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Australia has a tiny population relative to its landmass. While it's rich in extractive resources (mining, minerals) from which much of its present wealth derives, it lacks both water and fertile land for agricultural production.

This itself is interesting: because Australia is an island continent, with few or no internal volcanoes or rift zones, the land is, literally, ancient, with many nutrients vital for ag production missing (one estimate I saw was that seeding land with an infinitesimal amount of iron would greatly increase production). Much productivity is due to windblown dust from the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia. Even where irrigation is possible, evaporation causes accumulation of salts which degrade ag values. The first settlements in Sydney very nearly starved due to difficulties in producing sufficient food.




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