own organic vegetables and supplies drinking water in reusable
glass bottles. The hip new Maldivian president, Mohamed
Nasheed, who appears more concerned about global warming
than Waheed, would give a thumbs-up to Six Senses.
Nasheed believes the threat to his country is potentially
dire, so he’s investigating the purchase of sovereign territory
in India, Sri Lanka or Australia. If the worst comes to pass,
his people will at least have somewhere to go. Meanwhilein 2008, Nasheed unveiled a plan to makethe Maldives the world’s rst carbon-neutralnation by 2020. What 400,000 Maldiviansdo for carbon neutrality may have negligible
impact on the melting icecaps, but as Nasheed
says, “We can only hope the world follows suit.”Similarly, the disappearance of the Maldives
might not inuence life for most of the world’s people, but
rising sea levels will. Parts of New York, Los Angeles, Sydney,London and other seaside cities, plus populous coastal areas of India, China, Brazil — parts of everywhere — could go under-
water, displacing millions of people and affecting quality of
life for billions. The Maldives’ peril could be our peril.
Back in our over-water villa, Waheed is explaining to us
how we can make reservations at the resort’s all-organic,
over-water spa. Waheed’s soothing nonchalance in the faceof what are potentially earth-shaking changes has me think-ing about another twist in the plot.
With breathtaking seas everywhere, seaplanes y guests to remoteresorts in the archipelago, including Banyan Tree Madivaru (let andpreceding page) and Soneva Gili by Six Senses (opposite).
he sunlight hits the gin-clear ocean
and dances geometrically on the sandy oor
around my feet. I’m standing in the world’s most beau-
tiful water, the exact color of rare blue topaz. Behind
me, a graceful, palm-lined arc of blindingly white sandstretches to a thin peninsula, not a footprint on it. I’m
alone here, but this remote paradise is under siege.
The peril that threatens the Maldives reads likea Vonnegut plot: An island chain in the middle of nowhere denes the stuff of human dreams — sugarsand, crystal water, caressing breezes, fruit-laden trees andexotic sh. The peaceful locals do their best to live in har-
mony with nature. But average elevation on the islands is four
feet above sea level. You can stand on a chair and summit
the entire nation. Meanwhile, the multitudes go on burning
fossil fuels worldwide. Air and water temperatures go up;
ice begins to melt. And the oceans, which cover most of this
midsize planet, rise. If current trends continue, millimeter
by millimeter over the next hundred years or so, the tide will
swallow the island nation, leaving only legends.
A small minority of pundits claim climate change is a myth,but we can’t bank on them being right. And now that I’m here,knee-deep in the amazing blue, it seems outrageous that we’d
even risk letting this and the planet’s other remaining jewelsdisappear due to our own behavior. Yet I come knowing full
well that my old friend Sally Tagg and I jetting halfway around
the world to stand here adds to the problem. So can we justify
visiting a place if traveling there contributes to the problem
that threatens it? Perhaps we can if seeing it helps us save it.
Conscious of the paradox, I check into the Soneva Gili by
Six Senses, the rst of three resorts we’ll be staying at. SixSenses walks the walk when it comes to green hospitality. And they buy carbon credits to offset guests’ ights. But Iadmit, looking out from the upper-oor deck of our over-
water villa — the scene before me like a Wim Wenders dream
sequence, all blue and shimmery, hot and slow — I do ndit challenging to remain focused on carbon footprints. It’seasier to listen to Waheed, our handsome, sarong-wearing
villa host, explain how to operate the cappuccino machine.
Waheed doesn’t seem too concerned about global warm-
ing. “But aren’t you worried that all this might wash away one day if we go on polluting the world?” Sally confronts
him in her unvarnished way, snapping me back to reality.
“I don’t know, madam,” he says earnestly. “I do not think you
need to worry about it right now. We are taking measures.”
Soneva Gili epitomizes eco-chic, built entirely of sus-tainable materials like bamboo and palm wood. The resort
employs solar energy and waste-to-methane power, grows its