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Surely you have followed with interest the debate over the past decade on what the true history of Easter Island was. Was it, as Jared Diamond makes the case for in Collapse, a case of a people stupidly overconsuming the limited resources on a fragile island ecosystem, or was it perhaps a more nuanced story, or eve na success story that people could have flourished in such a place for so long before the island depopulated? I’ll leave it to readers to track down the various ideas and arguments. Our point today is a bit different. Suppose the Collapse version of the story is correct, which I am sympathetic to, particularly since being neither an historian nor anthropologist I really have no basis to judge which version of stories is more correct. However, there are huge lessons to be drawn from the story, particularly if correct. And one of those lessons? Over the course of human history well over 10 billion people have inhabited all different parts of the planet. And in this entire human history despite seemingly stupid and rapacious behavior in many places and despite living in some of the most inhospitable places one could ever imagine, one of the “best” illustrations of how we are doomed to destroy ourselves and our planet is from a tiny little island that is for all intents and purposes pretty insignificant? So, when I pick up stories like this, aware of course that we are all prone to confirmation bias, I take it not at all as a cautionary tale, but rather quite the opposite – a sign of the incredible ability of people of all cultures and all time periods in all places to survive, a story of resilience, a story of our bright future, a story, in fact, of our inherent ability to live quite sustainably in practice. Sharing such a view does not garner much sympathy or invitations to fancy faculty dinners of course. No matter – this wintercow prefers a laid back fish-fry among his fellow cows out here in the pasture.

2 Responses to “Removal from Polite Company, Anthropological-Ecological Disaster Edition”

  1. yamahaeleven says:


  2. Harry says:

    I thought the Easter Island people were aliens who sucked the place dry before settling in Area 51, which also shows no signs of human habitation.

    Re the fancy faculty parties, will they abandon Rochester when Wegeman’s runs out of foie gras and Caspian caviar?

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