Friday, June 29, 2007

Eastern Island Civilization collapse:An economic point of view (I)

The Eastern Island, is currently applying as one of the new seven wonders of the world. Located 2500 miles west from South America southern Coast, it has become a subject of scrutiny the real reasons behind its civilization collapse.
A kind of small triangle in the middle of the south pacific,(120 square kms ), Eastern Island itself , was not naturally designed to be a different place other than just one more island among thousands of them across the ocean. What made it an interesting place to visit ,and its civilization legacy , an important subject of analysis and study, were the lessons which have arisen to explain the real causes of its collapse .-
Conventional wisdom ,(Jared Diamond´ s book: Collapses of societies, and ), emphasizes the fact that the inhabitants of the Eastern Island, did not make the right decisions concerning the environment protection. Its idolatry to theirs ancestors, was the leading force to build up those volcanic stone statures known as “Moais”. However, in the process of moving them toward a different place to the one where they were built ,required a lot of rolling trees such as at the end of the experience of making more than 900 hundred oh them, the whole wild forest was eliminated, such that the ecological equilibrium which kept the island alive, was broken up , and the whole civilization somehow extinguish themselves. It was the “tragedy of the commons “ case.
Because nobody had clearly defined property right on those forest ,nobody cared too much about the risk of deforestation and the subsequent collapse of the environment. But ,the argument for the Eastern Island civilization collapse, might also goes in a different way. Although environment damage was a sufficient condition ,it was not a necessary condition for the Eastern Island civilization collapse. The necessary condition was the lack of trade flows with other areas , because the Eastern island inhabitants , did not have the resources needed to build up transportation means for navigation .Given the fact that they already had exhausted all the wood available, Eastern Island inhabitants got themselves trapped in a deadly autarky situation, which it was probably too late when they realized about it , to make corrections. Their destiny was inevitable. The result was a struggle for surviving the impossible, with no enough foods for the whole population (20000 inhabitants at the highest point of its development), and no trade flows to get the additional food supplies to the one which came from fishing.-
What are the lessons arising from this experience?. First of all ,it is quite appropriate to study this cases because there is an ongoing concern about climate change and its impact on our civilization. There is a risk of transforming environment protection, into the new ideology which by itself might become even more dangerous than the potential damage on environment on their own. However ,the other extreme of not caring enough about the risk of environment damage ,is fatally driven to the worst.-
Secondly :Environment and economic growth, seems to be complementary instead of substitutes .There would not be a trade off between environment and economic growth. In other words, more growth does not necessarily means worsening the environment. It follows that the current global growth coupled with environment damage, is in fact a negative real economic growth .The global welfare ,is moving backward instead of forward.

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