Easter Island vs. Tikopia: What are the reasons for one civilization’s failures and another’s success?

Today, Easter Island is a small town with a population of over 2,000 people. It is a popular spot for tourism. Over 6,800 tourists a year visit the island to see it’s ancient statues and explore its rich history. The island has a variation of cliffs, sandy beaches and volcanoes. The land lacks much greenery and is very eroded and dry. There are only about 200 species that exist on the island, much of these have been imported. There are seabirds, dogs, cats, horses, cattle and a few insect species such as cockroaches. There are also a variety of crops on the island which include; sugar cane, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, grapes, pineapples and figs. Some of the natural resources are copper, timber, iron and metals.

Easter Island today


Easter Island looks very different from the time period in which it was first discovered. In its prime Easter Island had much greenery, it was surrounded by many forests and had a variety of different plant types. The resources on the island seemed endless. Perhaps this was the reason for the collapse of the ecological systems on the island. The inhabitants did not practice conservation of their non-renewable materials. Deforestation began and as a result the land became unable to produce crops. This caused mass starvation and a complete depletion of the island’s resources. Today, Easter Island provides us with an example of what a lack in sustainability and conservation can produce.

The Island of Tikopia, is an island in the southwest region of the Pacific Ocean.  Tikopia was an island much like Easter Island, however was able to sustain life and resources for over 3,000 years unlike Easter Island. There are numerous differences between the Island of Tikopia and Easter Island that allowed it to maintain resources and life for such a great period of time.



The first difference is that Tikopia, amongst other islands along the pacific developed alternate methods for “slashing and burning” trees. The inhabitants were able to make use of tree orchards and garden plots as to preserve the forests. Another difference was based on the Landscape of the Island. The inhabitants of the island had the ability to view the entire island, in this way many had the opportunity to see the effects of their cultivation. Easter Island’s design made it difficult for the inhabitants to view the damage being caused to their environment. Tikopia was also located near other islands, so inhabitants had the opportunity to migrate if the population became too large. Easter Island was very distant from other islands which made it hard to migrate or trade with others. In conclusion it is evident that the differences accounted for in sustainability were dependent not only on culture ,but also on the environment through which these actions took place.



“Country Profile, Easter Island (Rapa Nui).” Pacific Island Travel. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/easter_island/about_destin/country_profile.asp&gt;.

Diamond, Jared. “Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies.” The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Stanford University . Stanford University, California. 22 May 2000. Lecture.


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