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THE Easter Island Thread (merged)

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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby Keith_McClary » Thu 20 Nov 2014, 16:19:40

KaiserJeep wrote:We know the place was settled by people from South America, because the language has commonality and the islanders cultivated sweet potatoes, a South American plant that had to have been deliberately carried there in boats, as the potatoes cannot survive in saltwater.

23 October 2014 :
In the genomes of 27 living Rapa Nui islanders, the team found dashes of European and Native American genetic patterns. The European genetic material made up 16% of the genomes; it was relatively intact and was unevenly spread among the Rapa Nui population, suggesting that genetic recombination, which breaks up segments of DNA, has not been at work for long. Europeans may have introduced their genes in the 19th century, when they settled on the island.

Native American DNA accounted for about 8% of the genomes. Islanders enslaved by Europeans in the 19th century and sent to work in South America could have carried some Native American genes back home, but this genetic legacy appeared much older. The segments were more broken and widely scattered, suggesting a much earlier encounter—between 1300 C.E. and 1500 C.E.
http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/ ... sted-genes
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 20 Nov 2014, 16:35:02

So you have baffled me, Keith, I can't decide if you are disputing or supporting my argument. AFAIK, the South American native tribes provided the Polynesian genome, and the Easter Island natives are part of that heritage. The South American "indians" are differentiated from the North American "indians" by about 8,000 years genetic divergence in isolation since both came over the Pleistocene land bridge from Asia some 12,000 years ago. I guess the main problem is I don't understand what is meant by "Native American".
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby Keith_McClary » Thu 20 Nov 2014, 23:00:09

KaiserJeep wrote: AFAIK, the South American native tribes provided the Polynesian genome, and the Easter Island natives are part of that heritage.
Wikipedia doesn't know that.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby MonteQuest » Fri 21 Nov 2014, 00:17:31

DesuMaiden wrote:The people on Easter Island had a population overshoot which depleted their island of the natural resources which they depended on for survival (fish, trees, birds, dolphins, etc).


Not exactly. Population overshoot occurs with an sudden energy subsidy, of which there is no evidence for on Easter Island.

Instead, the carrying capacity dropped below the actual population due to environmental degradation. They just overused the forests and started a chain reaction throughout the ecosystem.

On other words, they didn't overshoot the carrying capacity, they lowered it.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby Keith_McClary » Fri 21 Nov 2014, 00:42:38

MonteQuest wrote:
DesuMaiden wrote:The people on Easter Island had a population overshoot which depleted their island of the natural resources which they depended on for survival (fish, trees, birds, dolphins, etc).


Not exactly. Population overshoot occurs with an sudden energy subsidy, of which there is no evidence for on Easter Island.

Instead, the carrying capacity dropped below the actual population due to environmental degradation. They just overused the forests and started a chain reaction throughout the ecosystem.

On other words, they didn't overshoot the carrying capacity, they lowered it.

Didn't the "subsidy" happen when a few colonists arrived on the island?
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby americandream » Fri 21 Nov 2014, 03:06:30

No other than to the extent that they lived beyond their means for quite different reasons. Thus as systems, no. Capitalism is as distinct from tribalism as feudalism is from capitalism. The effects of these systems on the commons will thus be of varying degree; capitalisms being of planet wide magnitude. Understand this and you grasp the gravity of our situation as a living planet.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Fri 21 Nov 2014, 06:06:37

Keith_McClary wrote:
KaiserJeep wrote: AFAIK, the South American native tribes provided the Polynesian genome, and the Easter Island natives are part of that heritage.
Wikipedia doesn't know that.


Yes, I see you are correct and I am wrong, even though I read a whole lot about the Human Genome project before, during, and afterwards.

One of the first books I can remember reading was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl, when I was still in grade school. He was a Norwegian anthropologist (who self-described himself as an "explorer") who had a theory that the inhabitants of Easter Island originated in Peru and crossed the ocean on rafts made of green balsa logs, using prevailing currents. He tested the theory by building such a raft and sailing on it with friends to the island of Raroia in 1947.

From Wikipedia:
Heyerdahl believed that the original inhabitants of Easter Island were the migrants from Peru. He argued that the monumental statues known as moai resembled sculptures more typical of pre-Columbian Peru than any Polynesian designs. He believed that the Easter Island myth of a power struggle between two peoples called the Hanau epe and Hanau momoko was a memory of conflicts between the original inhabitants of the island and a later wave of Native Americans from the Northwest coast, eventually leading to the annihilation of the Hanau epe and the destruction of the island's culture and once-prosperous economy.

Most historians consider that the Polynesians from the west were the original inhabitants and that the story of the Hanau epe is either pure myth, or a memory of internal tribal or class conflicts. In 2011 Professor Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo presented DNA evidence to the Royal Society which whilst agreeing with the west origin also identified a distinctive but smaller genetic contribution from South America. However, this result has been questioned because of the possibility of contamination by South Americans after European contact with the islands.


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Heyerdahl's expedition fired my imagination and the book itself changed me to someone who read everything he could for the sheer pleasure of the worlds created in the mind's eye. That his theory was eventually discredited by the DNA matters not, for soon after reading Kon-Tiki I had then discovered the books and research of Jacques Cousteau, William Beebe's 1930 deep sea dives in the bathysphere, and Auguste Piccard's bathyscaphe expeditions. I was living on Guam then, just a few miles from the Challenger deep, where the US Navy was deep diving the upgraded bathyscaphe Trieste.

Then came Mark Twain and Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and then finally Willy Ley's The Conquest of Space.

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...and Sputnik happened.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby MonteQuest » Fri 21 Nov 2014, 20:10:15

Keith_McClary wrote: Didn't the "subsidy" happen when a few colonists arrived on the island?


What energy subsidy did they bring with them that enlarged the carrying capacity of the island?
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby h2 » Sun 23 Nov 2014, 13:25:38

Small island ecosystems/ecologies are very poor analogies for anything but small islands. They are very unique and don't reflect non island ecologies very well. It's much more interesting to look at larger ecosystems that have already undergone civilizational collapse. Italy, post center of Roman Empire is a good example for a Mediterranean ecosystem. Northern Norway is a good example of post plague geographies (top half of Norway reverted to Sami Reindeer herder for hundreds of years). The fertile crescent was overfarmed and over irrigated. Even in the area of islands, Icelanders cut down all their slow growing arctic trees, and kept on going, without creating anything that doomers would be interested in writing about, and they never even had big trees to begin with. Inuit in some areas had no trees at all, but they did just fine.

In other words, as population grows globally, each local geography/ecology will transform into something else, but each version will be different. If you, for example, are looking at a tropical ecosystem, the recovery can be incredibly fast as the jungle takes over again, but if you are looking at an overpopulated region in an arid area, you can see increasing desertification, creeping. You can see this today, in Spain, the mideast, northern Africa.

One reason I stopped reading doomer porn per se was because of the tendency to oversimplify complex scenarios, the reindeer island for example, easter island, etc. ie, cherry picking to demonstrate a point, while ignoring the real large scale changes that already have happened, but which sadly are not as dramatic or interesting. Italy was empty in large parts post collapse, then it wasn't, and now isn't. North Norway is back to normal, no particular difference visible. Other areas don't recover, or take forever to recover, arid climates that use a lot of irrigation are very prone to long lasting soil destruction, salt build up, etc. Venezuela isn't, for example.

As the globe heats, the climate will change, thus the term 'climate change, and as populations increase past carrying capacity, political stability will begin to crumble, a process already clearly visible in the mideast and North Africa, all arid regions massively over carrying capacity. The Northern American region isn't very far over carrying capacity, the Mexican region is, it just depends.

It's actually more or less known what each ecosystem will look like depending on the average temperatures globally, since global climate change has happened enough times in the past to give geological records, but not as fast as we are doing it via CO2 releases of all possible carbon based fuel sources. http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/ ... imate.html - that's not a bad overview of such historical changes.

The basic takeaway I would say is that the larger the global population of human species, the worse the damage, and the longer it will take to recover. However, barring a massive ecosystem failure, like ocean death caused by massive acidification of the water from excessive CO2 in atmosphere, the recovery times are not at all that bad, it's about 1000 years for the worst stuff, and about 10k years to get the atmosphere back to somewhat normal, and long before these time frames are reached human populations will have returned to sustainable levels, though at a massive cost, which is a massive loss of biodiversity, but even that will be ok because all the niches we have emptied and killed off by our various monocultures will I believe be fairly rapidly filled through normal evolutionary processes, so well described in Darwin's Origin of Species. As any animal or plant breeder can tell you, developing new traits does not take very long.

Re easter island, there are a few things that are clear, whether the trees got chopped down and used up, or if the palm seeds were eaten by invasive species like rats, or both, one thing you can say for certain is that when the europeans got there, the Easter islanders were not doing much fishing from boats, since the big trees were all gone.

If you think about it, 1000 years is not very long, that's only 50 generations or so, but that's also why nuclear energy should be terminated as soon as possible, those dead zones from failed plants, you can see two of them today, and those are both being maintained by functioning industrial systems, and the toxic wastes, will be totally impossible to deal with once we are unable to marshal the degree of unsustainable resource extraction we are using today in order to create these plants, and to try to deal with them when they fail.

Since it only takes a few hundred years, if that, to forge new cultures, future humans will have no trouble at all living within a sustainable yet damaged system. It's useful to read some real ethnologies to see how that works, we're actually quite flexible as a species when you remove the artificial barriers against adaptation we have constructed in our ill conceived notion that all disease, aging, etc, are problems to solve rather than selection operators to be appreciated. On the bright side, when we lift these walls, I would expect to see a very rapid evolutionary change happening to each variant / niche of human cultures. That's what they think forced the development of early humans cultures, severe stress forced rapid adaptations of a very small group of hominids, at least that what current dna research points to.

This also by the way is why I think you can largely ignore the babble about renewable energy, for the simple reason that at this juncture, only two things will help slow or change this process/outcome, reduction in absolute terms of global CO2 from carbon fuel extraction/burning/processing to almost 0, and an immediate reduction in population numbers, the first step of which requires an immediate halt of population growth. Since both of these would require an instant halt of the social systems involved around non sustainable resource extraction/exploitation, which we give cute names like capitalism or communism or democratic socialism or fascism, it's pretty obvious this best case outcome can now be totally excluded from the list of realistic scenarios, and if that's not obvious enough, all you have to do is watch global CO2 levels from the Maunu Lua observatories.

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html
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Since within the last few years the website http://350.org/ that was created pre 350 ppm CO2 levels to advocate for cuts in CO2 pollution to keep levels below 350ppm, that target is already long since gone, and current levels are now around 400ppm, which is an incredibly rapid growth, despite all the babble about solar or wind this or that, and since no oil or coal is being left in the ground at this point to keep from burning it, you can safely ignore those types of green fantasies about our future.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby MonteQuest » Sun 23 Nov 2014, 14:50:37

h2 wrote: It's useful to read some real ethnologies to see how that works, we're actually quite flexible as a species when you remove the artificial barriers against adaptation we have constructed in our ill conceived notion that all disease, aging, etc, are problems to solve rather than selection operators to be appreciated.


Yes. As I once wrote on here:

"Disease can be looked upon as man’s keystone predator. “Keystone predator” is an ecological term used to describe the basic principle by which a predator may be a balancing force on an ecosystem. For this reason, special care must be taken with identified keystone predators to keep them from being hunted out of an ecosystem. Other than in some vials in a lab at the CDC, many of man’s keystone predators are extinct; others are of little consequence. Yes, we are no longer plagued with the evils of disease, but that was nature’s way of controlling our numbers and insuring the “survival of the fittest.” Predators usually capture the old, crippled, sick, or very young animals. Over long periods of time, predation actually improves the health of the prey population."

Our hubris told us otherwise.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby careinke » Mon 24 Nov 2014, 02:58:35

h2, Great post, thanks.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 25 Nov 2014, 12:15:55

Granted it’s a tad of a stretch but here’s a story about folks on one island (Manhattan) benefitting from cutting down trees on someone else’s island while they preserve theirs. Notice the article does not touch on the subject of how many folks in NY are burning NG produced from wells frac’d in other states. States where frac’ng is allowed unlike NY where the method is still banned.

Reuters - The State of New York produced just 1,000 barrels of oil per day in 2013, but consumed almost 620,000 barrels per day of refined fuels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Virtually every gallon of gasoline which New York motorists put into their cars, and the fuel oil used to heat their homes and offices through the long, cold winter, was refined from oil produced outside the state.

Some of that crude came from states such as North Dakota, Texas and Alaska, and the rest from foreign suppliers like Canada, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria. In common with other metropolitan areas, such as Washington, London or Paris, the lifestyle New Yorkers enjoy depends on oil and gas produced in other places and communities. It is worth remembering that when sitting in a comfortable office in a big city reading about all the problems associated with oil and gas production.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby h2 » Tue 25 Nov 2014, 13:42:57

ROCKMAN, an even better example than manhattan is Japan. Japan takes great pride in preserving it's nature reserves, forests, etc, but in actuality is a major driver in the destruction of vast areas of tropical and other forests to fuel its industrial (furniture etc) use of timber, while pretending to be conserving its own wild areas on the Japanese islands. As with Manhattan, they produce essentially no carbon or uranium fuels, are hugely overpopulated, and exist only via a constant stream of external inputs. So that's an entire nation that fits that situation. Slightly more hypocritical of course, since they pretend to somewhat revere nature via their Shinto heritage, while outsourcing all that unsightly and often illegal logging activity etc. Not to mention tuna extinction, coming soon to an ocean near you so we can have our sushi.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Tue 25 Nov 2014, 14:16:21

h2 - And oddly enough the US is helping much of the world do likewise with respect to refining. Most on this site understand that the US is a very major source of refined petroleum products for much of the world. I doubt the average American has the slightest clue. And neither side of the exchange cares to have the public understand the realities. Consider the EU talks of getting greener and the US bragging about decreased domestic coal consumption. And the reality: the EU has increased coal imports from the US by 300% in the last 5 years. The UK has increased import of US coal by 600% over the same period of time. If you polled the entire population of the EU, UK and US and ask them to pick true or false regarding those states IMHO the overwhelming major would say they were false.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby Synapsid » Tue 25 Nov 2014, 19:10:20

KaiserJeep,

I still have my copy of Conquest of Space, though the dust jacket was lost long ago, and I also have Willy Ley's three marvelous books The Lungfish, the Dodo, and the Unicorn; Dragons in Amber; and Salamanders and Other Wonders. They were all wonderful for a kid to encounter. If you haven't read Heyerdahl's second book, Aku Aku, then look it up. He went to Easter Island and asked the islanders if they knew how the statues had been made, so they showed him. I seem to recall that they also moved one and set it up on a platform but that makes me wonder if my memory is as bad as I suspect it is.

The islanders are Polynesian stock. They brought the sweet potato with them; sometime before that there had to have been contact between Polynesia and South America but it would have been the Polynesians that made the contact, not the other way round as Heyerdahl expected. They were matchless sailors, after all.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby agramante » Thu 27 Nov 2014, 12:04:39

To return to the original question, in general terms of rendering an environment uninhabitable, of course there are similarities between Easter Island and modern mankind, but they're limited, because Easter Island is a much smaller and less complex environment than the world at large. (I'm no anthropologist but one aspect of the Polynesian settlement of Easter Island, to my memory, is that they brought rats with them, as a food supply. On the island, the rats had no natural predators and quickly destroyed the local ecosystem. Not unlike how the Brits brought deer and, I think, boar (or hedgehogs) to New Zealand, only to watch them start destroying the defenseless bush. To the point that the NZ government hired hunters to kill as many as they could--the (factual) premise to the funniest book I've ever read, A Good Keen Man.)

Anyhow, we people in the course of doing business create plenty of unintended, and harmful, effects on the environment around us. Background levels of mercury and dioxins in the ocean are one good example. There being no immediate solution to this problem, the US government simply keeps on bumping up the legal limit allowed. In history, societies have failed due to environmental degradation, though not always of their own doing. The Maya fell victim, in part, to their own success, and the Hittite empire was impacted by drought. So there's absolutely precedent for large, complex societies failing due to environmental collapse.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby Keith_McClary » Tue 06 Jan 2015, 21:33:52

history of Rapa Nui on Easter Island far more complex than thought
For many years, Earth scientists and others have used Easter Island and its inhabitants, the Rapa Nui, as a lesson in what can happen when a parcel of land is overpopulated and thus overused—resources diminish and the people starve to death (or resort to cannibalism as some have suggested). But now, the researchers with this new effort suggest that thinking may be wrong.
Scientists believe Polynesians first settled on Easter Island sometime around 1200 AD—over the course of the next several hundred years the settlers became the Rapa Nui, famous for the massive maoi statues that were erected. Over that time period, the people cut down most of the trees on the northern part of the island and a lot of the other vegetation. That led to the loss of nutrient rich topsoil due to erosion and the idea that the people began to starve to death.
To better understand what actually occurred both before and after Europeans arrived in the 1700's, the researchers used a technique known as obsidian hydration dating on artifacts found at various sites on the northern part of the island where the Rapa Nui lived. That allowed them to gain insights into how the land in that area had been used during different time periods. From that they were able to construct a timeline that showed where the people were living over the course of hundreds of years. And that, the researchers report, showed that rather than a population crash due to starvation, there were population shifts that reflected changing weather patterns. Some areas did see population losses before European contact, and some actually saw initial gains afterwards. The population did see a dramatic decline, of course, sometime thereafter as the Rapa Nui people became exposed to European diseases such as smallpox and syphilis and as many were taken and sold into slavery. This means, the team concludes, that there is little evidence of population collapse prior to European contact.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby pstarr » Wed 07 Jan 2015, 14:10:18

It's fun to minimize Jared Diamond on Easter Island. But one must remember that his book contains myriad examples of human ecological overshoot. To consider our predicament right now different is simple denial.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby ralfy » Wed 07 Jan 2015, 23:56:26

The catch is that there are no other islands.
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Re: Is Easter Island analogous to the present global situati

Unread postby DesuMaiden » Fri 09 Jan 2015, 14:31:02

ralfy wrote:The catch is that there are no other islands.

The catch is there are no other planets we can travel to because Earth is the only planet we got.
History repeats itself. Just everytime with different characters and players.
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