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How to get even more depressed, vol CLXXVII

So there’s a new analysis of the Easter Island story.

The old one: Polynesians showed up on this small, isolated island, used up all the trees, and the economy collapsed while people futilely built giant heads to make the collapse stop. They were reduced to a wretched remnant by the time Europeans showed up.

The new one: Polynesians showed up on this small, isolated island and the rats they brought with them killed the trees. The islanders lived on crops and rats and did okay until Europeans showed up.

As NPR points out, this is simultaneously less scary (we can survive ecological collapse) and more so (we can survive ecological collapse, so we’re that much more likely to let it happen, and then we simply forget what life used to be like before we ate rat for dinner all the time).

What if the planet’s ecosystem, as J.B. MacKinnon puts it, “is reduced to a ruin, yet its people endure, worshipping their gods and coveting status objects while surviving on some futuristic equivalent of the Easter Islanders’ rat meat and rock gardens?”

That’s a scary thought.
But there’s a scarier one: How much has this happened already?


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