Thursday, June 2, 2016

Nauru and the Curse of Natural Resources

Recently "This American Life" rebroadcast their 2003 show "The Middle of Nowhere". One of the segments was on the tiny Micronesian island (~8 sq. miles) of Nauru.

The story is a tragedy that is still unfolding at snail-speed. From wikipedia:
Nauru is a phosphate rock island with rich deposits near the surface, which allowed easy strip mining operations. It has some remaining phosphate resources which, as of 2011, are not economically viable for extraction. Nauru boasted the highest per-capita income enjoyed by any sovereign state in the world during the late 1960s and early 1970s. When the phosphate reserves were exhausted, and the island's environment had been seriously harmed by mining, the trust that had been established to manage the island's wealth diminished in value. To earn income, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering centre. From 2001 to 2008, and again from 2012, it accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for hosting the Nauru detention centre.
After listening to the story, I had to scour for more:
With so much of the island mined, all that was left was an environmental wasteland riddled with decay. The damage is so severe that 75 per cent of the country is uninhabitable.

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