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Environmentalism of the Rich$
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Peter Dauvergne

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034951

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034951.001.0001

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By No Means Pleasant

By No Means Pleasant

(p.31) 3 By No Means Pleasant
Environmentalism of the Rich

Peter Dauvergne

The MIT Press

This chapter surveys the ecological and political history of the South Pacific island of Nauru after 1798 – a microcosm of the globalization of unsustainability. In the 1900s Nauru became a major source of high-grade phosphate fertilizer, especially for Australia and New Zealand. The history of phosphate mining in Nauru illustrates how deeply colonial and postcolonial forces can disrupt sustainability even in places far from the centers of power, and how over generations these disruptions can build into an ever-greater crisis. At the height of Nauru’s phosphate boom in the mid-1970s average income of the Nauruan people was the second highest in the world. But this wealth was an illusion, as Nauru was being strip-mined with little planning for a future without phosphate. Today, Nauru’s economy is in tatters, and with hardly any phosphate left it is now serving its former colonizer Australia as a detention camp for asylum seekers who had been hoping to reach Australia.

Keywords:   asylum seekers, Australia, colonialism, mining, Nauru, New Zealand, phosphate, postcolonialism, unsustainability

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