Saturday, October 29, 2011

Easter Island Moai

Two stone statues discuss what happened to the humans who created them.

Big Moai: There were trees here at one time. Then people came. They cut down trees to grow vegetables. They cut down trees to make fishing boats. They cut down trees to make rollers to carry us stone statues here.
Little Moai: No more trees?
Big Moai: No more trees. Wind blows the soil into the sea. No more vegetables. No more trees to make fishing boats.
Little Moai: No more people?
Big Moai: No more people. Just us. Gods don’t need vegetables, don’t need fish.
Little Moai: They created us, they believed in us, we destroyed them. Funny old world.

A resource parable. Easter Islanders used their resources for food and for erecting their religious statues. Had they restricted their tree cutting to clearing just enough land for food and fishing boats, left trees for shelter, and not cut trees for rolling the statues, they might have survived. Perhaps the religion they created helped destroy their society.*

This may be germane to modern progress. The world’s population just hit 7 billion. Resources did not run out according to Malthusian predictions at 2 or 4 or 6 billion. It’s not to say that the ingenuity of our species will continue to find new resources or new ways of solving conflicts. Any of our activities could tip us into the extinct bucket: shopping, traveling, religion.

*Of course there are many other possible reasons why the Easter Island population declined. However, there’s the bones of good parable here.

No comments: