"The Story of Easter Island"
Excerpt from Rudolf Bahro "Avoiding Social & Ecological Disaster"
"The situation as I see it"
(Gateway Books, Bath, 1994) pp. 24-25
"The following brief story of Easter Island, which Hermann Remmert published in the periodical 'Nationalpark', serves as a warning:
'In about 400 AD Polynesians came to Easter Island, which may well be the loneliest island in the Great Ocean. They settled in, felled trees, built villages and temples, and evolved with their simple celts a remarkable technique of stonemasonry, creating the famous stone figures which they set up round the island near their villages and harbors. They felled yet more trees, increased their numbers, and began to make war among themselves as their numbers grew too great. The temples were destroyed, built up again, destroyed again, and the forest was annihilated... The Europeans discovered a remnant population of about 500 people when they first set foot on Easter Island. The island was by this time a treeless steppe, and the remnants of what had once been over 20,000 inhabitants lived in caves and practiced a cruel bird-cult and cannibalism.
Subsequently the population increased again a little (in spite of the slave trade); dogs, cats, and sheep were imported (and wiped out the poultry brought in by the Polynesians), and from 1900 to 1950 the island was one enormous sheep farm (with about 60,000 sheep)...
Today three species of land birds live here, imported from South America. Nobody knows what the exterminated trees were. Are the "crickets, wasps, butterflies, lizards, native? Nobody is able to say. A Stone Age culture destroyed its own living space, and emptied this once rich bird island. The Stone Age humans didn't live in harmony with their homeland, and destroyed it, just as we are doing.
The Maoris of New Zealand burnt the forest down and annihilated some twenty-three species of giant kiwis, and many other species as well. Large areas of New Zealand are denuded of trees - the work of humans who settled before the white man did. The people who settled America advanced behind a girdle of terror, the zone of 'overkill' as we say today. Thus came about the poverty of mammalian species in North and South America. The annihilation of the forests in the Mediterranean region, the destruction of life-support in Norway (attributed to the wanderings of the Vikings), the Bronze Age destruction of the oak forests in North Germany (which created the Luneberg Heath) - all this shows us that whenever they could, humans have destroyed their living space. They never tried to be members of a stable ecosystem. No, looking to the past gives us no help. The notion that primitive humans lived in harmony with nature is a pious fairy-tale.
It can be of help to us, in our terrifying situation, to study the path from the missing link to homo sapiens. Otherwise Easter Island is a model of our world, and a terrible one at that: from about 20,000 people the population sank to about 500 - through war, cannibalism, and disease. Today we can determine the causes with frightening exactness. We know what is at issue and we see the dangers.
We have but two choices: voluntary renunciation of the world, or the terrible spectacle of renunciation a la Easter Island (if we are so lucky)...'
The recipe for self-extermination and our mental attitude which makes it unavoidable have been typically demonstrated by the editor of the conservative Wormser Zeitung, in two lead-articles about the Chernobyl catastrophe: we must be more careful than ever with atomic energy, but since we need it for our standard of life, we must "in future also live in the shadow of the bomb and in the neighborhood of the atomic pile". The standard of living for which we compete among ourselves must have priority over life itself.
We are all participants in exterminism. Clearly the behavior of humans, though correct according to a wide variety of customs and laws, suffices to bring about the collapse. For this reason no order can save us which simply limits the excesses of our greed. Only spiritual mastery of the greed itself can help us. It is perhaps only the Prophets and Buddhas, whether or not their answers were perfect, who have at least put the question radically enough."