Rapa Nui

May 28, 2005

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The Easter Islanders' isolation probably also explains why I have found that their collapse, more than the collapse of any other pre-industrial society, haunts my readers and students. The parallels between Easter Island and the whole modern world are chillingly obvious. Thanks to globalization, international trade, jet planes, and the Internet, all countries on Earth today share resources and effect each other, just as did Easter's dozen clans. Polynesian Easter Island was as isolated in the Pacific Ocean as the Earth is today in space. When the Easter Islanders got into difficulties, there was nowhere to which they could flee, nor to which they could turn for help; nor shall we modern Earthlings have recourse elsewhere if our troubles increase. Those are the reasons why people see the collapse of Easter Island society as a metaphor, a worst-case scenario, for what may lie ahead for us in our own future.

Jared Diamond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel – one of the most fascinating books I have ever read –, in Collapse draws an analogy between the almost complete implosion of Easter Island society in the 1400s that dragged the island's twelve clans into a constant state of war with one another, eventually reducing the population from 15,000 - 20,000 to 2,000, due to the Polynesians' unwitting over-exploitation of that tiny, isolated island's extremely fragile resources, and what we ourselves may face within our own lifetime.

posted by GreyGuy on 28.5.05 | Permalink |

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