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Welcome To Easter Island

Remember Easter Island? That place in the pages of National Geographic with the gigantic carved heads peeking up from grassy slopes?

Whether you recall it or not, you live there — in a manner of speaking.

Easter Island was colonized by the Rapanui, a particularly adept seafaring culture.  When they arrived, around the year 800 A.D., the island was a lush forested tropical paradise.

But eventually, according to researcher Jared Diamond in his bestseller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, they committed ecocide.

They cut down every single tree on their island. Eventually the people had no wood to burn in their cookfires. They had to resort to burning grass, a particularly inferior fuel source.

But before arriving at that sad state, the Rapanui cut numerous huge stone effigies called “moai” out of solid rock – some weighing 14 tons – sculpted them, and moved them great distances.

For whatever reason, the Rapanui tribe felt it was very important to make these giant stone heads, often at the cost of using trees as the means for transporting and erecting them.

Somewhere along the way I’m sure there were alert members of their society quietly wondering if maybe they should instead start protecting their dwindling groves and forests?

It’s tough to be “that person” who concludes that your culture is up to something completely non-sensical.  It’s tough to open up and call that stuff out — because most people don’t see the problem themselves, and can feel attacked if you bring it up.

In this story of Easter Island, the production of the gigantic stone moai were deemed more important than every tree on the island.    Hey, maybe that was the right call – I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But whether it made sense or not, it wasn’t a sustainable practice.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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