[extropy-chat] FWD [forteana] Re: Easter Island not a human-created disaster?

Terry Colvin fortean1 at mindspring.com
Wed Jan 10 02:52:49 UTC 2007

-----Forwarded Message-----
>On 1/9/07, Terry Colvin <fortean1 at mindspring.com> fnarded:
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> Jared Diamond made Easter Island the main plank in his book about
>> >> collapsing societies. So if it is removed, then his case is certainly
>> >> much weaker.
>He certainly didn't do any such thing.
>> >
>> >You're not giving Diamond justice. He wrote several books, most
>> >notably "The Third Chimpanzee", "Guns, Germs and Steel" and
>> >"Collapse". The first book about how we became human, and contains
>> >a discussion in how we're similiar and how we're different from
>> >being just a third subspecies of Pan. The second book tries to
>> >explain how Europeans conquered the rest of the world instead of the other
>> >way round (very roughly, I've only dipped in the book yet due to lack of time).
>> >"Collapse" (which is subtitled "How socities choose to fail or *succeed*"
>> >(emphasis mine)). It covers contemporary Montana, Easter Island,
>> >Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, Anasazis, Mayas, Vikings, Norse
>> >Greenland, New Guinea, Japan, Rwanda, The Dominican Republic
>> >and Haiti, China, Australia. Quite a lot for a book of only 560 pages.
>> >
>> >So, no, the Easter Island is not his "main plank", and he's
>> >not claiming what you say he does.
>> >
>> >> The effect of climate changes (drought, floods, plagues, disease,
>> >> etc.) on early human societies is a hidden history that is only now
>> >
>> >Which happens to be one of the main points of Collapse, incidentally.
>No it isn't.
>One of the main points of Collapse is that human societies collapse
>for all sorts of reasons, many of which are beyond the control of the
>societies in question.
>The other point is that even when there *are* things which a society
>might control to prevent its collapse, sometimes they don't, for
>various reasons, often cultural.
>The Greenland Norse is a good example; they could have survived by
>adopting Inuit hunting and housing techniques, but had they done that,
>they would no longer have been Norse, they would have become Inuit,
>and that wasn't a sacrifice they were willing to make.
>Easter Island's collapse was caused by several things, but the main
>one was deforestation, partly caused by people cutting down trees, and
>partly by rats gnawing the seeds to no new trees grew.
>Jared Diamond mentions the gnawed seeds and the rats in his book, so
>not only does this news not invalidate his conclusion - it's not even

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