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This Time We're Taking the Whole Planet With Us

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"Are the events of three hundred years ago on a small remote island of any significance to the world at large?" Bahn and Flenley ask. "We believe they are. We consider that Easter Island was a microcosm which provides a model for the whole planet. Like the Earth, Easter Island was an isolated system. The people there believed that they were the only survivors on Earth, all other land having sunk beneath the sea. They carried out for us the experiment of permitting unrestricted population growth, profligate use of resources, destruction of the environment and boundless confidence in their religion to take care of the future. The result was an ecological disaster leading to a population crash. A crash on a similar scale (60 percent of the population) for the planet Earth would lead to the deaths of about 1.8 billion people, roughly 100 times the death toll of the Second World War. Do we have to repeat the experiment on this grand scale? Do we have to be as cynical as Henry Ford and say 'History is bunk'? Would it not be more sensible to learn the lesson of Easter Island history, and apply it to the Earth Island on which we live?"

Human beings seem cursed to repeat these cycles of exploitation and collapse. And the greater the extent of the deterioration the less they are able to comprehend what is happening around them. The Earth is littered with the physical remains of human folly and human hubris. We seem condemned as a species to drive ourselves and our societies toward extinction, although this moment appears be the denouement to the whole sad show of settled, civilized life that began some 5,000 years ago. There is nothing left on the planet to seize. We are now spending down the last remnants of our natural capital, including our forests, fossil fuel, air and water.

This time when we go down it will be global. There are no new lands to pillage, no new peoples to exploit. Technology, which has obliterated the constraints of time and space, has turned our global village into a global death trap. The fate of Easter Island will be writ large across the broad expanse of planet Earth.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of (more...)
 

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You write that current CO2 is 329 parts per millio... by robert wolff on Monday, Mar 7, 2011 at 3:35:53 PM
To Chris Hedges:My comments represent a far less a... by Annie Kelleher on Monday, Mar 7, 2011 at 4:50:54 PM
Eminently sensible. The principle problem now stem... by Keith Pope on Wednesday, Mar 9, 2011 at 3:01:55 AM
One subtopic you omitted was that human population... by Laura Stein on Saturday, Mar 12, 2011 at 7:25:31 PM
The grand truth for a society more interested in c... by amos richardson on Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011 at 1:38:50 AM