Warning: Disaster Ahead!

The events that led up to the fall of Easter Island were not merely coincidental, and if we are not careful, this ghost from the past will without a doubt come back to haunt us. The first human habitants of the island were a Polynesian group from southeast Asia. As the years went by, the population of the island grew to roughly 7,000 individuals. At this point, the island, and the new-born civilization, began to collapse. As the population increased, more and more trees were cut down to meet the people’s needs. This led to complete deforestation of the island, and without trees, the natives were forced to endure the social and cultural, “…consequences of their self-inflicted environmental collapse” (Ponting et al., 2017). Their eagerness to advance as a society, accompanied by the increased demand in resources due to population growth, ultimately dismantled their entire civilization. Now, if we compare the rise and fall of Easter Island to modern day, it is only fair to consider how much the world the world has significantly changed since the 15th century. Advancements in medicine, technology, and agriculture have increased life-expectancy as well as our ability to adapt to environmental changes. However, what has not changed since the 15th century, is an ecosystems’ response to demolition at the hands of humanity. In the words of George Santayana, “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it” (Xplore). Like the islanders, we too are taking advantage of our environment and its resources. At a certain point, if continue the path we are currently on, we too will fall as a society.

Regarding the responsibility mapping activity, the top issues that remain a problem for my field are solid-waste disposal and deforestation. Plastic and other solid waste products are causing unnecessary harm to the environment due to improper disposal methods. Though there are various methods in which solid waste can be disposed, none of these methods are long term solutions. For example, one method of disposing solid waste is by compacting and burying the waste underground. This is known as a sanitary landfill, and although it may temporarily remove solid waste, this method causes more problems than it does solve them. Microorganisms that help breakdown the waste material also producing large amounts of methane gas into the atmosphere. Not to mention, there is a risk of contaminating surface water or groundwater by leachate. I believe a key catalyst for change for solid waste disposal begins with production. If major companies would be more inclined to use packaging from recycled materials, it would help decrease the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Another major problem is deforestation. Forests are important because they are responsible for regulating climate, controlling flooding, purifying the air and water, and storing carbon. Considering what is previously known about the history of Easter Island, it can be inferred that cutting down too many trees is a bad idea. I think a key catalyst for preventing deforestation is the government. The government could alleviate the deforestation problem by enforcing laws and regulations that protect forest biomes. Also, the government could establish more national parks.

Personally, I really hate plastic pollution. To alleviate this issue, I think a good start would be installing more trash and recycling containers in public places. Also, I think it would be beneficial to start implementing “eco-friendly” learning in elementary-level school curriculum. This would include teaching children how to recycle properly, creative ways they can reuse plastic products, and more. Recently, I have become more aware of what I throw away and where. In fact, my roommate and I have created a “recycling pile”. Basically, we just pile our recycling in the hallway we share and though it may not be a perfect system, it is a great start.

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