longer exist.

Users will be able to visit ‘digital Tuvalu,’ which will be complete with landmarks and historic sites which are central to the island’s culture.


Tuvalu is not alone.

In order of highest to lowest population displacement numbers, China (50.5m), Vietnam (23.4m), Japan (12.8m), India (12.6m), and Bangladesh (10.2m) are also at high risk from rising sea levels.

These countries are spotlighted most often due to being larger in size and population. However, the majority of smaller islands are watching as their landscapes succumb to a changing climate and higher sea levels.

These places will, unfortunately, be depending on the world’s most powerful leaders – many of whom represent the Global North – for their survival. With COP27 wrapping up in a few days, we can only hope that those with the ability to create change have woken to the severity of the climate situation.

If not, it’s likely many places will be forced to follow in Tuvalu’s footsteps.