Tuvalu, a Pacific island nation, is making history by becoming the first digital nation. The country is taking steps to replicate itself in the metaverse as climate change threatens its physical territory. The low-lying islands in the Pacific Ocean could become uninhabitable by 2100 due to rising sea levels, according to a study cited by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Tuvalu is moving governance and administrative systems to the metaverse to safeguard its culture and sovereignty in the event of territory loss and displacement due to climate change. The virtual twin of Tuvalu’s physical landscapes will be preserved in a Metaverse, beginning with the small islet of Te Afualiku.
What is a Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a term used to describe a hypothetical collective virtual shared space that is accessed through the internet and populated by users in the form of digital avatars. It is a virtual reality that could include a range of experiences, from social interactions to immersive gaming, education, commerce, and more.
The Metaverse is seen as the next evolution of the internet, and it’s envisioned as a fully immersive, 3D, and interactive virtual world that transcends the limitations of the physical world, where users can interact with one another and the environment in real-time, across multiple platforms and devices.
The concept of the Metaverse has gained traction recently with the rise of virtual and augmented reality technologies, and it’s predicted to be a major focus for tech companies and investors in the coming years.
The environmental challenge
Being a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean, Tuvalu is facing significant environmental changes, including rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones.
These changes threaten the country’s freshwater supplies, infrastructure, and food security, and could potentially result in the displacement of the country’s population. Additionally, Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to its low-lying geography, making it one of the countries most at risk of being impacted by global warming.
Digitalization of heritage like never before
The cultural heritage, stories, traditional songs, historical documents, and recorded cultural practices will be cataloged and digitized. In this way, Tuvalu hopes to continue functioning as a state regardless of where its government or people are located in the world. Moreover, having a virtual copy of Tuvalu has immediate benefits that can help the government be more efficient for its people.
The use of digital twins for cultural heritage has primarily focused on capturing the visual appearance of objects, collections, and sites, with a suite of historical buildings and museums becoming digitized. Tuvalu’s approach expands beyond the recreation of visual and structural information to capture stories and experiences and their broader ‘cultural and socio-historical context.’ The country is seen as a forerunner by many, and it is hoped that its approach will spark other countries to use similar methods to preserve their ‘important landscapes, memories, and stories.’
In addition to the preservation of Tuvalu’s cultural heritage, the creation of a virtual replica of the nation could serve as a means of reconstructing its land in the event of a territorial loss. The Tuvaluan government’s ongoing initiatives to migrate governance and administrative systems to the metaverse have brought to the forefront crucial concerns surrounding jurisdiction, liability, sovereign immunity, and human rights.
James Cooper, an esteemed international law specialist and the Director of International Legal Studies at California Western School of Law in San Diego, cautions [Source: LongNow Foundation] that it is imperative to address and regulate these issues before technological advancements and unforeseeable circumstances surpass the legal profession’s capacity to respond.
Do you think your country should also be accessible through a Metaverse? Join us in the conversation of digital preservation.