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The Future of Coal: The “Dead Island of Hashima”

What happens when a community dependent on a finite fossil resource can no longer go on exploiting? These powerful pictures tell the story.

The dead island of Hashima delivers a lively warning about the importance of foresight. It offers a view of the end result of “development,” the fate of a community severed from Mother Earth and engaged in a way of life disconnected from its food supply. In short, Hashima is what the world will be like when we finish urbanizing and exploiting it: a ghost planet spinning through space — silent, naked, and useless.  — Brian Burke-Gaffney, Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science

Located 18 miles off the coast of Nagasaki, the island of Hashima was once the hub of Japan’s coal mining activity. From the early 1900’s to the 1970’s, the island played a major role in Japan’s economic growth. Owned by Mitsubishi, it was home to dangerous undersea mines that killed hundreds of people. At its peak, Hashima was producing about 400,000 tons of coal per year — more coal than the U.S. exported to China in 2009.

Hashima was was completely dependent on the outside world. It had coal, and that was it. The community, which peaked at over 5,200 people, had to import everything — food, fresh water, building materials and clothing. So when Japan started transitioning from a coal-based economy to an oil-based economy, the island had nothing else to rely on. Mitsubishi began laying off workers in the 1960’s and eventually shut down the entire community in 1974:

According to Brian Burke Gaffney of the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science, who wrote a history of the island in Cabinet magazine, the Japanese government as used pictures of Hashima in newspaper ads promoting energy conservation — reminding people of what happens when a community (or country) uses up everything it has with no back-up plan.

Now desolate and forgotten, Hashima guards the entrance to Nagasaki Harbor like a strange, dead lighthouse, attracting little more attention than the visits of tired seagulls and the curious stares of people on passing ships. But the symbolism is hard to ignore. The tight-knit Hashima community was a miniature version of Japanese society and it straddled a landmass that, except for the lack of water and greenery, mimicked the entire archipelago. The island’s present forlorn state is a lesson to contemporary Japan about what happens to a country that exhausts its own resources and depends solely on foreign trade.

Below are old comments from the previous Facebook commenting system:

Leif Erik Knutsen

Fortunately those folks had somewhere to go. Quite unlike the children of Space Ship Earth.

July 30 at 12:09pmColorado Bob

Torrential Rain Hits Niigata & Fukushima — More Than 650mm of Rain Since Wednesday — 30/07/11.

This is 25.59 inches.

July 30 at 12:58pmJoan Savage

Torrential rains on disabled nuclear reactors that were hit by an earthquake and tsunami might edge things towards Joe Romm’s category of “different in kind.”

July 30 at 2:51pm

Colorado Bob

In Fukushima Prefecture, the town of Tadami issued an evacuation advisory to all of its residents — about 4,800 people in 1,800 households. Local firefighters said they were notified that one person was swept away in a mudslide.The Meteorological Agency said some areas in the two prefectures saw precipitation of 100 mm per hour and warned that torrential rain would continue through Saturday morning.http://search.japantimes.c​o.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110730a5.​html

July 30 at 4:05pm

Jon Warren Lentz

not a lively warning but a deathly one, heard by nearly no one.

July 30 at 1:02pmColorado Bob

Forecasters warned that the rains could continue to be torrential after reaching 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) to date in Sanjo City, Niigata, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Tokyo, since they started Wednesday.

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http://www.google.com/host​ednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i​jZ08b6_UaTV0m3ISlYZShE3sDu​Q?docId=CNG.b802f980032bd7​c04d75f200f787b575.341July 30 at 1:03pmJoan Savage

The article mentioned the risk of earthquake tremors generating mudslides.

July 30 at 2:51pm

Paul Magnus

Apparently it is also possible the other way around, rain and weather phenomena aslo possible to trigger earthquakes…

July 30 at 5:06pm

Paul Magnus

How does the flood affect the radiation fall out impact…. I guess most will run off in to the ocean…

July 30 at 5:09pm

Paul Magnushttp://uk.reuters.com/arti​cle/2011/07/30/uk-japan-qu​ake-idUKTRE76T1PL20110730Strong earthquake jolts northeast Japan, no tsunami

July 30 at 5:16pm

Paul Magnus

In Japan, 400000 told to evacuateTODAYonline — 9 minutes agoTOKYO — About 400000 residents have been advised to evacuate Japan’s North-east Niigata and Fukushima prefectures due to torrential rain, China’s Xinhua news agency reported, citing a local media report. Two men have been killed and five others missing

July 30 at 5:29pm

Joan Savage

A Japan Times review of Japan’s renewable energy options.http://search.japantimes.c​o.jp/cgi-bin/fl20110724x1.​html

July 30 at 8:45pm

Paul Magnus

Amateur video of tsunami-like waves as mad floods hit South Koreahttp://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=UeOgKjGUerw&feature=p​layer_embedded

July 30 at 11:35pm

John Earl

A fossil fuel town that fossilized…

July 30 at 1:14pmColorado Bob

July 27th CLIMATE SUMMARY…

THE EXTREME DRYNESS AND VERY HOT TEMPERATURES THAT HAVE PLAGUED THE.REGION THIS SUMMER CONTINUE TO PERSIST. NO RAINFALL WAS MEASURED AT.EITHER LUBBOCK OR CHILDRESS DURING THE LAST TWO WEEKS…LEAVING YEAR.TO DATE RAINFALL TOTALS OF 1.13 INCHES AT LUBBOCK AND 3.64 INCHES AT.CHILDRESS. OTHER YEAR TO DATE RAINFALL TOTALS AROUND THE AREA.INCLUDE 1.37 INCHES AT FRIONA…2.23 INCHES AT SILVERTON…2.35.INCHES AT MORTON…1.56 INCHES AT PLAINVIEW…AND ONLY 0.72 INCHES.AT BROWNFIELD.

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WELL ABOVE NORMAL TEMPERATURES HAVE ALSO PERSISTED ACROSS THE REGION.THROUGH LATE JULY. THE AVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE AT LUBBOCK FROM JULY.1 TO JULY 27 IS 99.2 DEGREES OR 7.3 DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL. DURING MIDJULY…LUBBOCK BROKE THE ALL-TIME RECORD FOR THE MOST 100 DEGREE.DAYS FOR A SINGLE YEAR. LUBBOCK HAS NOW SEEN 33 DAYS THIS YEAR AT OR.ABOVE 100 THROUGH JULY 27TH.

HIGH TEMPERATURES AT CHILDRESS DURING THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF JULY.HAVE BEEN SLIGHTLY WARMER THAN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF THE MONTH. THEAVERAGE HIGH TEMPERATURE AT CHILDRESS FROM JULY 1 TO JULY 27 IS.104.1 DEGREES…OR NEARLY 9 DEGREES ABOVE NORMAL. CHILDRESS ISCURRENTLY ON A RECORD STREAK OF 36 CONSECUTIVE 100 DEGREE.DAYS…BREAKING THE OLD RECORD OF 32 DAYS SET IN 1943. THE TOTALNUMBER OF 100 DEGREE DAYS FOR THE YEAR AT CHILDRESS NOW STANDS AT 62.THROUGH JULY 27TH…ONLY 10 DAYS SHY OF BREAKING THE ALL TIME RECORD OF.71 DAYS IN 1934.http://www.srh.noaa.gov/lu​b/version.php?pil=LUBDGTLU​B&cwi=1&n=0July 30 at 2:50pmColorado Bob

LUBBOCK — Randy McGee spent $28,000 in one month pumping water onto about 500 acres in West Texas before he decided to give up irrigating 75 acres of corn and focus on other crops that stood a better chance in the drought.

He thought rain might come and save those 75 acres, but it didn’t and days of triple-digit heat sucked the remaining moisture from the soil. McGee walked recently through rows of sunbaked and stunted stalks, one of thousands of farmers counting his losses amid record heat and drought this year.

The drought has spread over much of the southern U.S., leaving Oklahoma the driest it has been since the 1930s and setting records from Louisiana to New Mexico. But the situation is especially severe in Texas, which trails only California in agricultural productivity.

Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/​story.mpl/headline/biz/767​2502.html#ixzz1Tc9EJ4jW

July 30 at 2:51pm

Colorado Bob

1110 AM CDT WED JUL 27 2011

…ALL-TIME WARMEST LOW TEMPERATURE TIED AT LUBBOCK…

THE LOW TEMPERATURE AT LUBBOCK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT FOR JULY 27THHAS ONLY BEEN 79 DEGREES. IF THE TEMPERATURE DOES NOT FALL BELOW 79THROUGH MIDNIGHT TONIGHT…WHICH IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY…THIS WILL TIETHE ALL-TIME WARMEST LOW TEMPERATURE EVER RECORDED AT LUBBOCK SET ONJULY 28TH 1966.

…JUNE 2011 WAS THE HOTTEST MONTH ON RECORD AT LUBBOCK…

…JUNE 2011 PRECIPITATION TIES DRIEST JUNE ON RECORD AT LUBBOCK…

THE AVERAGE MONTHLY TEMPERATURE FOR JUNE 2011 AT LUBBOCKINTERNATIONAL AIRPORT WAS 85.9 DEGREES. THIS NOT ONLY MAKES JUNE2011 THE HOTTEST JUNE ON RECORD…BUT ALSO MAKES JUNE 2011 THEHOTTEST MONTH EVER ON RECORD FOR LUBBOCK.

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THE PREVIOUS HOTTEST JUNE ON RECORD WAS 84.4 DEGREES IN JUNE1990…AND THE PREVIOUS HOTTEST MONTH EVER ON RECORD WAS 85.4DEGREES IN JULY 1966.

ONLY A TRACE OF PRECIPITATION FELL AT LUBBOCK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTFOR JUNE 2011. THIS TIES THE DRIEST JUNE ON RECORD…WHEN A TRACEFELL BACK IN JUNE 1990.

July 30 at 3:13pm

Paul Magnus

I think after the last 12 mths the insurance industry will not be insuring floods of any sort no more…. the cost of china, seoul, canada, US, Auz and now Japan is just going to ruin their profits for a long time.

Problem is how are they going to return to the black with ever increasing extreme events ramping up year on year? If you have investments/pensions in the insurance sector I would recommend you sift them somewhere else…. maybe gold….

July 30 at 5:22pmPaul Magnushttp://www.reuters.com/art​icle/2011/07/29/usa-weathe​r-disasters-idUSN1E76R1ZK2​0110729The United States is on a pace in 2011 to set a record for the cost of weather-related disasters and the trend is expected to worsen due to climate change, officials and scientists said on Thursday.

July 30 at 5:23pm

Paul Magnus

“…nothing is entirely ‘natural’ anymore,”

July 30 at 5:25pm

Paul Magnus

This is the sad other side to it all…..

Slow Stirrings Among Conservatives on Adaptation — Just Don’t Mention Climate Changenytimes.comTony Allender believes in climate change, but his Texan bosses are more skeptical. That disconnection might have made his job…http://tinyurl.com/3jyy6x7

July 30 at 5:28pm

Paul Magnus

wow… S. Korea landslide video…http://tinyurl.com/3ldz6hnJuly 30 at 5:45pmPaul Magnus

Amateur video of tsunami-like waves as mad floods hit South Koreahttp://www.youtube.com/wat​ch?v=UeOgKjGUerw&feature=p​layer_embedded

July 30 at 11:38pm

Colorado Bob

The New Normal : The 1,000 Year Rain Events Come Every Other Day.http://coloradobob1.newsvi​ne.com/_news/2011/07/30/72​05562-the-new-normal-the-1​000-year-rain-events-come-​every-other-day?threadId=3​186156&commentId=56522133#​c56522133July 30 at 8:31pmPaul Magnus

will they recover before the next event….

“The forecast is for the lake to be below flood level by next April.”

July 30 at 11:47pm

Paul Magnus

Even without the 1 in 1000 year events, the 1 in 10 yr events are starting to happen on a seasonal basis and are severely disrupting normality….

July 30 at 11:50pm

Paul Magnus

Farmers can not predict the seasons and the chaotic events even if they aren’t extreme are severely disrupting food supplies.

July 30 at 11:53pm

Paul Magnus

When you can’t predict the season, you can’t farmhttp://www.bclocalnews.com​/richmond_southdelta/richm​ondreview/opinion/12625776​8.html

July 30 at 11:53pm

Joan Savage

The pictures prompt me to think of what other energy extraction ventures might look like after 37 years’ abandonment like Hashima. Rust and crumble, in many cases. Toxic leachates often. The mountaintop removals and tar sands are wretchedly ugly already. These things don’t age gracefully.

July 30 at 8:48pmColorado Bob

The heavy rains also battered North Korea, causing “great damage to the people’s economy”, the official news agency said late Thursday.

According to a preliminary tally, 35,700 hectares (88,223 acres) of rice paddies were inundated, thousands of homes and hundreds of workplaces, schools and public buildings were destroyed, it said.

The south and east were the worst-hit regions, where downpours of up to 500 mm fell from Tuesday to Thursday, it said. The impoverished communist state is already suffering from serious food shortages.http://www.terradaily.com/​reports/Seoul_officials_un​der_fire_as_storm_toll_hit​s_59_999.htmlJuly 30 at 9:07pmPaul Magnus

Even after we’ve disappeared our wind farms and solar panels may still be generating electricity….

How Germany plans to succeed in a nuclear free, low-carbon economy.WRI: Germany plans to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets while it phases out nuclear power.http://www.guardian.co.uk/​environment/2011/jul/29/nu​clearpower-energySunday at 1:44amKathy Faldt

All mining CSG supporters should see these photos.

Sunday at 3:45amMarty Weirick

You don’t have to go to Japan to see abandoned coal towns. Just visit eastern Kentucky or Southern West Virginia. Take a drive, for example, from, Bramwell in Mercer County to Gary in McDowell County and count the number of abandoned houses, business, and schools.

Sunday at 5:58pmMarge Wood

So tragic. Nowadays there are novels for juveniles and young adults that remind me of this article — life after the earth no longer functions for most people, just for the super rich.

Sunday at 6:52pmAna Paulina

“Even in the face of ascending ruin, does silence speak and present itself, so well in beauty”.

Monday at 12:23amNancy LaPlaca

powerful photos…

Monday at 2:04amRichard Brenne

Hashima is a metaphor in many ways. It was abandoned like a smaller-island version of Easter Island, which was also unsustainable.

Unlike the Easter Island immense stone heads, the Japanese coal was used to portray human heads on TV by generating electricity and making things like bobble-head dolls, largely for American consumption.

Like Japan and Anthro-Earth, Hashima’s population exceeded its ability to support itself indefinitely. Maybe 50 gardeners and fishers could’ve lived sustainably on Hashima if rainwater use was maximized, or one-hundredth of the 5,000 who lived there with outside inputs. I don’t know how many Japanese could live on Japan’s Islands without external inputs, but I’m pretty sure it’s below their current 128 million in a nation smaller than California (with almost four times as many people).

So Japan has had to get resources from other nations, buying them as peacefully as any industrialized nation since WWII, but acting remarkably similar to the Nazis to take resources especially oil during and before that time.

After the U.S. and then Western Europe, Japan was the next great oil economy. Now virtually all 200 nations on Anthro-Earth either have an oil economy or desperately want one. How sustainable is that?

And if two nations only recently addicted to oil (Japan and Nazi Germany who saw that Allied oil and internal combustion engines had defeated German coal and railroads during WWI) can wreak the havoc and 50 million deaths of WWII, what havoc could nations far more powerful and far more addicted create? (If you want to find out, elect anyone on the Far Right.)

Monday at 3:03pmLisa Anderson

given the recent conversations about our ability to keep our farming land and avoid digging everything up for coal..this is a grim reminder of what we are letting nsw government politicians do…

Monday at 11:28pmLuke Barker

Boooo! How can they look at that outcome and still let it happen?

Monday at 11:50pm

Marc Smith

Spooky — this is what it will look like when we are gone!

15 hours agoLars Malmqvist

scary!

7 hours ago