What Do You Get When You Mix Not Being Able To Speak with Easter Island?

This week had to have been one of the most painful weeks of the semester for me. Last weekend I started feeling under the weather and noticed I had white spots on the back of my throat so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. I was expecting that I had strep but was not happy to find out that I had coxsackievirus, a virus that affects the mouth/hands/feet and creates painful sores that appear all over infected areas. For me this meant that for Wicked Problems this week, not only did I look like I had contracted a vaguely familiar STI, but I would also not be able to contribute vocally to class discussion. This ended up giving me a new perspective that I would have never had as I had to write my thoughts as class discussed the topics at hand. It allowed me to be more thoughtful and really dig into what I thought before I typed.

Our reading this week was over Easter Island and how it functioned as a warning and parable for humanity’s future today. The passage discussed the previous inhabitants as well as the mysterious statue heads found all over the island. The most common story of their origins tells of Polynesian voyagers finding the island and colonizing it in the tradition that they had for many many other islands in the Pacific Sea. Once they arrived at Easter Island, the biodiversity was extremely low and the temperature was very hot. This was not what the Polynesians were used to due to the tropical areas where they originate. The only feasible crop that they could cultivate were sweet potatoes and they farmed chickens. This was not a very demanding task so it allowed the villagers to spend more time on recreation and spirituality. It is then that they discovered how to make ceremonial statues for their religious practices such as the Easter island relics seen today. These statues were very heavy and in order to move them, the villagers had to start cutting down many if not all of the trees available which put the small ecosystem of the island into turmoil which led to the islanders demise.

 As a class exercise we were split into groups and then asked to identify some of the Wicked Problems faced by the people of Easter Island. Many people came to the same consensus that the first problem that the islanders faced was the massive lack of biodiversity. With a lack of resources and an unfamiliar climate, this village had a large existential problem with no clear solution. This was then heightened to a point of no return when the islanders resorted to mass deforestation in order to erect their grand and extremely innovative monuments. These very few trees were essential to the environment due to the fact that not only did they provide shelter and shade but they were the root system that kept the soil in place. Without the trees, the soil loosened and began the initial process of desertification. This made farming practices nearly impossible and the village began to starve. As our group contemplated the bigger life lessons and application today of this Wicked Problem, we see that deforestation is still a large problem today. It is such a large problem not due to modern society craving the need for large statues but a variety of things. In my major, Architecture, this can be applied to buildings. We strive for them to be grand but don’t always account for the massive amount of resources it takes to get said buildings. By learning to not only take from the environment but also compensate for said resources being taken, we can erase much of the damage caused by deforestation.

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