The Fate Of Easter Island

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by Robdavhar
Last updated 5 years ago

Discipline:
Science
Subject:
Ecosystems

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The Fate Of Easter Island

Even though most people won’t realise it, Easter Island is very much like the world compressed into one single island. When the Polynesians discovered Rapa Nui, the land was fertile and was vegetated by Giant Palms. Birds lived on the island and sea life occupied the surrounding ocean. Over the 100s of years that the Polynesians lived on Easter Island, their way of using the environment turned into abuse. The birds and sea life that inhabited the island and its waters were hunted to the point where there were none left in that area. The giant Palms were all chopped down to use for their wood and to move the Moai. In effect, the abuse of the Easter Islanders own world is the same as our world. Deforestation, extinction of native species, war, lack of use of renewable resources and many other problems are continuing issues in our society. If these issues continue, Easter Island is a look into the fate of our own world. But if action is taken which is already happening in some areas, we can prevent that fate. Overall, we as humans need to learn to live in harmony with each other and the environment around us.

A Dutch Admiral Navigator Jacob Roggeveen went to Easter Island on (April 5) 1722. He estimated that the population was about 8000 people. He observed that the statues were standing on the coastal areas, but his drawings don’t show coral eyes.He saw grassland with no tree or bush over ten feet high.There was no species of land bird, land snail, native bat or lizard and the only domestic animal was a chicken.Captain James Cook also visited this island in 1774 and recognized that the islanders were Polynesians (a Tahitian man accompanying Cook was able to converse with him and other foreigners who visited the island). The islanders were great seafaring people and rightfully deserved fame but the ones in Cooks ship did so by swimming or paddling canoes that were made from manifold small planks and light inner timbers, he described them as bad and frail, they would have been built from Easter Island trees.Roggeveen himself recognised quickly a problem that the statues posed. He wrote “The stone images at first caused us to be struck with astonishment because we could not comprehend how it was possible that these people, who are devoid of heavy thick timber for making any machines, as well as strong ropes, nevertheless had been able to erect such images.”The statues imply a very different society than the oneRoggeveen saw in 1722. Easter Island would have been highly organised because there resources were scattered across the island. The low number and size suggests that the population was roughly around 2000 people. What led to the decline and what became of everyone there?Eventually Easter islands fast growing population was cutting the forest more rapidly than it was regenerating. The wood was used by people for canoes, fuel, houses and lugging statues, the land would have been used for gardening.  As forest disappeared, islanders started to run out of rope and timber to transport and erect statues (moai). There was notwood for fires and streams and springs dried up so water became sparse.There was not enough food as land bird, big sea snail and a many seabirds disappeared.  The timber for catching fish vanished so the islanders started to starve. To make matters worse the crop yield declined because deforestation caused the soil to be eroded by the rain.The society collapsed and gradually got worse until in 1700 the population was one-fourth to one- tenth of what it once was.We wonder why there society crashed and why our modern society hasn’t already but we have many things to learn from Easter islanders so we will try not make the same mistakes as they did in the past.

The Moai and the Ahu caused the destruction of several different resources, such as stone and wood. The Easter islanders were so obsessed with these Moai that they cut down all the trees on the island just to build them as the tools used to carve the Moai and Ahu would have wooden components.

The Polynesians that lived on Easter Island were so isolated from the rest of the world that their immune systems gradually became weaker and weaker due to hardly any sickness and bacteria. When their small island was discovered by Jacob Roggeveen in 1722, the isolation of Easter Island and its people was largely broken by the explorers. Connection with diseases from the rest of the world was one of the results and due to the Polynesians low immune level, there was nothing to stop the diseases from plaguing the island. In the early 1860s CE, Peru took between 1000 to 2000 men and women from Easter Island. After a public outcry, the Peru government sent back the Polynesians but on the way, a plague of Smallpox broke out. 90% of the Polynesians on the boats died and the 15 that were left were returned to Easter Island, only to spread the plague further. Easter Island suffered a huge death toll and by 1872 CE, there were only 111 islanders left. As a disease, Smallpox has been plaguing the world for thousands of years. Even the Roman Empire was left devastated by Smallpox and considering statistics that 30% of infected people die from it, it just goes to show how low the Easter Islanders immune systems were. Today Smallpox is not such an issue with the last break out back in the 1960s CE. Vaccinies have been discovered for immunization against Smallpox so it is no longer a major threat.

Bibliography: Accessed 21.10.2014, History of Vaccines: Smallpox. www.historyofvaccines.org/timlines/smallpox Accessed 21.10.2014, News Medical: Smallpox History. www.news-medical.net/health/Smallpox-History.aspx Accessed 21.10.2014, Bradshaw Foundation: Easter Island - The Statues and Rock Art of Rapa Nui. http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/easter/sentinels_in_stone3.phpAccessed 28.10.2014, Discover Magazine: Easter's End. http://discover magazine.com/1995/aug/eastersend543Accessed 29.10.2014, Inventory of Conflict and Environment (ICE): Inventory of Conflict and Environment. http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/easter-island.htm

The Fate of Easter Island

As trees and food got scarce the clans resorted to attacking each other and robbing them for food. All the clans lived in seclusion from one another from then on. Towards the end of Easter Islands life the clans would have definitely disliked each other as they were pushing over the other clans Moai and destroying them

By Harry, Robert and David


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