I have memories of paging through a National Geographic magazine displaying photographs of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and its Moai idols, mammoth statues created by the island’s ancient inhabitants.
In his 2005 work, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," the anthropologist Jared Diamond expounds upon this fanciful story, describing how Easter Island’s forest trees were used to transport the idols from central island quarries to the coastlines. The felling of the trees contributed in no small measure to the eventual ecological and societal collapse of the island. Diamond ruminates on the thoughts of the islanders as they cut down the last trees of a once flourishing forest.
There is a clear correlation between the destruction of Easter Island’s habitat then to the Earth’s as a whole today. Rather than stone statues, our idols today are material possessions, comfort and convenience. Not only has hyper-consumerism eroded our souls and our social structure, it has wreaked havoc on our ecosystem. From deforestation to mass extinction, from the overheating of our air and oceans to the pollution of our land, air and water, we have set ourselves upon the course of those primitive islanders.
To avoid cutting down the last trees in our forest, we must resist the temptation to assume that our current path is unchangeable. We can choose a more suitable way forward, finding greater value in more sustainable living: reducing consumption, increasing energy efficiency, establishing responsible diet and mandating environmentally responsible industrial and commercial practice.
Doing so will be an honorable response to our current conditions on behalf of our families and communities, past, present and future.
Anthony Fladeland, Bismarck