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Why Those Funny Statues Are Sitting at the Top of my Blog


The following used to be posted in the ‘What Is Batshite?’ section, but I took it out. I’ve been thinking lately that it should be on the blog somewhere, and a question from @MissyBiozarre prompted me to finally repost it.

Image credit: flickr user Ndecam

The statues you see above are mo’ai. They were built by members of a society that developed on Easter Island hundreds of years ago. Their religion required that ancestors be honoured by building these giant stone figures. After they were finished, the islanders transported them to altars near the shore, which required large amounts of rope and timber.

Gradually, the construction of the mo’ai became an obsession, and by 1400 A.D. the last tree on Easter Island had been felled. Wood became a precious rarity, and within a generation it ran out. Once the last seaworthy canoe fell into disrepair, there was no longer a way off the island. The warrior class took power, waging gruesome battles and burning villages. They ate all the dogs, and they ate most of the nesting birds. Eventually, they turned to cannibalism.

Earth, too, is an island.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. John Erickson permalink
    01/26/2012 9:09 PM

    That’s why I love your blog. Always happy and uplifting messages. But be careful – if you make me feel any happier, I’ll blow my brains out! :p :D

  2. Ian Burgess Photography permalink
    01/26/2012 9:30 PM

    Jared Diamond writes about Easter Island in depth in “Collapse” – fascinating and scary stuff. The end of all of the societies he writes about in Collapse happen relatively quickly once the tipping point is reached and often with myopia that’s hard to fathom in hindsight.

    The parallels with our climate challenges is inescapable…

    • 01/27/2012 12:56 PM

      I first read about it in A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, also a great read. I started Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel a while back, but I haven’t finished it–did you read that one?

      You’re right, the similarities between our society and civilizations at the moments preceding their collapse is pretty alarming.

      • Ian Burgess Photography permalink
        01/27/2012 11:50 PM

        I did – and it took me a while. I devoured Collapse though. A lot of his ideas percolate away months after reading them I find.

  3. 01/27/2012 11:04 AM

    As they say, there is no planet B….

    • 01/27/2012 1:26 PM

      Definitely won within reach, anyway! And terraforming Mars ain’t looking too likely.

      On the other hand, Newt Gingrich has his moon base plans all laid out! ;)

  4. Andrea permalink
    01/27/2012 11:34 AM

    And the happy ending… the only reason any of them survived is that Europeans came around and introduced them to the wonderful world of slavery. Doesn’t humanity just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside?

  5. 01/28/2012 2:08 AM

    might not be a happy message, but its one to take

    • 01/28/2012 8:27 AM

      Yeah, for sure. I’m not trying to say that Easter Island’s fate is inevitable for the Earth at large. I’m saying there is limited land and limited resources, and if we’re not careful we’ll exceed their limits, just like the inhabitants of Easter Island did.

  6. 01/29/2012 3:06 AM

    I HAVE wondered what those statues up there meant…

    Wow, what a cautionary tale! Let’s not let history repeat itself.

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