The cover of the 2010 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was unveiled Monday night on the Late Show with David Letterman. It features model Brooklyn Decker photographed on a beach in the Maldives.
The independent Republic of Maldives is made up of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean southwest of the southern tip of India. With a population of just 400,000 living on 115 square miles of land, it is the smallest country in Asia, both in terms of population and area. The Maldives also form the lowest country in the world, with an average elevation of five feet above sea level. The highest point in the islands is just 7 feet, 7 inches above sea level.
It’s not surprising then, that the residents of the Maldives are concerned about the possibility of rising ocean levels caused by global warming. The nation actually is investigating purchasing land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia to move residents to in the event the islands become submerged.
“We can do nothing to stop climate change on our own and so we have to buy land elsewhere,” Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed told the UK newspaper The Guardian. “It’s an insurance policy for the worst possible outcome.”
He said even a small rise in sea levels could place large portions of the islands under water. Last October, Nasheed even convened an underwater cabinet meeting to help publicize the plight of the islands.
A year ago, the Maldives pledged to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by switching to completely renewable energy sources within a decade.
Some environmental websites have criticized Sports Illustrated for releasing “teaser” videos in advance of the swimsuit issue that they say show the models are blissfully ignorant of the climate crisis facing the Maldives.
“We’re kind of channeling, like I said, that old ’70s, ’80s sort of really happy, sunny feeling,” Decker says in one.
But the money to purchase land outside of the Maldives is to come from tourism, which accounts for 28 percent of the nation’s GDP. Obviously, any increase in tourism generated by positive publicity from the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue will be greatly welcomed. The islands depend on tourism to generate more than 90 percent of government tax revenue.
In 2009, the global recession caused a drop in tourism that plunged the government into a debt crisis. Until last year, tourism to the Maldives had been increasing rapidly since 1972, when there were just two resorts in the country. Today, there are 90 resorts with 17,000 beds. More than 600,000 people visit the Maldives each year. .
Virtually all those tourists arrive at Malé International Airport, located on the island of Hulhulé, next to the capital of the Maldives and its largest city, Malé, home to just over 100,000 people.
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition hits newsstands Tuesday.
Getting there: Is not easy from Chicago. One option is taking Qatar Airways the entire trip, which lasts 28 hours. Connections are made in Washington, D.C. and Doha, the capital of Qatar. Another option is taking United or Continental for the first leg of the flight and connecting in Dubai to Emirates. Still another choice is Lufthansa to Frankfurt, followed by Oman Air to Malé.
Staying there: Expedia gave me really only one choice for a trip in March, the three-star Marble Hotel in Malé, located near the fish market and the Grand Friday Mosque. Orbitz gave me quite a few more options, including the five-star Taj Exotica Resort and Spa. The resort whisks guests to and from the Malé airport via private luxury speedboat.
Related: Brooklyn Decker slept here, too