3 mins

In a nutshell 

The island nation of Tuvalu faces an existential threat – rising sea levels.
Saving Tuvalu is an online campaign creating awareness of the crisis facing Tuvalu. The campaign began as a “community-action” school project by Mexico City high school students Santiago Flores and Natalia Saldago.
Now reaching thousands of people worldwide, their campaign continues to expand.

Why Saving Tuvalu matters

Tuvalu is a Pacific Ocean archipelago of 9 islands. It is one of the smallest countries in the world. Importantly, the highest point of land in Tuvalu is barely 5 meters above sea level.
As a result, the entire nation is now on the brink of extinction due to rising sea levels.
In addition, Tuvalu is increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters caused by climate change. It is forecast that, without relief, the chain of islands will be completely underwater in 10 years.

In short, this would make the islanders the world’s first population to lose their entire nation to climate change.

“We must stop Tuvalu from sinking

and the world from sinking with Tuvalu”

UN Secretary General António Guterres on Twitter

Because of the importance of what is happening there, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres travelled to Tuvalu in 2019 to assess the situation.
Natalia Saldago and Santiago Flores learned of his visit. They were inspired by this famous tweet and knew they needed to do something.

A little background

Covid-19 was spreading and like everywhere, the schools of Mexico were adapting.
Classes moved onto Zoom and students began studying from home.
As part of their school program, Santiago Flores and Natalia Saldago received an assignment. Their teacher asked them to design and deliver
 a community project. 

During the spring of that year, they considered different possible projects. At the same time, they were watching the news of the spreading pandemic.
Increasingly, they became aware of the ways in which communities are interconnected globally.

As a result, they decided that a project that addressed the situation in Tuvalu would have global consequences.

Their idea was to help bring global awareness to the urgent situation of this island state. Moreover, they hoped to move people to act by telling the story of the situation in Tuvalu.
Most importantly, they wanted to create awareness about the overall crisis of global sustainability.

Saving Tuvalu A group of hands holding aloft cell phones as they film an event on stage

Image: Gian Cescon/Unsplash

Reaching out

Saving Tuvalu launched its social media campaign in the spring of 2020.

The students used every chance they got to remind the world of the danger.
Above all, they were not going to let a global pandemic and national lockdowns slow them down. The crisis facing Tuvalu was environmental and humanitarian. 
They were determined to mobilise people without delay.

They wanted people to engage in concrete action and address climate change, now.

Saving Tuvalu is self-organised and they have been running for just one year. But the actions of this group have been quite successful in focusing international awareness of the plight of Tuvalu.

Their team started off by rallying students all over Mexico to work on global outreach. Using Instagram and a website they built, they created momentum. More and more students began to hear of the campaign on social media.
Then, at the end of 2020, their movement got a big boost when they released their film “Tuvalu, under the waters of indifference.
A three-minute documentary, it was broadcast in collaboration with Fridays For Future (the global youth movement for climate change that began as a school strike led by Greta Thunberg).

This self-produced film shines a spotlight on Tuvalu as seen from Tuvaluans’ experience. With the help of Fridays For Future, the film quickly received over 20.000 views. 

The big picture

Khalil Alhalabi is the Director of Communications at Saving Tuvalu. “We are building the campaign,” he says “around the principle of ‘small actions for big change’.
The big change these students want to create is awareness. They understand that “Up until now, people don’t even realise that this is happening! It’s as if they think ‘this is something that will happen years in the future’. Something that we don’t have to worry about now because ‘it doesn’t really affect me”. 

The students behind Saving Tuvalu continue to carry on the conversation on social media. Likewise, they write articles and continue to grow their team to develop more projects for the campaign. Now working on short and long term goals, they are looking at ways to keep the campaign growing.
Overall, they are proving to be very efficient at using the resources they have at hand to encourage people to realise  “Wow – what happens to Tuvalu happens to the world! Let’s try and help them!”

Who we talked with

Khalil Alhalabi, Director of Communications, Saving Tuvalu.
Matias Contreras, Analytical Writer, Saving Tuvalu.

Look for their campaign @savingtuvalu and website savingtuvalu.org

Featured photo credit: Dave Hoefler – Unsplash