Are we creating our own Easter Island?
For centuries environmental destruction in human history has been littered with civilizations that failed because humans exploited natural resources. Examples of over consumption of natural resources can be found from around the world — from the Incas to the Middle East. Currently, the human population is about 6 billion and will rise to 9 billion in the year 2050. That’s a growth rate of 80 million a year, which averages to approximately 9,000 per hour.
As an example of the demand placed on natural resources, Easter Island in the South Pacific was a paradise that became an island of deforestation and soil erosion. History tells us it was first settled in the fifth century by just a few settlers. It had abundant seafood, fresh water and fertile soils.
As time passed, the population grew to about 11,000 people. Power struggles on the island led to clans competing for resources and control. Part of this power struggle led to the creation of large, 20-foot tall stone statues in memory of their ancestors, which can still be seen on the island today. Trees were cut to move the stones to their final position.
The combination of all of these acts led to soil erosion. Without vegetation, top soil was eliminated due to winds, which led to poor conditions and crop failure. Without trees, there were no materials to build boats and sail off the island. Famine led to wars, and only a few survivors existed by the time Europeans arrived in the 17th century.