Easter Island provides the reader with an example of a microcosmic ecological mismanagement of the natural resources in haste. It is a piece that the author uses religion as a tool to ensure that the environment is destroyed by the native community. This becomes clear when the author tells us that even when the island faced irreversible deforestation, the native people were busy cutting down trees to transport their precious carved statue with the aim of pleasing the gods. Nonetheless, the returns of consistent deforestation were a wasteland with no vegetation and the fertile topsoil that the natives used to enjoy. Efforts of the bird-man cult were not able to bring change to the already destroyed vegetation.
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Explicitly, Wright’s article acts as an endorsement of an environmental activism in the Easter Island. Wright’s essay provides a detailed account of the history behind Easter Island, which is referred to as by its indigenous populace as Rapa Nui. Wright affirms that were it not for the inhabitants of Rapa Nui, the fertile soil and green vegetation could still be in existence. This is what the author refers to as “progress.” Furthermore, Ronald Writes cautions the readers that the present societies are on the verge of emulating what the indigenous people of Easter Island used to destroy their rich vegetation. He says that it was all done in the guise of “civilization.” Basically, looking at the modern societies, it becomes apparent that “civilization is a threat to the environment and we must understand its inherent patterns and dangers,” (Wright 119). The truth is that the history of Easter Island can be interpreted in numerous ways: one as an example of “inherent patterns” of any civilization striving toward creation of something that looks better in the eye. Two, as freedom to exercise what human being feel is good for them and finally, as a progression trend brought about by human advancements and needs to satisfy the gods.
After providing brief background information, it is vital to ascertain how the process of environmental degradation took place in Easter Island. Irrigation is one way of making the land productive and it leaves the land unproductive at the same time. This is because when water from sea that is salty is diverted to arid lands, much of evaporates and it leaves salt behind. Irrigation also leads to water logging that allows brackish ground water to seep upwards. Without enough rainfall, furrowing, digging of trenches, and proper farming techniques; the farm is likely to lose its fertility. For example, southern Iraq is one of the places that it is almost impossible to start irrigation and one of the areas in which sustaining irrigation is quite difficult. If irrigation is successful is such areas, it is likely to produce bumper harvest in the first few years, and what is likely to follow is the land turning against its tillers. One of the notable situations was the decline in wheat production that was later replaced by burley that had higher tolerance of salt. By 2500BC wheat was only 15 per cent of the crops grown in Sumerian and the subsequent years, of about 2100BC; the inhabitants gave up and never grew wheat anymore (Wright 123).
Additionally, another is issue that made matter even worse for the Sumerians was political and cultural pressures. This was brought about by population growth and the ever escalating population of Sumerians did not think of leaving the land to fallow and begin farming in new lands. This was one of the devastating ideas that caused a lot of problems to the people of Rapa Nui. After the mid third millennium, the population was very high and like the Easter Islanders, the Sumerians refused to transform their societies to help reduce the environmental impacts. On the contrary, they focused on intensifying their production. What made matter worse is that the fallow period was reduced, population increased, people owned large tracks of lands, and they began cutting down trees for economic surplus to help them build big houses. The act of spending the little capital of natural resources was a mess to Easter Islanders because it only produced a few generations of prosperous rulers followed by a collapse of the entire Mesopotamia (Wright 86). By 2000BC, the land turned white full of salt and the subsequent empires further destroyed the land through deforestation and irrigation.
It is worth noting that through agriculture, civilization came. Yet, after reading through this subject; it becomes apparent that the older generations were the agents of destruction of the natural resources. The older farming communities, before roughly 35000 BC, were unable to protect themselves from human predation. This is why many of the rich and healthy vegetations became burned out. In all cases, the old generation and the old towns from that era continued to invade and destroy the natural resource in the guise of “civilization.” This is what caused environmental degradation and I wish that the Rapa Nui inhabitants could learn from their mistakes. They should have known that “Tree equals soil and soil equals life” (Wright 126). The problems of the Easter Islanders have been brought down to our generation and this is why presently East Texas is a forest once again, people have learned much. Am sure that private American landowners if given the chance, they are better stewards than many who preceded them.
In conclusion, the story of Easter Island as narrated by Ronald Wright is an archetypal admonitory tale. It also tells us so much about the social dynamics where we can place definitive blame. This was a tragedy by the common inhabitants of Rapa Nui who spearheaded the massive forest destruction that led to the suffering of many of their descendants.
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