A space for conversations in a time of global disruption
Here is an interesting difference of views.
Probably most readers here will be familiar with the example of Easter Island ecocide, being put forward as an example of our global situation, in microcosm. People like Paul Bahn and Jared Diamond are frequently quoted as authorities who have researched the demise of the Easter Islanders, as they cut down their last tree and were forced to resort to cannibalism.
“In place of their former sources of wild meat, islanders turned to the largest hitherto unused source available to them: humans, whose bones became common not only in proper burials but also (cracked to extract the marrow) in late Easter Island garbage heaps.”
However, two archaeologists, Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo, have come up with an alternative account which challenges that of Diamond.
The convolutions of the debate are explained by Mark Lynas, and following comments.
Few historical tales of ecological collapse have achieved the cultural resonance of that of Easter Island. In the conventional account, best popularised by Jared Diamond in his 2005 book ‘Collapse’, the islanders brought doom upon themselves by over-exploiting their limited environment, thereby providing a compelling analogy for modern times. Yet recent archaeological work suggests that the eco-collapse hypothesis is almost certainly wrong – and that the truth is far more shocking.
with Jared Diamond's response
Hiya back! :-)
Well, I just looked back at that discussion, and there is one poster who says some palms are considered hardwood. I really don't know. I do know that the Egyptians used small rolling sticks (they would run ahead of the loaded sledge, and stick the rollers under it, and then pick them up behind). In which case even small trees could be used. But the point there is... they killed ALL the trees!
Annie, nah, some rats were left, and some birds. Also, they had chickens. Just not enough to provide the protein for the numbers of people that were there. Some say at the peak, about 12,000.
The last commenter posted the following, which seems to shoot the whole new hypothesis in the foot:
Anna Haynes says:
21 December 2011 at 12:43 am
Apparently Hunt & Lipo are misdescribing Mieth & Bork’s “% of palm nuts gnawed by rats” research.
H&L say above that
“…we were also aware of the fact (which Diamond fails to point out) that Mieth and Bork based their claim on nut fragments, not whole nuts. … the problem using Mieth and Bork …[is that their] estimate of 10% rat gnawed fragments implies that most nuts (if they were counted whole) were actually gnawed by rats.”
But when I asked Mieth about this claim in email, he replied ““The phrase in our paper (Mieth and Bork 2010, Journal of Archaeological Science, page 423) is very clear: ‘Among more than 200 COMPLETELY preserved and charred nutshells …. less than 10 % had the teeth marks of rats.’
It is NOT less than 10 % of nut fragments. It is less than 10 % counted for whole nuts!”
Uh oh. The plot thickens. It appears that climate deniers have taken an interest in the parable of Easter Island, and the book in question used one of them as a substantial reference. The fur is flying here:
Oh and Annie, I meant to respond to your sense that the Easter Island story validates Hobbes. It does not... they had a very good life, with plentiful and laid back subsistence that stood them in good stead for hundreds of years. For some reason, they were unable to cope with the crisis that eventually came... some other islanders were able to deal with it and turn away from disaster but the Easter Islanders were not. If I may venture a guess, it was precisely because they had top-heavy leadership unwilling to pull back and surrender the privileges and obsessions that drove the economic intensification.
Wow, Wolfbird! Imagine not knowing they had bodies all this time!
Thank you, it's a nice diversion from all the worrying about the collapse of the euro and it's impact on sterling :-0 Could this be the start for Britain and Europe to finally wake up?
I think that it will drive Europe further into a state of unconsciousness regarding our current economic model. Grow, baby grow!