Claim: Climate is Endangering the Easter Island Statues

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Union of Concerned Scientists Climate and Energy director Adam Markham is concerned about the impact of climate change on the Easter Island statues – though relocating the statues is not currently on the agenda.

Climate Change Threatens the Moai of Easter Island


“Some of the moai have been knocked over in the past — including by tsunamis — and they have been restored. So not every site is in pristine condition,” says Adam Markham, deputy director of climate and energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The difference now is that the danger is even greater. The rate of change is faster than ever.

On Rapa Nui, signs of damage from the incoming waves is already apparent. On the island’s southern coast, blocks of a 10-foot-high (305-centimeters-high) stone wall at a site called Ura Uranga Te Mahina, toppled over last year, according to a report in the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Ovahe Beach, at the island’s northern coast, used to be covered in pink sand, says the report, but waves have carried away most of the sand, leaving behind rocks. A nearby burial site has been left exposed and vulnerable to erosion. Conservationists are testing a newly built sea wall at one part of the island to see if it can offer protection, according to The New York Times, but it’s not certain that walls can hold off the ocean’s onslaught.

Is Relocation an Option?

Moving the hieroglyphics and some of the most vulnerable moai into protected enclosures might help ensure their survival. But relocating the statues could not only harm the works, it would also disregard their role at many of the sites as burial markers for remains of the island’s ancestors. The 1995 recognition of Rapa Nui National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site acknowledges the importance of the statues’ preservation where they now stand.

“It’s the same problem that anyone would have when thinking about moving generations of history buried within a cemetery,” Markham says. “A lot of very hard choices will have to be made but I would doubt that much moving of artifacts will take place on Easter Island.”

This isn’t the first time the island has faced ecological destruction. In fact, some have pointed to Easter Island’s history as a cautionary environmental lesson. Pollen grains found in the island’s sediments suggest it was covered in palm forest when it was first settled around 1200. By the time a Dutch settler came upon the island’s shores in the 1700s, he described the land as being of “singular poverty and barrenness.” What had happened to the island’s trees?

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To me Easter Island is a cautionary tale, it is a demonstration of what can happen if you overexploit natural resources, if you burn your woodlands for fuel, instead of protecting forest habitats by digging up and burning coal instead. European biofuel advocates could learn from the Easter Island tragedy.

via Watts Up With That?

March 26, 2018 at 08:39PM

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