RAPA NUI, an almost tree-free volcanic outcrop of 170 square kilometers, is the most isolated piece of land in the world. * The entire island is now a historical monument, partly because of its stone statues called moai. They are the work of a civilization that was once alive.
Some moai carved out of volcanic rock are buried so deep that only their huge heads are visible. In other cases, the torso is off the ground and some moai still use a stone bun called a pukao. Most remain unfinished in quarries or scattered around old roads, like workers simply throwing away their tools and stopping to work. The standing ones range from individual statues to rows of up to 15, each with their backs to the sea. It is understandable that the moai have long confused visitors.
In recent years science has begun to understand not only the mystery of the moai, but the mystery of the death of the once prosperous civilization that built it. It is significant that the events revealed are of more than historical value. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, they offer "an important lesson for the modern world".
This lesson concerns the management of the land, especially its natural resources. Of course, the country is much more complex and biologically diverse than a small island, but that doesn't mean we should ignore Rapa Nui's lesson. Let's look at some of the highlights of Rapa Nui history. Our story begins around AD 400 when the founding families arrived in their ocean canoes. The only eyes that looked were those of hundreds of seabirds soaring overhead.
An island paradise
The island did not have a great diversity of plants, but was well endowed with palm, Hauhau and Toromiro forests as well as shrubs, grasses, ferns and grasses. At least six species of land birds thrive in this remote region, including owls, herons, trails, and parrots. Rapa Nui was also "the richest seabird breeding ground in Polynesia and possibly the entire Pacific," explains Discover magazine.
The settlers may have brought chickens and edible rats to the island, which they considered a delicacy. They also brought crops: taro, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas and sugar cane. The soil was good so they immediately began cleaning and planting, a process that continued as the population grew. But Rapa Nui had a limited area and, although it was well forested, a limited number of trees.
The story of Rapa Nui
What we know about the history of Rapa Nui is mainly based on three areas of research: pollen analysis, archeology and paleontology. In pollen tests, pollen samples are taken from sediments in ponds and swamps. These samples show the plant varieties and their abundance for several hundred years. The more the pollen sample becomes trapped in a bed of sediment, the earlier the time it represents.
Archeology and paleontology focus on things like houses, paraphernalia, moai, and animal remains that are used for food. Since the Rapa Nui records are in hieroglyphic form and are difficult to decipher, the dates prior to European contact are approximations and many hypotheses cannot be proven. Additionally, as shown below, some developments may overlap adjacent time periods. All data in bold is from the time of the Common Age.
400 Between 20 and 50 Polynesian settlers arrive, probably in double canoes 15 meters or more, each capable of carrying more than 8,000 kg.
800 The amount of pollen from trees in the sediment is decreasing, suggesting that deforestation is taking place. Grass pollen increases as the grass spreads in some deforested areas.
900-1300 About a third of the bones of animals caught for food during this period are dolphin bones. To bring dolphins from the open sea, the islanders use large canoes made from tall palm trunks. The trees also provide the raw material for the moai's handling and assembly equipment, which is already under construction. The expansion of agriculture and the need for firewood continue to deplete forests.
1200-1500 The construction of the statue is in full swing. The Rapa Nui invest enormous resources in the making of moai and the ceremonial platforms on which they are located. Archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg writes: "The social structure of Rapa Nui has strongly encouraged the production of more and more statues." He adds that “about 1,000 statues were made over the course of 800 to 1,300 years. . . , one for every seven to nine people, based on maximum population estimates. ""
The moai were apparently not worshiped, although they played a role in funeral rites and in agriculture. They might have been considered a home for ghosts. It appears that they also symbolized the power, status, and genealogy of their builders.
1400-1600 The population reaches a peak between 7,000 and 9,000 residents. The last bits of forest are disappearing, in part due to the extinction of native birds that pollinated the trees and spread the seeds. "Without exception, all native species of land birds are extinct," says Discover. The rats also contributed to deforestation; Evidence shows that they ate the palm kernel.
Erosion sets in quickly, rivers begin to dry up and water is scarce. Dolphin bones ceased to emerge around 1500, possibly due to the lack of trees large enough to make ocean canoes. Any chance to escape the island is over. Sea birds disappear when people are in dire need of food. You eat more chicken.
1600-1722 The absence of trees, intensification of land use and depletion of the soil all contribute to the increase in crop failures. Great hunger sets in. The Rapa Nui are polarized into two opposing confederations. The first signs of social chaos, perhaps even cannibalism, appear. This is the climax of the warrior. People begin to live in caves for protection. Around 1700 the population decreased to about 2,000 inhabitants.
1722 The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discovered the island as the first European. It happens at Easter, so he calls it Easter Island. He records his first impression: "The emaciated appearance [of Easter Island] could create no other impression than that of the unique poverty and sterility."
1770 At this time, the remaining rival Rapa Nui clans begin to destroy each other's statues. When the British explorer, Captain James Cook, visited him in 1774, he saw many statues destroyed.
1804-63 strengthen contact with other civilizations. Slavery, which is common in the Pacific today, and disease come at a high price. Traditional Rapa Nui culture is essentially coming to an end.
1864 Now all moai are overthrown, many deliberately beheaded.
1872 Only 111 natives left on the island.
Rapa Nui became a province of Chile in 1888. In recent years, Rapa Nui had a mixed population of around 2,100 people. Chile declared the whole island a historical monument. To preserve the uniqueness and history of Rapa Nui, many statues have been rebuilt.
One lesson for today
Why didn't the Rapa Nui see where they were going and try to avoid disaster? Consider the comments made by several researchers on the situation.
“The forest ... didn't just disappear one day, it slowly disappeared for decades ... Any islander who tried to warn of the dangers of advancing deforestation would have been crushed by the interests of the people. Lumberjacks, bureaucrats and bosses. " - Find out.
“The price they paid for the way they articulated their spiritual and political ideas was an island world that in many ways has become a shadow of their former natural selves. - Easter Island: archeology, ecology and culture.
“What happened to Rapa Nui suggested that uncontrolled growth and a willingness to manipulate the environment beyond the breaking point were not just aspects of the industrialized world. They were the human condition. "- National Geography.
What if the so-called human condition does not change today? What if humanity insisted on imposing an ecologically unsustainable way of life on our country, our island in space? According to one author, we have a huge advantage over Rapa Nui. We have the "Stories of Other Convicted Companies" as examples of alerting.
However, you may ask yourself: is humanity taking note of these stories? Massive deforestation and the ongoing extinction of living things on Earth at an alarming rate suggest that this is not the case. Linda Koebner writes in the zoo book: “The elimination of one, two or fifty species has effects that we cannot predict. Extinction creates change before we even understand the consequences. ""
A bat that pulls one level at a time with a rivet does not know which rivet will cause an accident. But if that critical rivet disappears, the plane's fate is sealed, although it cannot fall on the next flight. Likewise, humans are removing living "rivets" from the earth at the rate of more than 20,000 species per year with no sign of degradation! Who knows the point of no return? And would that advanced knowledge really make a difference?
The book Isla de Pascua - Isla de la Tierra made this significant comment: “The person who felled the last tree [in Rapa Nui] saw that it was the last tree. But he (or she) withdrew anyway. ""
"We have to change our religion"
“If there is hope,” adds Isla Tierra on Easter Island, “it is surely in the idea that we need to change our religion. Our current gods of economic growth, science and technology, ever-increasing living standards, and the virtues of competition - deities we consider almighty - are like giant statues on the platforms of the world. '' Easter Island. Each city competed with its neighbors to build the largest statue. . . . More and more efforts are being devoted to the consumption of resources. . . but useless to sculpt, move and lift ".
A wise man once said: “For the earthly man his way is not. It doesn't belong to the man who walks or even guides his steps. "(Jeremiah 10:23). Our Creator is the only one who can show us how to" direct our pace ". He is also the only one who can get us out of our sad state. He promises this. Do it in your word, the Bible, a book that also records many good and bad examples of past civilizations. Indeed, this book can be a “light to our path” in these dark times (Psalm 119: 105).
In time, that path will lead obedient people to a paradise of peace and abundance, a new world that includes that little corner of the South Pacific called Rapa Nui.