Easter Island – An Environmental Disaster

Easter Island

Easter Island in the South Pacific has an interesting story. The Rapa Nui, the inhabitants of the island, came from nearby pacific islands in canoes between 700 and 1100 AD and quickly the population rose to 15,000. It became a vibrant community which, because of the booming population, needed more resources. These resources came from the island itself and were depleted rapidly. By 1722 when the Europeans arrived, the population had fallen to only 2,000 due to deforestation and over-exploitation of the island’s resources.

Captain Cook was one of the European explorers who visited the island however it was the Dutch who arrived first on Easter Sunday 1722 and hence the island became known as Easter Island. The Europeans who visited at this time reported on the island’s ruin due to the overuse of resources and even stated that the indigenous population had turned to cannibalism as a result. The Rapa Nui have always denied this.

In the 1860s, Peruvian slave raiders captured 1,500 people and then an outbreak of disease swept through Easter Island so that by the 1870s, the population stood at only 111 leaving an entire island practically abandoned.

Easter Island is still home to the Moai, 887 monumental giant heads that lie scattered across the island. The Rapa Nui account for about 60% of the current population of 5,800. The island is now part of Chile and enjoys a certain level of autonomy. Its airport, Mataveri International Airport, is officially the world’s most remote and welcomes large numbers of tourists to see the Moai statues.

The following is an extract from http://www.mysteriousplaces.com/Easter_Island

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.

Location: Easter Island, South Pacific

Category: Island

Abandoned: 1870s

Easter Island is now part of Chile

Easter Island was decimated by deforestation

The giant heads on Easter Island

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