Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Island

Rapa Nui a.k.a. Easter Island was reached by the first Europeans on Easter Sunday, 1722.  The first footage of Rapa Nui I saw was from surf documentaries I watched with my brother, as there are huuuge waves off the coast of the island.  But another doc, called "180 degrees South" that I caught on Netflix brought another aspect of the island into my consciousness.

Moai statues assembled on Rapa Nui
Among the things that led to the downfall of the original Rapa Nui civilization was environmental degradation, specifically, deforestation.  In order to erect all their huge symbolic statues, they cut down their forests in an unsustainable manner and after centuries their forests were disappearing and things like fishing fell by the wayside because they were strapped for lumber.  Other things like  Europeans, disease, and slave raiders helped erode their civilization, but this is still a perfect microcosmic example of what we humans today are doing now on a global level--ignorantly using up our world's precious resources of air, water, and forests.

You'd think, oh, didn't the Rapa Nuians see that they were diminishing their forests--why didn't they just slow down?  And we too, as a global populous, are cutting down  majestic tracks of forest to make way for Agribusiness, erecting factories to burn carbon that's hundreds of millions of years old, and digging up mountains to get more of it.  Sure, I myself am not doing these things, but the 20 year old girls in ancient Rapa Nui  probably weren't cutting down the trees themselves either.  Today, and every day, we all need to take responsibility and engage in conversations about how important our environment is to us with each other and with our national and world leaders.

We don't need to shame each other into changing our ways--it's obviously a "natural" handicap of our species to do this type of thing since it is universal across ancient and present-day civilizations of all sizes and from diverse geographic areas.  The first step is admitting we have a problem that we can fix.  That was done decades ago, but we have not been following a plan!  This generation needs to accept  that we, as well as all the generations before us, suffer from short-sightedness and err on the side of convenience.  We can work out solutions that make us collectively behave less selfishly and more intelligently.  We need to get the whole world to believe that we can become much more efficient, much more responsible, and much less dependent on corrupting the environment we depend on.

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