Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Lesson of Easter Island

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Lesson of Easter Island

Article excerpt

Population Action International (PAI) is an American non-governmental organization whose work is inspired by a historical event. When a group of Polynesian voyagers arrived on Easter Island in the fifth or sixth century A.D., they found a plentiful supply of natural resources and created a unique civilization, now famous for its enormous and mysterious stone statues. But studies of fossilized pollens have shown that as the population grew, the lush green forest diminished, leading to a fatal erosion of the fertile soil and disappearance of the island's wildlife. When a Dutch traveller set foot on the island in 1722, he observed that it was completely barren. Deprived of natural resources, the 3,000 people living on the island spent their time fighting fratricidal wars. In other words, environment and population are inextricably linked. Human overpopulation exhausts the earth, which, in turn, can no longer feed that population.

In the past, as Population Action International (PAI) points out, "People altered local landscapes; today we are changing the earth itself. And the parables of the past send a warning: Nature has the upper hand. If human activities cause climate to warm dramatically or soil to wear out or water sources to fail, the risk to humanity will be incalculable". …

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