Nauru is back in the headlines again. The tiny Pacific island has put up its hand for the second time to become an offshore refugee detention centre for Australia, despite an ugly experience last time it tried it in 2001.
But Nauru has to take whatever income opportunities it can get. Once considered one of the world’s most beautiful islands, it has long since become a “barren wasteland” as a result of mining.
Nauru is a Pacific victim of economic development. Cash flowed in for many years last century during a mining boom driven by foreign companies, such as other Pacific countries are experiencing now. I guess you could say that, having reaped the rewards of mining, Nauru is now ‘developed’.
So, what is life like in a developed Pacific country? Nauru’s natural vegetation is all but destroyed: all that remains is a “ghastly grey mound of rock surrounded by a narrow green brim of vegetation”.
The local population has been overrun by foreigners (“Australians serve as managers, doctors and engineers, Chinese run the restaurants and shops, while other Pacific islanders do the dirty work in the mines”). The locals that remain suffer some of the world’s worst health-related problems and a life expectancy of 55.
They once in lived in paradise.
This is not Nauru’s fault. This is the result of an exploitative model of development that puts profits before people. Now coming to a Pacific island near you – unless we learn from Nauru that holding onto our land and ways of life holds much more hope for our islands having a future.
Read ‘Nauru: Paradise Well and Truly Lost’: