Mysterious Island-Easter Island
The Easter Island is one of the most isolated and most mysterious places of the Earth. The island tells fascinating stories which describe humanity as a whole. From these islanders we can learn the survival nature of human beings and their development over time.
Easter Island was ‘discovered’ on Easter day by Dutch exploration expedition led by Jacob Roggeveen in 1722 (1). Isolated 4.000km on the Pacific Ocean, on the small volcano island, the expedition found a civilization numbering over 10.000 inhabitants. This number of population exceeded the capacity of the island’s ecosystem. Gradually, the inhabitants faced a problem of limited natural resources. Evidence proves that the people were using the island’s resources without thinking of the future generations. There were faced with the problem of essential survival. Firstly, they used the forestation for food and building canoes. They used the flora and fauna non-sustainably which later caused losing all they had. When the forest was gone (including their food), they had to turn to cannibalism for survivor. The islander’s contact with the ‘Western’ world led to even more disastrous future for the population decline. They were disposed do numerous diseases and slavery (2).
The identity of these islanders dates back from Polynesians. This ethnicity has a strong distinctiveness and has managed to keep it over times from colonialism. Chile, the closest ‘urban’ civilization claimed the island, but however, the Polynesians have maintained their tradition, which today rests as a tourist attraction. The most fascinating part of the Polynesian culture is the stone-heads built centuries ago. There are 887 statues discovered on the island, among which only few of them are placed on their intended destination. It is assumed that the Polynesians were manually caring the sculptures from the top of the volcano to the bottom, close to the ocean (3).
Easter Island Statues I Easter Island Statues II
Source (4) Source (5)
Short Story about the Easter Islanders
Today, the Easter Island, a 64 square-miles large island, which locals call Rapa Nui (meaning Big Island), remains on the top-traveling list of many tourists. It is rich with hotels, museum and amazing landscape with volcanic craters, lava formations, beaches, beautiful blue water and archeological sites (2). Furthermore, today Rapa Nui is home of 2.000 Polynesians. They have Chilean citizenship and most of them have moved to Chile for educational and professional opportunities. The Polynesian culture has been modernized and the islanders have the highest consumption of cigarettes and beer. The island has an airport which is reachable only through Chile, but doesn’t offer good hotels and nightlife. The main mean of Easter Islander’s survival are the archeological and touristic attractions and the trade with Chile (5).
Easter Islander today
Unfortunately, many Polynesian islands, including the Island of Tikopia shared the same destiny as the Easter Island.
The Island of Tikopia is a very small volcanic island located in the southwest part of the Pacific Ocean. Similar to the Easter Islanders, the Tikopians faced the problem of extermination due to lack of natural resources. Through their history we can notice the gradual diet change and adaptation to the scarce resources. Firstly, their diet included pigs, fruits and bats, but later they killed all pigs because they were consuming much of the food humans could eat, so they focused their economy on fishing and agriculture (6). However, in comparison to the Easter Island, the Tikopians managed to create a better sustainability plan and their ethnicity didn’t ‘vanish’ entirely. The lack of resources influenced on the population decline, but not total extermination.
People of Tikopia Dancing
According to Jared Diamond, environmental and cultural factors played the biggest role in Tikopian’s extermination. Among the environmental factors, rainfall was one of the most important. With deforestation, rainfalls decreased and the land was slowly drying out, making it non fertile for crops. In order to stop deforestation, the Tikopians focused more on agriculture. Making it part of their Tikopian culture, the islanders made tree orchards where they conserved food (Diamond, 396) (7).
In comparison with the past where the island was home of a population of thousands, today it maintains only 1.200 villagers. The islanders hold strongly their Polynesian identity and resist western imposition (11).
Easter Island’s and Tikopia’s stories should teach us that nothing lasts forever. These isolated islands, laying in the ‘middle-of-nowhere’ in the Pacific Ocean were left on their own to sustain their resources. However, the desire for survivor makes people try any means possible to stay alive. Following from the Easter Island’s story, when all the flora and fauna was gone, people eat each other. They considered cannibalism as a life-resource just to survive.
The reason why the Easter Islanders and the Tikopians didn’t share the same end of their destinies is because of their different approach of sustainability.
The Easter Islanders didn’t take in great consideration the ‘tomorrows’. It is a fact that their resources were scare, but they didn’t try to make up a sustainable plan. Personally, I believe they lacked communal organization. We can use the Easter Island’s story as a parabola for our World. As the Easter Island, the Earth is isolated in the Universe and sooner or later, all of us will be facing the same problem of non-sustainability as the Easter-Islanders (Diamond, 395)(7). Nowadays, most of the people are not concerned about losing the natural resources because the supermarkets are full, the gas stations always have gas, and the heating always works. However, firstly, not everyone can enjoy these commodities and secondly, eventually, we will wake up one day and the stores will be empty, the gas stations will be closed. When this day comes, it will be too late to feel concerned about the environment. To avoid this situation, we have to make a sustainable resource plan from now.
On the other side, the Tikopians organized themselves better-they build tree orchards where they preserved food. They knew they were facing starvation, but they still tried to solve the problem. The tree orchards idea was the best solution available. Because of their effort and social work, the Tikopians managed to survive. However, we have to take in to consideration the fact that the environment had a big influence as well. Tikopia Island has much higher altitude then the Easter Island, which means that the Tikopians had more rain than the Easter Islanders (Diamond, 396)(7). The environment is another reason why the Tikopians were luckier to survive.
In conclusion, the two stories of Easter Island and the Tikopia Island have to be considered as an example for whole of humanity. We have to be aware of the fact that the population is growing drastically every day. There are more than 200.000 people being born every day (12), whereas natural resources are limited and their recreation takes much longer time than one day. We have to create a greater future sustainability in our economies and environments. We have to act more cautiously in regarding to the environment and we have to take responsibilities for our actions.
(1) “First Contact with Easter Island.” Travel, Technology and Reviews. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.apj.co.uk/rapanui_primer/primer_first_contact.asp>.
(2) ” Brookman, David Y. “Easter Island Home Page.” PAETEC. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.netaxs.com/~trance/rapanui.html>.
(3) “The Mystery of Easter Island.” Welcome to QSL.NET :: Web Services for Ham Radio Operators. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.qsl.net/w5www/easterisland.html>.
(4) Tecza, Maciej. (25.02.2008). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/South_America/Chile/Central_Valley/Valparaiso/Easter_Island/photo863017.htm
(5) Clark, Jayne. “Easter Island Looks to the Future.” http://www.usatoday.com/. 1 Apr. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2007-01-04-easter-island_x.htm>.
(6) “History and Cultural Relations – Tikopia.” Countries and Their Cultures. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://www.everyculture.com/Oceania/Tikopia-History-and-Cultural-Relations.html>.
(7) Diamond, Jared. (May 22-24, 2000). Ecological Collapse of Pre-industrial Societies. Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Diamond_01.pdf
(8) Tecza, Maciej. (25.02.2008). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/South_America/Chile/Central_Valley/Valparaiso/Easter_Island/photo873606.htm
(9) BBC. “Easter Island” (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsiWMw4rfw4
(10) SuperStock. “A village tour, dances and performances by the people of Tikopia Island, Solomon Islands”.(n.d). Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.superstock.com/stock-photography/Tikopia+Island
(11) “Tikopia.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Feb. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikopia>.
(12) Withgott, Jay, Scott Brennan. (2009). Essential Environment; The Science behind the Story. Third Edition. San Francisco. Pearson Education, Inc.