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Nauru is a small island country, a speck in the Pacific Ocean, with an area of only 21-square-kilometers. It is the smallest state in the South Pacific and third smallest state by area in the world. Nauru was originally inhabited by Micronesian and Polynesian people for at least 3,000 years, who remained isolated from western contact except for the occasional runaway sailor or escaped convict, until the late 19th century when it was annexed and claimed as a colony by the German Empire. The Europeans soon discovered phosphate deposits and the tiny island became a strip mine, exploited by foreign colonial powers. After it gained its independence in 1968, mining intensified until most of the phosphate had been stripped and the island’s economy went south. In the process of mining phosphate to fertilize fields in faraway places, the country had rendered its own landscape infertile. Today, the island is a barren wasteland with jagged limestone pinnacles that cover 80% of the island.

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