How Deforestation Caused Easter Island’s Society to Collapse
2012 06 08

By Lisa Hossler | EnvironmentalGraffiti.com


When the Polynesians first settled Easter Island as late as 1200 C.E., it was a sub-tropical piece of land covered with millions of palm trees. Five hundred years later, when the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen came upon the island, there were no trees over 10 feet tall. The landscape was instead dominated by tall stone heads, known as Moai. Scattered across the island, the largest of these were up to 65 feet tall and weighed around 270 tons. Yet the island people the European arrivals found were emaciated and lacked an organized society. How could these people have constructed and transported such large objects?

The first setters on Easter Island found an island full of nesting seabirds and land birds. The soil, although low in nutrients, was good for growing the yams, sweet potatoes and other crops the people had brought with them. But it was the trees that were perhaps the most valuable resource for their society. The trees supplied fruit for the birds – both of which the humans ate – plus bark, used as a material for their clothing, and thatch for their roofs. The people also used the trees for building canoes and harpoons, which in turn helped them to hunt porpoises, their main source of food. What’s more, the trees supplied log rollers, sleds or levers, and rope made from fibers, all of which the islanders used to move and erect the hundreds of Moai heads for which Easter Island is now famous.

As well as bringing crops to cultivate, the early settlers developed systems of government and religion on Easter Island. They thrived for several centuries, yet their need for trees outpaced the ability of the forest to renew itself (with rats eating the trees’ seeds another possible contributing factor to the deforestation). Without the large palm trees, the islanders were unable to build their canoes and so eventually lost their main source of food. This forced them to focus their diet more on mollusks and birds, the latter of which soon also disappeared. With the land birds extinct and migratory bird numbers severely reduced, gone were the trees’ means of dispersing pollen and seeds.

[...]


Read the full article at: environmentalgraffiti.com




Related Articles
Easter Island archaeology project digs up island’s bodies
Easter Island Heads: Body excavation continues
The mystery of Easter Island endures amid debate


Latest News from our Front Page

Whistleblower: Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring
2014 07 29
Margaret Thatcher was told about alleged sex parties with under-age boys held by one of her closest aides claims her former personal bodyguard. Barry Strevens, who worked as the prime minister’s personal bodyguard, said that he passed on allegations about her confidant Sir Peter Morrison. The former senior police officer said that Lady Thatcher appointed Sir Peter deputy party chairman of the ...
The Absurd, Bureaucratic Hell That Is the American Police State
2014 07 29
“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet ...
Australian Government Pushing ‘Internet Tax’ To Pay For NSA Style Spying
2014 07 29
Forcing private companies to become mass surveillance hubs The Australian government is pushing to implement a ”surveillance tax” on the people of the country in order to pay for a mandate that would see communications companies retaining data on customers for two years. In a disturbing development that should serve as a warning to Americans, the Australian Attorney-General admitted that the surveillance ...
Japanese leader proposes first-ever ’Robot Olympics’
2014 07 29
Nations of the world will be sending their most talented athletes to Tokyo in 2020 for the Olympic Games – but if Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gets his way, they might also be pitting robots against each other. Abe announced his vision while touring robotics factories in Tokyo and Saitama, which is located just north of the country’s capital. According ...
Israel Student Union Set Up “War Room” to Sell Gaza Massacre on Facebook
2014 07 29
This article was published on July 14, 2014. The death toll in Gaza as of today, July 23, 2014, reaches 678 according to Al-Akhbar. Students at the IDC Herzliya “war room,” seen here in a screenshot, focus on posting propaganda justifying Israel’s attack on Gaza on Facebook. As the death toll from Israel’s savage bombardment of Gaza continues to climb, Israel has ...
More News »