Environment HONOURABLE MENTION #4
Work title: Trusting Nauru: 14 Deposited Lands
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean sits the lonely island of Nauru, a land in the middle of nowhere born from a volatile and volcanic seabed. In a seemingly purposeful – yet entirely coincidental – combination of chance, natural selection, order, and chaos does Nauru exist and ail. Over the course of millions of years a seamount rose from the ocean floor, turning into the foundation of a coral atoll. The atoll became a breeding ground for seabirds, who over the course of thousands of years deposited several meters of phosphate rich guano. These phosphates rendered the once barren island a lush and fertile land. Through a chance discovery these accumulations were extracted by mankind for the sake of industry, urbanity, and the progress of a hungry world. Phosphate mining flooded Nauru with vast amounts of money, squandered in a matter of decades. Now an environment marred by industrial decay, Nauru is the mined-out ruin of a former paradise.
An additive land defined by its subtraction, the mining of phosphate has left the island a trace of what it used to be. With all of its natural resources exploited, Nauru turned to a number of shady dealing to stay afloat – including utilizing its sovereign status to aid in money laundering through its lax financial regulations, a practice which was ultimately shut down.
With no other options Nauru comes to a radical conclusion: embrace its greatest shame. It decides to divide itself into 14 islands based on the existing administrative districts, blank lands ripe for deposits. After giving so much of itself away, Nauru asks for bits and pieces from others. It vows to never repeat its tragic past and promises to keep safe all received deposits, should other nations make the same mistake. With the reversal of the equation, those who benefited from Nauru exports are now requested to export something of their own to Nauru.
Historically, Nauru had to import water in order to survive. Now, it imports biotopes in order to simply exist and serve as a remote repository for shrinking global environments. Each of the 14 demarcated areas of Nauru is completely given over to a new future. These lands are separated from each other, incorporated into the ether of the atoll. Cutting into the shallow land, the sea now forms byways between the new lands of Nauru. Each parcel now its own, monetization relies on the land itself rather than the diffusion of it.
After a lifetime of additive geologic processes, subtractive industries, and man made interventions, Nauru makes an effort to preserve environments in miniature. In hindsight, these pieces – the archives of shrinking landscapes – could have resulted from an alternate past where the physical results of extraction were orchestrated. Perhaps in realizing this and acting on it now, Nauru can influence future subtractions.
What is the value of spending an immense amount of effort to rescape a small piece of our world? Nauru, while small and remote, has aided the building of societies through agriculture, industry, and capital. The effort enacted to use and exploit Nauru was at a scale and desire so large that it effectively changed futures on and off the island. Nauru will continue to serve mankind as a steward of environments to be referenced or refound in the future.