Whenever I meet the names of these islands I refer to them as the two possible scale models of our planet. The controversial outcomes of the existing civilizations on the islands can provide extremely beneficial lessons to us. Therefore, we must learn from those lessons and realize that depending on the kind of human-environment relationships we can make crucial differences in the future of our biggest Island: the Earth, which is isolated in the universe.
Easter Island is considered the most isolated island in the world(1). This is a short video about Easter island.
Nowadays Easter Island or Rapa Nui has approximately 2000 inhabitants and is considered a part of Chile. It occupies a territory of 67 square miles and has a mild climate. Grass, shrubs and hills are dominant in the area of Easter Island and most of the tree species that existed many years ago are now extinct. Although the majority of the people speak Spanish, there are some of them who speak their native language: Rapa Nui. The establishment of the airport resulted in development of some small businesses as well as construction of some hotels. However, the field that is very prosperous nowadays is tourism as Easter Island drags the attention of countless tourists who want to face the experience of the mysterious islands and its giant statues (3). Here are some pictures representing Easter Island:
Another example of existing civilization on an isolated island, which however succeeded to flourish and managed to overcome the difficulties and prevent the tragic outcomes by direct actions, is the island Tikopia. The inhabitants of this island replaced their native trees by orchards and killed all the pigs on the island to decrease their environmental pressure. Moreover, they made some decisions such as suicides and abortion in order to avoid the problem of over-population.(6) Here are some pictures of the island Tikopia:
Discussing the reasons of the different fates of Easter Island and Tikopia I would like to mention that it can’t be a single cause and effect thing. There are some more complicated factors that contributed to the outcomes. Diamond stated that the set of particular environmental and cultural impacts could influence the results. He gave an example of rainfall claiming that on low islands such as the Easter Island the probability of deforestation is higher. At the same time he mentioned that the population of some islands made particular decisions in order to reduce deforestation(9).A major characteristic that I noticed while reading about the two islands was the presence of collective-decision-making in Tikopia. Some of those examples can be the decisions of the replacement of native trees and the killing of pigs.
Taking into consideration all the above mentioned reasons and examples I came to a conclusion that the ignorance of practicing sustainability on the Easter Island played a crucial role in the rapid collapse of the society. I am not sure about the situational awareness of the inhabitants of Easter Island; as a matter of fact it doesn’t make any difference in concluding that the human impact on the environment can have extremely contradicting outcomes depending on the involvement of sustainable behaviour. And the fact that nowadays we realize that we entirely depend on our earthly resources and comprehend the catastrophic potential of our inconsiderable use of natural resources makes our responsibility even greater. However there is an immense advantage that I encountered we have compared to the people living on Easter Island. We have the possibility of learning from their mistakes. Moreover, the example of Tikopia proved that the environmental and societal crush isn’t inevitable. The wrong human actions of Easter Island resulted in environmental disaster which led to social and economic collapse. However, the right actions on Tikopia ended with stabile and peaceful civilization. We have to choose which path we are going to take.
1) Duda, Jr., Franklin, T., & Taehwan, L. (2009). Isolation and population divergence of a widespread Indo-West Pacific marine gastropod at Easter Island. Marine Biology, 156.6 , 1193-1202. Retrieved February 22, 2011, from the Academic Search Premier. EBSCO database.
2) National Geographic. “End of Easter Island”( June 01, 2009).Retrieved Feb 22,2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfbQA-Krx9Q
3) Waldron, S. (n.d.). Travel, Technology and Reviews. Travel, Technology and Reviews. Retrieved February 22, 2011, from http://www.apj.co.uk
4) Parker, Ian. “Tahai – Moonset silhouette”. N.d. Retrieved 22 Feb,2011 from http://parkerlab.bio.uci.edu/pictures/photography%20pictures/tahai_eyes%20moonset%20sillhouette.jpg
5)Earth Observatory. “Easter Island (Rapa Nui)”. N.d. Retrieved 22 Feb. 2011 from http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=5366
6) Crowdy, J., & Erickson, J. (2000, August). Resource Use, Institutions, and Sustainability: A Tale of Two Pacific Island Cultures. Land Economics, 76, No. 3 , 345-354 . Retrieved February 21, 2011, from the JSTOR database.
7) Mackley,Geoff. “Tikopia Island after cyclone Zoe”.N.d. Retrieved 22 Feb. 2011 from http://www.atomvoyages.com/articles/tikopia.htm
8 ) Mackley,Geoff. “Tikopia”.N.d. Retrieved 22 Feb. 2011 from http://www.atomvoyages.com/articles/tikopia.htm
9)Diamond, Jared. (2000). Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies. Retrieved February 22, 2011 from http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Diamond_01.pdf
10)Natural Patriot.Nd.Nd.Retrieved 22 Feb.2011 from http://naturalpatriot.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/earth-hands.jpg