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Easter Island is an island that has gained significant attention from the ecological point of view. It is a small island situated in the Pacific Ocean more than 3,200 km west of Chile (Lovgren, 2006). It is well known for its gigantic statues made up of volcanic stone. Its peak population of 7,000 individuals appears to have been reached in 1500 AD, i.e. approximately 150 individuals per square mile. By this time, about 1,000 statues had been carved and 324 erected (Cairns, 2004). The story of Easter Island is tragic as it suffered a major ecological collapse that resulted in the extinction of one of the greatest and richest ancient civilizations. In fact, the inhabitants of this island exceeded their carrying capacity by over-harvesting trees that covered the island. Forests were cleared for agriculture, construction of canoes, and for the transport and leverage of the huge statues for which the island is renowned. The statues were moved several miles even though they weighed as much as 80 tons and were up to 37 feet tall. Extensive deforestation resulted in reducing the resources to make large canoes that in turn resulted in cutting off access to any marine fishery in deep water which were the major source of food. Besides, soil erosion that resulted from the loss of forests eventually depleted the terrestrial food resources, which led to resource wars and a population collapse (Lovgren, 2006). At last, it ended up in a civil war and cannibalism, when food supplies proven to be insufficient.
Though the story of Ester Island is quite old, the lesson from this age old story is still not learned. Globalization is converting Earth into a single social system. The entire life support system is now threatened by human behavior, and it is extremely essential at a global level to protect and cherish this system. For instance, deforestation in the Brazil’s Amazon rainforest and in Cambodia is causing serious threat to the biodiversity. These are known for their richest biodiversities in the world.
Since 1978, over 530,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed. The Amazon rainforest is being cleared mainly for cattle pasture, colonization and subsequent subsistence agriculture, infrastructure improvements, commercial agriculture and logging (Mongabay.com n.d.). This has resulted in land degradation, loss of biodiversity and several other ecological problems. The deforestation of the Amazon is an example of mismanagement of renewable resource that goes against the idea of sustainable development. Though the environmental losses and degradation of the rainforests have yet to reach the point of collapse as in the case of Easter Island, the continuing disappearance of forest and loss of its species is a serious concern.
Similarly, Cambodia is known for its richest biodiversities and is well known for its unique species. It is home to some 521 species of birds, 127 mammals, and 116 reptiles. Additionally this place is also known for the rich aquatic biodiversity. However, the growing population demands and poverty in this region have threatened its biodiversity. Deforestation is one of the most common threats to biodiversity in Cambodia. Since 1970, Cambodia’s primary rainforest cover decreased from over 70 percent in 1970 to 3.1 percent in the recent years. The overall rate of total forest loss has jumped nearly 75 percent since the close of the 1990s. In total, Cambodia lost 2.5 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2005—3,34,000 hectares of which were primary forest. Presently it is only less than 3,22,000 hectares of primary forest that remain (Butler, 2006). Priority should be given to combine and disseminate existing knowledge of biodiversity, promote institutional cooperation and introduce and enforce policies that will help to minimize, if not eliminate, risks posed by human activities on the region’s flora and fauna resources. This will not only help the present generation but also the future generation.
In conclusion, it can be said that human beings are encroaching on the habitats of many species. Land is constantly being converted from its natural state into farms, cattle grazing areas, mines, housing developments, golf courses, office buildings, shopping malls, and other urban and suburban areas. For all species, smaller habitats mean fewer food and shelter resources. Many of the world’s natural resources are being used by humans faster than they can replace themselves. Scientific evidence is increasing as to rapid population growth in the United States that is causing the deterioration of life-supporting environmental resources (Bartlett and Lytwak, 1995; Pimentel and Pimentel, 2003; Sachs, 2004). Unless a stringent measure is taken to halt the progression of these ecological destructions, the Easter Island story may be repeated with much more serious consequences.
Bartlett, A.A. and E.P. Lytwak. (1995) Zero Population of the United States. Population and Environment. 16: pp 415-428.
Butler, R. (2006) Tropical Rainforests, Cambodia. Mongabay.com. Web.
Cairns, J. (2004) Sustainability ethics: tales of two cultures. Ethics In Science And Environmental Politics. Pp 39-43.
Lovgren, S. (2006) Easter Island Settled Later, Depleted Quicker Than Thought? National Geographic News. Web.
Mongabay.com, Tropical Rainforests, Deforestation In The Amazon (2005). Web.
Pimentel, D. and M. Pimentel. (2003) World Population, Food, Natural Resources, and Survival. World Futures 59: pp145-167.
Sachs, J. D. (2004) Sustainable Development. (editorial). Science 304: pp 649.