Demystifying the fall of the island nation of Nauru

As the smallest island country in the world, Nauru is extremely compact. The picture on the left page shows a panoramic view of Nauru on a satellite map. The picture on the right page shows the stamps issued by Nauru, as well as the national emblem and flag of the country. The bottom right corner is the position of Nauru on the earth. Nauru is small, but it has all the internal organs.

  The island country of Nauru has truly staged a good show for us of “the current situation of human society and natural ecology under depleted resources”. The natural resources brought by guano make the people extravagant, and then sit and eat. The deterioration of the environment, the economic decline, and the mentality of changing from extravagance to frugality have made Nauru one of the poorest and backward countries in the world.
  The rise and fall of a country is actually tied to guano. This is the negative textbook of a typical “resource country” in modern human civilization, and it deserves our vigilance.
The pocket island country hanging by the ocean is far and remote, small and poor

  How to quickly find the country of Nauru?
  Open the world map and set your sights on the southern hemisphere and the southwestern part of the Pacific Ocean. The vast Australian continent is directly in sight. Then, starting from Sydney, a famous city on the southeast coast of Australia, looking to the northeast, entering the vast Pacific Ocean, crossing the Solomon Islands, 4000KM will come to a world that belongs only to seawater. Here, more than 1,000 kilometers to the north are Micronesia, more than 1,000 kilometers to the west are the Solomon Islands, to the south are Vanuatu more than 1,000 kilometers apart, Fiji more than 2,000 kilometers apart, and even Kiribati, the nearest to the east. Hundreds of kilometers away…At this time, if you zoom in on the map to a scale of 1:20 kilometers, a solitary “dot” will appear in the center of the screen, surrounded by a deep blue-this is the island country Nao. Lu.
  Continue to enlarge the image, and the whole picture of Nauru will be clearly revealed. This is a coral island with a smooth coastline and a roughly oval shape. The island is about 6 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide. It covers an area of ​​less than 24 square kilometers. All the buildings are built around the island. The center of the island is a large open space. As the smallest island country, Nauru has the third lowest area in the world, only slightly larger than the Vatican and Monaco, with a resident population of only 13,000 (statistics in 2017), making it a well-deserved small country.
  Because it is too small, it is very easy to visit the entire Nauru. From the airport in the south of the island (yes, although the island is small, there is still a small airport) as a starting point, drive along the roundabout highway and control the speed at 40 km/h, then it only takes about half an hour. You can make a complete circle around the island.
  In the process of circumnavigating the island, there are generally some low- and medium-rise buildings on both sides of the road, most of which are the courtyards of the islanders, or some hotels, shops and restaurants of different grades. Between the buildings on the coastal side, from time to time you can see the waves and beaches just a few steps away, and the salty sea breeze blows through the coconut grove, which is very tropical.
  However, if you observe carefully, you will find that most of the various facilities and buildings on the island have a clear sense of age, perhaps because they have not been well repaired or refurbished for too long, and some have even revealed their ruined side, as if the years are passing by. This came to an abrupt end; occasionally a few idle pedestrians passed by on the street, walking boringly towards the center of the empty and overgrown island—the combination of these scenes creates a dull and lacking vitality. Atmosphere.
  For newcomers, it may be hard to imagine that a few decades ago, here was one of the countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world. The people are rich and everything is still thriving. So, what happened to make Nauru what it is now?
  This needs to start from the history of Nauru. More than 200 years ago, Nauru was just an ordinary, unnamed island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It was small and unremarkable. There is a group of indigenous people belonging to the ethnic branch of Croatia on the island. They have been living here for thousands of years. They have been isolated from the world and unknown to the outside world. It wasn’t until 1798 that a British captain named John Fein accidentally discovered the island (another saying is that an American whaling ship first discovered the island), and put this “except for natives, seabirds and The desolate island of “Coconut Trees, Nothing” is named “Happy Island”. At the end of the 19th century, Germany began to expand in the South Pacific. The “Pleasure Island” was reduced to its colony and was incorporated into the Marshall Islands Protected Area, with an official name: Nauru. Since then, Nauru ushered in a new era of civilization.
  In fact, at the beginning of Nauru, Germany did not pay much attention to this remote and barren island. At least on the surface, the local indigenous people still maintained a peaceful and good life. However, no one would have thought that just a few years later, a German seaman’s accidental discovery would change the destiny of Nauru and the people of Nauru forever.
The small island of mineral resources formed by guano “get rich overnight”

  In 1896, a German seaman stayed in Nauru for a short time, during which time he discovered a strange rock with a shiny surface, most likely some kind of ore. Immediately, he took the stone to Sydney, 4000 kilometers away, and was tested by a chemist and determined that it was a piece of phosphate ore.
  Phosphate has a wide range of uses, and is in great demand in industries, agriculture, chemistry, food and other fields. Therefore, after learning of the discovery of phosphate ore in Nauru, the geological survey team quickly set off and landed on the island to conduct a detailed survey. In the end, the survey team made an amazing discovery that “the entire island of Nauru is a fine phosphate rich mine” and announced it to the public. As soon as the news came out, the outside world was shocked, and people were puzzled. Why is there a rich phosphate deposit on a small island in the Pacific Ocean?
  With the deepening of research, related scholars have come to the conclusion: the original Nauru’s phosphate mine is not naturally generated, but derived from a common thing-bird droppings! In the argumentation, the source of the phosphate mine was explained as follows: Nauru’s location is the only way for many seabirds to migrate across the equator, and there are no other islands nearby, so it has become a habitat and habitat for birds. The preferred place. For thousands of years, countless seabirds have stayed here, and their excrement has been accumulated on the island year after year. After the natural action of sun and rain, chemical changes have occurred. The organic phosphorus salts are decomposed and left behind. Rich in phosphates. In addition, due to the strong ground permeability of the island and the high salinity of groundwater, it penetrates the rock and soil on the island and reacts with phosphate, thus forming a rich phosphate mine.

The best evaluation of Nauru is: the rise and fall of a country is tied to guano. The picture on the left page and the upper picture on the right page show local seabirds in Nauru, and the middle picture on the right page shows an abandoned phosphate mine.

  The survey results show that more than two-thirds of the entire island of Nauru is covered by thick phosphate mines, the depth of which is 10 meters, and the ore collection is as high as 38.9%, which is a typical rich ore. As a result, Nauru, from a remote island that no one cares about, has instantly become a sweet pastry in the eyes of every country, and everyone wants to get a share of the pie.
  For the Nauru indigenous people who rely on traditional fishing for their livelihoods, they never thought about the magic of these “hard stones everywhere” that can make outsiders behave so crazy-of course, even later With their ignorant cognition, they were powerless to stop them. They could only watch these barbaric “civilized men”, driving a huge iron ship, and then driving huge machines everywhere, digging on the island. Three feet to the ground. Since then, Nauru is no longer peaceful.
  In the frantic mining of Nauru’s phosphate mines, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and other countries have formed the “main force”, and the mining volume has also been rising year after year. According to incomplete statistics, between 1908 and 1913, the mining volume of phosphate was 630,000 tons, from 1925 to 1930 it was 1.7 million tons, and from 1933 to 1938 it exceeded 4 million tons. In 1950, the mining volume was a year. The amount is even more than 1 million tons… What
  makes Nauru people feel deeply humiliated is that in order to compete for Nauru, a group of Western countries even used force to fight each other. During the two world wars, Nauru was occupied by Germany, Britain, Japan, Australia and other countries in turn. In 1947, Nauru became the trusteeship of the United Nations, co-hosted by the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, and Australia managed on behalf of the three countries. At this time, after more than a hundred years of contact with the outside world, Nauruans have clearly realized the “critality of the real world”. Since 1964, Nauru has launched a struggle for independence and control of phosphates. Although the United Nations has proposed to move Nauru people to settle on the island of Cortis in northern Australia, it was strongly opposed by Nauru people.
  On January 29, 1968, the Constitution of Nauru was passed, and the United Nations also announced that it agreed to the independence of the Republic of Nauru, and Nauru was formally established as a nation. After independence, Nauruans continued to fight for control of their own phosphate mines. Two years later, Nauru redeemed the assets of the British Phosphate Company and gained control of phosphate.
  From 1798 to 1968, after 170 years of struggle and mediation, the Nauruans went from primitive and closed to open and modern, and finally ushered in a bright future. Next, in the face of still considerable mineral deposits, how will the citizens who “get rich overnight” sustain themselves?
The evil consequences of wanton exploitation and profligacy have exhausted resources, deteriorated ecology, and returned to poverty

  Throughout the world, rich mineral resources have changed the destiny of many countries, and this is also true for Nauru.

In the last century, phosphate, as a precious resource, enabled Nauru to embark on a large-scale mining road. The upper picture on the right page shows the coastal scenery of Nauru, the picture on the left and the lower picture on the right show the salt mining machinery and mine carts by the sea.

  When Nauru first became independent, it coincided with a period of urgent human demand for phosphates, especially chemical fertilizers, which were almost in short supply on the market. Therefore, when Nauru had complete control over the phosphate mine, it decided to continue to increase its mining efforts in order to become rich and prosper the country. To this end, Nauru spent 21 million Australian dollars to purchase the phosphate business in full from the original Australian mining company, and recruited a large number of mining laborers from abroad, thus starting a more crazy mining mode: starting from the first year, the phosphate mine The annual export volume exceeded 1 million tons, and it continued until 1988, when the annual export volume fell to 800,000 tons.
  Relying on the export of phosphates, Nauru has become one of the richest countries in the Pan-Pacific region and even the world per capita. In the early 1970s, its per capita GDP exceeded US$25,000-of course, the country has a small population. It is also a main reason.
  After making money, the Nauru government is very generous and generous. In addition to distributing cash, it also provides various high-quality benefits to its citizens, including: housing construction subsidies; full subsidies for teenagers to study abroad; water, electricity, and communication costs Free; two state-of-the-art public hospitals have been specially opened. All residents can see a doctor free of charge, and can even arrange to go abroad for free… You know, in that era, even many developed countries could not even reach this level. What is even more ironic is that in such a small island country, two cars per household are actually standard equipment.
  However, the profligate Nauruans feel that this is not enough. In order to show off their wealth to the world, they built luxurious golf courses on the island, even opened airports and airlines, and purchased several Boeing 737 airliners. In addition, the Nauru government has created a trust fund called “NPRT (Nauru Phosphate Mine Fee Trust)” for overseas investment. The United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia… Nauru people “buy, buy, buy” all over the world, and the most classic investment is in Melbourne. In 1982, Nauru bought a piece of land larger than its own country in Melbourne, and then spent more than $20 million to build a 52-story building (the tallest building in Melbourne at the time). When the completion ceremony was held, Nauru invited hundreds of national representatives from all over the world to participate, and placed them in the hotel to entertain them carefully, in order to show the “brilliance” of the Nauru people…

  Unrestrained mining and squandering will eventually run out of resources. Perhaps the Nauruans understand this, but they may not have thought that this day will come so quickly. Since the 1990s, the amount of phosphate mining has been declining at a rate visible to the naked eye, starting from the annual output. 1 million tons to 800,000 tons, 700,000 tons, 500,000 tons, or even less than 100,000 tons… At the same time, the price of phosphate in the international market has also begun to fall, and Nauruans realize that they are quickly returning poverty.

Although it is a good thing to sit on resources, Nauruans are faced with many crises because of their leisure and leisure. The economic decline, the obesity and disease of the residents… all of these are warning human beings.

  With the final depletion of phosphate mines, in order to solve the financial problems, the Nauru government, in addition to selling overseas assets and seeking economic support from countries around the world (mainly Australia), went so far as to acquiesce in money laundering. At that time, to open a legal bank in Nauru, there were no other requirements other than USD 25,000. However, this behavior was quickly spotted by the international community. In June 2000, the Financial Working Group of the Group of Seven Anti-Money Laundering Agency included Nauru on the money laundering blacklist. In 2003, Nauru was forced to terminate money laundering transactions and opened a number of Banks can only be closed.
  For a very small island country like Nauru, the impact of the economic downturn is fatal. First of all, the aborigines of Nauru used to fish for their livelihoods, but for decades, they have abandoned their self-sufficient lifestyle. They are extremely dependent on the outside world for all the materials they need. After returning to poverty, they are already struggling to purchase materials from the outside world; What’s more sad is that years of love and dislike of work have completely lost their ability to support themselves, and they have become the most obese country in the world. According to relevant statistics, the average weight of Nauru nationals is more than 100 kilograms, and nearly 94% of the nationals are overweight, and more than 40% have type 2 diabetes! Obesity has also caused a series of chronic diseases, which has greatly reduced the average life expectancy of the people in this country…
  However, the worse consequences are not people, but ecology. Years of phosphate mining has caused irreparable trauma to the local natural environment. Mining has caused the sea level of the entire island to drop, and the toxic substances produced during the mining process have caused changes in the soil structure and shape, making the island absolutely extinct. Most of the original vegetation is extinct, and the birds also lose their living space.
  Nowadays, apart from the aborigines, almost no one wants to come to Nauru. The residents of the island don’t want to work (in fact, they can’t find much work), and their survival is almost entirely dependent on international aid. Walking to the open land in the center of the island, you can see bumpy ground everywhere, as if you have experienced a war; among the undulating terrain, sparse vegetation grows feebly, and looks lifeless like the entire island. Looking into the distance, on the coast at the end of the line of sight, there are no more seabirds rising and falling, only a few occasional calls, still telling the story that happened here.