Collapse: Chapter Two

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 274
  • Published : April 21, 2008
Open Document
Text Preview
COLLAPSE- Chapter 2

Jared Diamond discusses the Rapanui population of Easter Island in a systematic review of evidence for their decline by examining fives factors: environmental damage, climate change, foreign relations, change in trading patterns, and responses/adaptability of inhabitants to change. Diamond explores the natural climatic conditions conducive to Easter Island’s dramatic deforestation, among them a very high latitude, minimal precipitation, low volcanic ash fallout, no makatea rock, and physical isolation from other islands. Diamond’s explanation is strengthened by his description of people’s contributions to this process of environmental degradation. What Diamond concludes is that the deforestation responsible for the collapse of the Easter Island society was mostly self-induced. Trees were used for firewood and to cremate bodies. Trees were also cleared for gardens because competition among clans to build larger moi statues demanded the intensification of agriculture. It is no coincidence that the 300 years of peak construction coincided with a 25% increase in overall food supply that was donated mostly to the carvers and construction crews. Competition to build larger statues also called for increased amounts of timber to be used for rope and other building materials. Rats were also a factor in the decline of forest. Nearly complete deforestation by 1722 of ancient palms caused the islanders loss of raw materials, of wild-caught foods, and decreased crop yields. Without trees they could not build canoes and so their diet became deprived of protein afforded by porpoise and other fish. Deforestation also caused soil erosion damaging to overall soil fertility. Lacking harvests drove many individuals to starvation and cannibalism. Hostility and violence accompanied competition for wood and food remains. The people also suffered a loss to their culture as limited resources halted the construction of the moi. Upland plantations were...
tracking img