In international circles, Nasheed attracted attention for his climate campaigning. The Maldives are a low-lying chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, and climate-driven sea level rise could consume them. In 2009, Nasheed promised his country would be carbon-neutral within a decade. He held a cabinet meeting underwater as a publicity stunt calling attention to the danger of climate change. He also looked into a plan to relocate Maldives citizens to less threatened islands, although he faced some public opposition, as he told Foreign Policy in 2010. After a woman bit and kicked him at the suggestion of moving to a neighboring island, he was forced to conclude that “Maldivians do not want to leave their homeland.”
This work and his leadership at U.N.-led climate conferences earned him accolades; in 2010 he was named a United Nations’ Champion of the Earth, and in November 2011, British prime minister David Cameron called Nasheed his “new best friend.” The Island President, a documentary that lionizes Nasheed, earned praise on the film festival circuit and is coming out to a wider distribution next month.
Nasheed’s fall isn’t connected directly to his environmental activism, but to his shift away from his reputation as a government reformer. He was elected in the country’s first democratic election but has faced protests over economic policy. The most recent round of protests focused on the arrest of a top judge who had ordered a government critic released. The Associated Press writes:
As the protests grew, there were disturbing signs the one-time rights activist was changing.
Police routinely cracked down on opposition protests, while letting government supporters gather freely. For many, the judge’s arrest three weeks ago was the final straw.
Maldives' President Resigns as VP Sworn In, Associated Press.