The statues of Easter Island are as iconic as they are mysterious. Erected over 600 years ago, they also provide a cautionary tale for the present day.
The small, isolated island in the South Pacific, known by its earliest inhabitants as Rapa Nui, was at one point home to a thriving community of over 15,000. However, through a gradual process called "ecocide," Easter Islanders overharvested the island's resources, and ultimately, themselves. As Jared Diamond explains in his 2005 book, Collapse: "Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit‐bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. ... No one would have noticed the feeling of the last small palm."