Was it ecocide? The collapse of the mini-civilization on Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has long been considered one of the great Green morality tales. Once the people there cut down the last tree, story goes, they were doomed. Their famous statues were an arms race that completed the exhaustion of their all-too-finite resources. Moral of the story: Easter Island equals Earth Island: we must not repeat its tragedy with the planet.
It’s a satisfying tale, but apparently wrong. The reality is far more interesting.
In fact the lesson of Rapa Nui is how to get ecological caretaking right, not wrong. Its people appear to have worked out an astutely delicate relationship to each other and to the austere ecology of their tiny island and its poor soil. They were never violent. The astonishing statues appear to have been an inherent part of how they managed population and ecological balance on their desert island. (Their method of moving the huge statues was clever and surprisingly easy—they walked them upright. See the amazing demonstration video!) The famous collapse came from a familiar external source—European diseases and enslavement, the same as everywhere else in the Americas and the Pacific.
All this is in a thoroughly persuasive book by an archaeologist and an anthropologist who did extensive fieldwork and historical study on Easter Island— THE STATUES THAT WALKED: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island, by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. The authors present their case live in January’s SALT talk.
Seminar hosted by Stewart Brand
Advance Tickets Recommended - Tickets are $10
Long Now Members get complimentary tickets
There will be a reception at The Long Now Museum & Store following the Seminar
Long Now Seminar Podcasts
About the Series:
The Seminars About Long-term Thinking were started in 02003 to build a coherent, compelling body of ideas about long-term thinking, to help nudge civilization toward Long Now's goal of making long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare.