249. THE ECO-COLLAPSE OF EASTER ISLAND IS A MYTH
Easter Island plays a key role in peak oil theory as a metaphor for the earth. Its "eco-collapse" is regarded by peak oilers as a moral tale, which shows us what is in store for modern civilization if we don't get our act together and powerdown. Here's a typical description of the peak oiler view by lawnorder at the Daily Kos:
Disaster on Easter Island: When Nature trumps Economy
This is what happened in Easter Island:
Ever more wood and rope were needed to move the effigies, but a growing population, coupled with the drive for bigger and bigger statues, wiped out the trees. ... given the island's extremely fragile ecology, they didn't grow back.
1. For some reason those huge statues were all the rage and every tribal chief wanted more, bigger and better statues.
2. But no matter how much money or prestige was showered into the statue builders, there came a time that there were NO MORE RAW MATERIALS to make them.
3. Importing them from other places was impossible with the islanders' technology at the time, since Easter Island is pretty isolated.
4. And then the economic fueled hunger for raw materials started an ecological disaster: Deforestation, i.e, all trees of the island were cut to cater to the "statue making industry".
5. By cutting all trees, the islanders created an even bigger ecological problem: soil erosion, wildlife migration. Which in turn made the yield of food from harvests and hunting decrease significantly and brought the onslaught of famine...
A deforested island suffered from soil erosion and a lack of food and raw materials. Starvation, a population crash, cannibalism, and social collapse followed. (2)
This story of Easter Island's ecological suicide was popularized by the best-selling environmentalist author Jared Diamond in a book called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. The book has become one of the "core texts" of peak oil theory because it shows how a complex society can collapse into starvation, warfare and cannibalism due to myopic consumption of a critical resource (wood for the Easter Islanders, oil for us moderns).
As went Easter Island, so will go modern society...
That's what the peak oilers say, and it would all be very scary except for one critical fact: Jared Diamond's theory is a fairy tale. He made the whole thing up for propaganda value.
This fact is demonstrated in an extremely interesting paper called From Genocide to Ecocide: The Rape of Rapa Nui* by Dr. Benny Peiser of the Faculty of Science, John Moores University, Liverpool. By judiciously sifting through original sources and archeological research, Dr. Peiser tracks Jared Diamond to his lair, and shows how Diamond's scholarship is marred by biased gullibility, selective quoting and a deep-seated agenda. Peiser's conclusion is that the complex culture of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) never self-destructed in a late 17th century spasm of starvation, warfare and cannibalism due to the ecological myopia of its native inhabitants.
The facts show, rather, that Rapa Nui's high culture was destroyed by the predations of the Europeans who murdered, raped, enslaved, mass deported, infected and Christianized the island's inhabitants -- well-documented facts which Diamond conveniently fails to mention. In short, Diamond's theories of the collapse of Easter Island are an elaborate, borderline-racist example of deflecting attention from the true perpetrators, and blaming the victim.
-- by JD-----
*) Energy & Environment, Volume 16, No. 3&4, 2005. Many thanks to Robert Schwartz for this enlightening link.
**) More on this topic here: 260. MORE EVIDENCE DEBUNKING THE ECO-COLLAPSE OF EASTER ISLAND