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THE Easter Island Thread (merged)

Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby EdwinSm » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:16:58

With Monte's return to the forum I decided to try and get my head around the time-scale of a 'die-off'.

I get the general idea of 'die-off' and I have been looking at some of the 'poster children' for this such as the Reindeer of St.Matthew Island and the human population decline on Easter Island.

The first one seems to have been fast (over one EXTREMELY SEVERE winter – from papers by D.R.Klein), but the Easter Island 'die-off' seems to have taken place over about 200 years. For me that seem more of a sustained 'die-back'.

There seem to be a number of different estimates of the populations but one time line, of information I found on the internet, is below.

Do people have better data?

And

If the population reduction takes 200 years can it be called a ”die-off”?


Time line (all dates AD/CE)

400 – 700 First settlers

1200 – 1500 Peak of Statue Construction. Estimated population 7,000 (others up to 20,000).

1400s Palm trees become extinct – forest totally destroyed

1500 Loss of sea going canoes (loss of porpoise meat from diet)

1600s-1700s time of civil war
evidence of spear/dagger heads (pop est to have dropped 75-90%)

1770 beginning of toppling of other tribe's statues (until 1864)

1700s-1800s European visitors estimate population of about 2,000.



Thanks (in advance) for your help.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:38:16

Ed,
IMVHO that is unknowable. There are too many interlinked variables. No one predicted the oil price crash even though, in retrospect, it is easily explained.

I think this question is on the minds of many here. Ok owing the answer dream vex how you prep. And knowing you can't know also forces certain decisions.

I do think it is remotely possible we could see something on the order of a decad. More likely over a few hundred years. Gut feelings only.

More important is to ask "how resilient is my country/area?" Still not an easy question.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:38:39

Very highly recommend you watch the video at this link,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01q9w87
Many of the dates you use have been proven to be incorrect speculation that were used to support the theory of Easter Island collapse. Some of this was covert or even overt racism inspired attempting to justify the colonial policies of the Europeans who over ran and destroyed the native culture. Just as an example, the native forest was not 'totally destroyed' and the Palm was not made extinct until well after European colonization when the governor imported sheep from Spain and basically forced the natives to let them devastate the islands ecologically. Farms that had been productive for centuries were converted into pasture graze land for the sheep and the native Polynesians were restricted to a very small 'reservation' area. The stories about massive tribal wars and cannibalism are not at all supported by archeological evidence. The statue toppling period coincides with the European colonization, when the 'old gods' were seen as having failed to protect the native population. Even more significantly most of the statues were not simply toppled over which leads to breaking, they were carefully and deliberately laid down fully intact. Some speculate this was done to make them less of a target for the colonists and/or military that would use them for musket or artillery practice.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Newfie » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:40:54

Thanks T, I'll watch the video when I get a chance.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Tanada » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 10:44:26

Newfie wrote:Thanks T, I'll watch the video when I get a chance.


Turns out that link is broken but I found a working link on YouTube,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XWKF5KDMa4
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby EdwinSm » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 11:10:31

Tanada - thanks for the quick reply :) It gives me a lot of further areas to look at (as why it might not be such a poster child for die off). I will look at that video sometime tomorrow when I have more time.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby pstarr » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 11:55:53

Simple Malthusian overshoot will continue as it has. (In lieu of runaway AGW, which will kill everybody save a few on the poles) Regions already destabilized by war, inadequate public health infrastructure, and overpopulation will continue to destabilize (ME, north and central Africa, etc) and continue to die at an accelerated rate.

Then the world will begin (not complete) a major die-off. Post-oil production declines, wars for resources and increasing overpopulation will destroy regional economies and the ability to import basic essential goods and services. As we are a selfish, short-sighted, nasty and persistent life form this will be a chaotic event hard to predict. Some continents and island nations able to resist invasion will be fine. North America. And especially California. And totally, like Humboldt, man :lol:
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Ibon » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 13:47:32

Further constraints on the existing resource base that sustains 7.3 billion plus will create stresses on our global society. How they manifest and how they are dealt with will largely determine how quickly our global population plateaus and then goes into contraction. How much technology and behavior changes will mitigate this is unknown.

If you just understand the dynamics and strip away any personal narrative you are just left with being a witness to whatever happens.

We know the ecological principals behind overshoot. Humans are not exempt from these principals but they have and will continue to tweak those factors that determine die-off. Food reserves and disease prevention.

Food reserves are directly related to agriculture technology, fossil fuels, distribution, subsidies and aid, geopolitical stability.

Disease prevention is directly related to immunizations, antibiotics, sanitation, availability of health care, geopolitical stability.

Both of the above are directly related to the stability of our biosphere.

Look at all the parameters and variables and compare this to a simple resource base like the Mayans with corn and beans or the Eastern Islanders with a limited island biodiversity from which to sustain themselves.

Any one who makes any claims or predictions about how our global population will plateau or contract is disingenuous or pushing their own narrative.

Too complex to know the details even if the bigger picture is clear.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby ennui2 » Mon 15 Feb 2016, 13:56:48

I've read the revisionist history on Easter Island and it doesn't invalidate the idea that the natives wrecked their ecology and that it had nasty consequences, just that they were employing every trick in the book to kind of barely hang on by their fingernails. It still sounds like a cautionary tale to me.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby EdwinSm » Wed 17 Feb 2016, 01:25:59

It was a very interesting film. From what I got from it the theory they proposed was that the main cause of die-off was 'novel' diseases caught from the sailors. This makes a lot of sense - the church records for the island I am currently living on have two occasions when 25% of the population was lost to illness [the island had a sheltering place on the sailing-trade routes between two capital cities in Northern Europe] - so this theory is (in my opinion) well with in realms of possibility.

The stone mulching was new to me, as were the micro-climate gardens in the fissures of the old lava tunnels. They do look interesting.

I was less sure of the deforestation - the film clearly stated that while about 1/2 million trees could have been used to move the statues, there were about 15 1/2 million other palm trees. I seemed to have missed the part in the film (or they fudged over the issue) for the reason for deforestation. The film also ignored any impact of deep sea fishing (and its loss) on the diet.

Any way, it seemed to present some convincing arguments against the "ecological suicide" theory, or at least it shows clever adaptation to stressful ecological changes.

Thanks, that was the sort of information I was looking for. Now I will have to see how the different theories shape my thoughts about what might happen in the future, and if there is anything I can do in my situation, as Newfie wrote "More important is to ask "how resilient is my country/area?" Still not an easy question."
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Newfie » Wed 17 Feb 2016, 20:04:50

Just watched the video. OK, good story. As said above, still a cautionary tale. If for no other reason than the lack of canoes. Seems that would have had a pretty significant impact on food and dietary diversity.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Ulenspiegel » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 04:19:16

It is even possible, that the civil war theory is complete bogus, the "weapons" may simply have been tools, and the reduction of the population was after first contact with Europeans, i.e. we have the usual suspects like measles....
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Tanada » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:59:12

Actually if you want to look at isolated islands then Iceland is also a pretty useful example. When Europeans arrived they quickly cut down all of the trees for buildings, boats and burning. In those years with a lot of European trade they did well, but from the 1400-1700 period when trade was tightly controlled by outsiders they did increasingly poorly. They were able to substitute geothermal heating for wood heating up to a point, and they were able to fish in good years with the carefully tended boats they did have, but even so their population fell by almost half over that 300 year period, punctuated with two massive die offs from diseases brought in by those few European trade vessels that did dock there separated by about 70 years.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby vox_mundi » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 10:22:12

Rats, not men, to blame for death of Easter Island

Now there is new evidence that human beings may not have been responsible for the destruction after all. Although Easter Island has long been held to be the most important example of a traditional society destroying itself, it appears that the real culprits were rats - up to three million of them.

"A theme of self-inflicted, pre-European contact ecocide is common in published accounts," says the anthropologist Dr Terry Hunt, who led the research at the University of Hawaii. "Easter Island has become a paragon for prehistoric human-induced ecological catastrophe and cultural collapse. Scholars offer this story as a parable of today's global environmental problems."

He has examined new data from the Hawaiian and other Pacific islands that shows that by early historic times the deforestation of Easter Island was already complete, or nearly so. A dense forest of palm trees and more than 20 other types of trees and shrubs had mostly disappeared. As many as six land birds and several seabirds had also become extinct.

The island had a relatively simple ecosystem with vegetation once dominated by millions of palms. The original ecosystem of the island, with a limited range of plants, and few if any predators, would, says the report, have been particularly vulnerable to alien invasions.

Almost all of the palm seed shells discovered on the island were found to have been gnawed by rats. Thousands of rat bones have been found, and crucially, much of the damage to forestry appears to have been done before evidence of fires on the island. Evidence from other Pacific islands also confirms how devastating rats can be.

Exactly how rats got on to the island is not known, although one theory is that they arrived as stowaways in the first canoes of Polynesian colonists. Once they arrived, the rats found palm nuts offered an almost unlimited high-quality food supply.

Under ideal conditions, rats reproduce so rapidly that their numbers double every 47 days; unchecked, a single mating pair can produce a population of nearly 17 million in just over three years. Research in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands shows that when available food is taken into account, populations can reach 75 to the acre.

"At 75 rats per acre, the rat population of Easter Island could have exceeded 3.1 million," says the report. The Hawaiian research demonstrates that rats were capable, on their own, of deforesting large lowland coastal areas in about 200 years or less. "In the absence of effective predators, rats alone could eventually result in deforestation."

Dr Hunt says the environmental catastrophe of Easter Island has been masked by speculation about the intentions of people cutting down the last tree: "Indeed, the last tree may simply have died. Rats may have simply eaten the last seeds.

"The evidence points to a complex historical ecology for the island, one best explained by a synergy of impacts, particularly the devastating effects of introduced rats. This perspective questions the simplistic notion of reckless over-exploitation by prehistoric Polynesians and points to the need for additional research.

"I believe that there is substantial evidence that it was rats, more so than humans, that led to deforestation."


Easter Island not destroyed by war, analysis of 'spear points' shows

Analysis of artifacts found on the shores of Rapa Nui, Chile (Easter Island) originally thought to be used as spear points reveal that these objects were likely general purpose tools instead, providing evidence contrary to the widely held belief that the ancient civilization was destroyed by warfare.

According to Carl Lipo, professor of anthropology at Binghamton University and lead on the study, the traditional story for Rapa Nui holds that the people, before Europeans arrived, ran out of resources and, as a result, engaged in massive in-fighting, which led to their collapse. One of the pieces of evidence used to support this theory is the thousands of obsidian, triangular objects found on the surface, known as mata'a. Because of their large numbers and because they're made of sharp glass, many believe the mata'a to be the weapons of war that the ancient inhabitants of the island used for interpersonal violence

Lipo and his team analyzed the shape variability of a photo set of 400-plus mata'a collected from the island using a technique known as morphometrics, which allowed them to characterize the shapes in a quantitative manner. Based on the wide variability in shape of the mata'a and their difference from other traditional weapons, the team determined that the mata'a were not used in warfare after all, as they would have made poor weapons.

"We found that when you look at the shape of these things, they just don't look like weapons at all," said Lipo. "When you can compare them to European weapons or weapons found anywhere around the world when there are actually objects used for warfare, they're very systematic in their shape. They have to do their job really well. Not doing well is risking death."

"You can always use something as a spear. Anything that you have can be a weapon. But under the conditions of warfare, weapons are going to have performance characteristics. And they're going to be very carefully fashioned for that purpose because it matters...You would cut somebody {with a mata'a], but they certainly wouldn't be lethal in any way."

According to Lipo, this evidence strongly supports the idea that the ancient civilization never experienced this oft-theorized combat and warfare, and that the belief that the mata'a were weapons used in the collapse of the civilization is really a late European interpretation of the record, not an actual archeological event.

"We've been trying to focus on individual bits of evidence that support the collapse narrative to demonstrate that really there's no support whatsoever for that story," he said. "Sort of a pillar of the broader study is the fact that this is an amazing society that really was successful. It just doesn't look like success to us because we see fields that are rock, we think catastrophe, and in fact it's actually productivity."
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby PrestonSturges » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 17:15:59

Tanada wrote:punctuated with two massive die offs from diseases brought in by those few European trade vessels that did dock there separated by about 70 years.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby peripato » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 19:24:00

After the financial system crashes, there's no jobs or money, the grid fails and the transport network ceases you won't have too long to wait....
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Newfie » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 19:34:32

peripato wrote:After the financial system crashes, there's no jobs or money, the grid fails and transport network ceases you won't have too long to wait....


Yup, pretty much.
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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby peripato » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 19:49:59

Newfie wrote:
peripato wrote:After the financial system crashes, there's no jobs or money, the grid fails and transport network ceases you won't have too long to wait....


Yup, pretty much.

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Re: Time scale of Easter Island 'Die-off'

Unread postby Newfie » Thu 18 Feb 2016, 21:01:15

Each year the World Economic Form publishes their risk analysis. Not great but the best I know of.

http://www3.weforum.org/docs/Media/TheG ... rt2016.pdf

My nightmare quick crash scenario looks a bit like this. Talking about the USA.

Some financial bug gets into the system which frigs up global trade. No body knows what anything is worth anymore, or if you will be paid for a shipment in a viable currency. So the markets freeze.

When that happens stuff stops moving, including food. Prices rocket and lots of folks in big cities can't get food. Riots break out and local governments can't handle the unrest. By the end of the first week things get nasty with major looting taking place. It is started by food but soon all stores are targeted as folks use this as a way to get the toys they could otherwise not afford.

After 7 days the federal government declares a state of emergency and starts to take action to distribute food, and fuel, at gun point. National Guards are fully mobilized. But there really are not enough troops to go around so they concentrate on protecting food distribution centers and prioritize over the road trucks. Most all non essential work shuts down. Many, many companies cease to exist. Martial law takes over.

The government is not set up to do such massive food distribution resulting in local shortages which cause more riots. Large parts of the cities revert to some ad hoc form of government with local leaders emerging. This starts to coalesce along ethnic lines. Neighborhoods become protected enclaves.

US food reserves are divided into regions. Meat production goes to near zero as the food is needed for people. Diets become very mundane, corn, soy, flour. Fruits and vegetables are rare.

A kind of siege mentality sets in while folks get used to the new regime. Over the months things get a bit better but heat and electricity are problematic. Pipe and line maintenance become difficult because feedes cross ethnic border lines, safe access to effect repairs becomes difficult.

City center business high rises are at risk. Without tenants they are largely shut down. Without heat pipes freeze, buildings are essentially abandoned, looted and destroyed. Fire once again becomes a major threat in neighborhoods as folks try to heat by burning wood. Older houses are torn down for the scrap.

At some point, and in some places, ethnic violence breaks out into civil war. Government can not really respond so this goes unchecked. Disease becomes an issue. Health care reverts to hospitals which can be protected work environments. No one has meaningful health care insurance, there are no clerks to process invoices. Care, such as it is, is on a first come first served basis. Many drugs which originate overseas, are no longer available.

In the meantime governments are attempting to restart the global economy, but it is difficult. Slowly new trade alliances are constructed. Trade deals are cut for essential goods, but pirates roam the seas. So shipping needs to be armed and/or escorted by naval craft. It is slow and tedious.

While the US has a bland diet of flour, corn and soy it is far better off than many other nations who have little essential goods to sell and inadequate home grown food.

The US will have gaps in our manufacturing capacity, things we no longer make. We can trade food for the manufacturing plants, but then still need to find the raw materials. The government will have a department set up to develop essential manufacturing processes, including reimporting metal working equipment we sold away.

Slowly, over the course of years, the US will redevelop a manufacturing and trade base, but it will never rise to previous levels. Cities will turn into massive slums with warring ethnic neighborhoods. Few folks will have employment. Central planning will be firmly in control.

Or not, maybe something else. This is just what I see.
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Re: THE Easter Island Thread (merged)

Unread postby Tanada » Fri 13 Oct 2017, 07:54:58

Mark Lynas wrote:In his somewhat dreadful book Collapse, the writer Jared Diamond popularised the story of Easter Island 'ecocide', that the native population had - by chopping down all their trees and thereby committing ecological vandalism - outstripped its resources and ended up in war and cannibalism. This was intended as a rather weighty analogy for today's industrial society supposedly outstripping ecological limits on a planetary scale. The only problem is it's almost certainly not true. Actually the Easter Islanders - famous for the statues of stone heads - were pretty successful, until disaster struck in the form of European contact. Diamond is blaming the victims here, as the archaeological evidence now clearly shows. The irony is that all of this was explained in his earlier and much better book Guns, Germs and Steel.


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