Economics, Food Shortages, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor September 24, 2008
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Easter Island has long been looked upon as an historical looking glass, through which we can observe the implications of continued environmental destruction to our planet – the larger island floating in a sea of black. The cries of a people that could clearly see destruction coming, but did little or nothing about it, come hauntingly down to us here in this new millenium. With startling clarity they teach us what happens when immediacy takes precedence over future needs.
If you have a moment to take a trip to another time and place, check out some of the material and links here. No need to dream of going to Easter Island though, as, in many ways, you’re already there….
A jewel of an island floating in an endless sea. A seemingly never-ending supply of raw materials. Technological advances. Population growth. Depletion of resources. War. Collapse. Sound familiar? The Easter Island story is a story for our times. We too are on an island floating on an endless sea. There are differences, of course. It could be said that Easter Island is tiny and that it was only a matter of time before the resources in such a closed system were used up. But there are parallels between the islanders’ attitude towards their environment and our own, and this is the most frightening part of the story.
On an island as small as Easter, it was easy to see the effects of the deforestation as it was taking place. But the inhabitants continued their destructive actions. They probably prayed to their gods to replenish the land so they could continue to rape it, but the gods didn’t answer. And still the trees came down. Whatever one did to alter that ecosystem, the results were reasonably predictable. One could stand on the summit and see almost every point on the island. The person who felled the last tree could see that it was the last tree. Nonetheless, he (or she) still felled it.* This is the really scary part. As our own forests fall to the bulldozers, there are many who are valiantly trying to save them. It is obvious, now that we have satellites showing us the massive deforestation, that there is a serious problem. And yet our leaders — and even the majority of individuals — look on, unconcerned. They appear willing to bulldoze the last trees to build the moai of our time — technology & development. Will we have the sense to reconcile our lifestyles with the well-being of our environment, or is the human personality always the same — as that of the person who felled the last tree?* – Easter Island
News reports of today parallel the ‘news in brief’ painted on cave walls in dark days at Easter Island in the midst of crisis centuries ago:
Our ‘Easter Island’
A report, scheduled to be published on Monday but distributed to some reporters yesterday, said issues usually associated with the environment — like rising ocean levels, droughts and violent weather caused by global warming — were also national security concerns.
“Unlike the problems that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable,” Richard J. Truly, a retired United States Navy vice admiral and former NASA administrator, said in the report.
The effects of global warming, the study said, could lead to large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water. All could lead to direct involvement by the United States military. – New York Times