Deforestation of Easter Island
Jared Diamond on ted.com talks about why societies collapse. He uses a five point checklist to analyze a society’s collapse. The first item on his check list is ‘How did the society, either intentionally or unintentionally, affected the environment.’ Examples of this would be over-planting the soil or destroying the major resources of the people. I am going to use Diamond’s checklist to analyze the collapse of the Easter Island society.
The people of Easter Island, the Rapanui, caused major deforestation on their island. Only a few trees at the bottom of an extinct volcano survived . This meant they could only make their tools from bone and rock, which was very limiting. They were also required to make grass huts rather than a much more sturdy lumber shelter. The deforestation also limited the population of the island. As the population grew, the need for lumber in the form of fire wood for heat and cooking grew as well. The Rapanui were unable to make canoes which limited their expansion and their abilities to fish. One of the reasons the Rapanui became extinct was their deforestation of Easter Island, which limited their ability to sustain themselves, to expand their population, and their ability to migrate to new locations.
Writen by Chris Graman for History Solon
* ”The Lessons of Easter Island.” eco-action org - ecological direct action. http://www.eco-action.org/dt/eisland.html (accessed September 10, 2011).
* “Jared Diamond on why societies collapse.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jared_diamond_on_why_societies_collapse.html
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