Climate Change : Lessons from the Past


The impact of climate change we observe across the world such as rising temperatures & sea level, irregular rainfall and tectonic plat shifts are not new to the current generation. These changes in climate & geophysical pattern are observed for many years in the past as well. The case of Easter Islanders is also one such observation.

Easter Island is an island territory of present-day Chile in Southeastern Pacific Ocean. They are very famous for their 1000 extant monumental statues, known as moai, which are believed to be created by Rapa Nui People. Scientist after many years of study on the vacant island for many years has concluded with shocking observations on why the island in a short span of time become a biological wasteland, with no native plant species or animals.

The observations made by scientist through the ancient pollen samples indicate the island was once inhabited by 2000 plus islanders, who built the large statues. The research further suggests that the island was a paradise of biodiversity and had large palm trees. The fossil evidence also suggests there were at least 20 plus bird species which inherits the island.

How did the Easter Island, once a paradise of plant and bird species, become a biological wasteland in the span of few centuries? Unsustainable Resource Exploitation

It is believed that Easter Islanders have exploited their resources to the point that they exterminated all native species of animals and plants on the island, which did not fall in their food chain. Huge trees which were once present abundant on the island started to disappear due to lack of pollination and overconsumption. Denuded of forests resulted in land erosion and the nutrients were taken back to the sea.

In a closely interconnected natural world, eliminating a species has a cascading effort on the others, and the biodiversity of the island started to deteriorate. At the peak of their civilization, the number of Eastern Islanders went as high 20,000 residents for such as small water locked area. With the availability of food become scarce, the islanders went from a highly organized community to a warring tribals, which finally brought an end to their future.

In many ways, Easter Islanders are an example for humanity to understand everything in nature works on a delicate balance, which is formed over several centuries. But without understanding this connection and focusing only on development without the environmental consequences, will indefinitely lead to the same fate.

In the long run, Sustainable Design & Development is not an option but a necessity. This is the only way where we could meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Extracted & Shortened from : How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2011.