Tuesday, April 18, 2006

# Thoughts on Easter Island

(Photo from www.zeigermann.com)

This is a rather small post, for it is just a few scribbles of thoughts. Panda's comment in Stonehenge post about Rapa Nui reminded me about the downfall of the civilisation on the island, and the destruction of the Easter Island.

From the original lush green vegetation to the dry empty land, how could this happen? I am sure that the people are aware the depletion of the resources as the activities of deforestation goes on. I have heard before that the island is so small that one could stand on top of the mountain and see every corner of the island. But why have they not done anything to preserve the rescources before none was left?

As the resources continued to diminish, the dominoes effect comes in. The Islanders are trapped in a self-inflicted environmental collapse. With no trees, no boats can be built, hence they were cut off from the outside world. No more erection of the moai, hence the collapse of the belief systems, then social organisation. Then the meaningless destruction of the ahu among opposite clans, then war, then...

This looks familiar! Well, we do see them even in today's world! Look at how human consume the resources in the world, and we will know Easter Island has just provided a model of what-could-have-been. The set-up of the model is strikingly similar to the world we live in now - limited resources, unlimited wants. Throughout the years of human history, people have found ways and means to extract resrouces to sustain population growth. Yet, have we devised a system that actually conserve the environment and preserve the resources? Have we found a way of living that does not irreversibly damage our life support system?

In the Easter Island history, we saw the ugly nature of human of fighting for survival, and a scarier thought is that human has not even remorsed even until the final fatal end of the civilisation. If this is how human act, this would be a very scary reflection on today's society. In every aspect of our life, have we gone too beyond the turning point? Do we still carry out acts of destruction though we are well aware of the consequences? Do we ignore the warning signs and hope silently that the comeuppance will not fall on us, but on OTHER people?

Unfortunately, in most of the times, we do. And I am not speaking onlt in environmental terms. Major decisions in all fields - politics, economics, society, humanity... Have we not come upon some hauntingly familiar scenarios? Do we learn? Do we take different action?

Let's pray for a better tomorrow.

... ... ... ...

Okay, I should stop rambling before I go into a rattling mode.

Quote of the day:
"If we forgive God for his crime against us, which is to have made us finite creatures, he will forgive our crime against him, which is that we are finite creatures." - Simone Weil (1909-1943), French philosopher.


Pandabonium said...

There are several island nations that demonstrate man's ability to destroy his own habitat. Besides Rapa Nui, there are Manga Reva and Nauru, which has been turned into one large nearly unihabitable nitrate mine.

There are also civilisations throughout history which have collapsed through ecological destabilizing - often deforesting. Sumeria, Greece, the Roman Empire, the Anasazi, Maya, Mali and Songhai all come to mind.

We're mighty smug if we think it can't happen to us. We may have already done it to modern civilization and still refuse to face it. Problem now is that civilization is global, and global climate change, pollution, resource depletion (water, oil) effect everyone, not just one country. Belief in technology and engineering has become a religion in which we seem to have boundless faith to rescue us from our every blunder.

And the band plays on.

Sorry for going on. Time for my 12 step program: "And on and on and on Anon".

Great music by the way. I love looking at pictures of those Moai staring out to sea.

YD said...

Thanks panda.

Effects on the rise and fall in islands are more visible as the scope of the model is restricted by the geographical characteristics - being an island impose some limitations on the resources.

For each time you mentioned the empires, it caused a flinch in the heart. It pains me to see these great empires fell in such a starkingly similar patterns, and yet human has not learned from the past. Maya, for one, is one of which I haven't even read in my history textbook, but only came across in games and documentaries. If it is even forgotten in textbooks, how can people look back at history and learn from it?

The music currently playing is a soundtrack from "Spirited Away". I enjoy all the songs in it. Glad you enjoyed it too.

Pandabonium said...

The Maya example is the least clear. There are several possible explanations for the collapse of the empire. A leading one is that they over developed the agriculture, cutting too deeply into the savanna so when draught came, there was nothing left to sustain them.

In any case, our species has not demonstrated much ability to learn from history nor to face problems even when they are seen coming for a long period of time.

Spirited Away. I didn't recognize it. Nice. I like that film. We have it in both the American English version and Japanese (with subtitles available).

YD said...

I recently got a bargain price of the dvd of the movie for 5 pounds. Squealed with joy when I found it on the rack with the slashed price. :-)

YD said...

Thanks panda for bringing up the topics of the forgotten islands. Here is a link that tell the stories of Mangareva

Many stories exhibited the characteristics of altruism. A very interesting culture.

I would be delighted if anyone can share more local stories of these forgotten ones.

Pandabonium said...

Good link, YD, thanks. I'll have to download those stories for future reference.

Check out Peceli and Wendy's Blog "Babasiga". Peceli grew up in Fiji, was a Methodist minister there, and sometimes posts stories about their local history. You might ask him for more. ;^)

Peceli and Wendy's blog said...

Ha ha! So that's how you found our 'Babasiga' blog tau (friend)!
The discussion on the disintegration at Easter Island and the Maya and others is such a learning point for us. I saw something about the Mayans this week on television and the theory is that they became overpopulated and exhausted their food supply. We are doing the same to Mother Earth today. The lesson hasn't been learned yet.