Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

The Survival of Easter Island: Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience

  • Challenges the widely held collapse theory of Easter Island
  • Explores the very timely question of a culture's resilience in a changing environment
  • Includes 44 illustrations and four maps

By: Jan J Boersema(Author), Diane Webb(Translated by)

296 pages, 44 b/w illustrations, 4 maps, 1 table

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Jun 2015 | #218918 | ISBN-13: 9781107027701
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £66.99 $86/€74 approx

About this book

In The Survival of Easter Island Civilization, Jan J. Boersema reconstructs the ecological and cultural history of Easter Island and critiques the hitherto accepted theory of the collapse of its civilization. The collapse theory, advanced most recently by Jared Diamond and Clive Ponting, is based on the documented overexploitation of natural resources, particularly woodlands, on which Easter Island culture depended. Deforestation is said to have led to erosion, followed by hunger, conflict, and economic and cultural collapse. Drawing on scientific data and historical sources, including the shipping journals of the Dutch merchant who was the first European to visit the island in 1722, Boersema shows that deforestation did not in fact jeopardize food production and lead to starvation and violence. On the basis of historical and scientific evidence, Boersema demonstrates how Easter Island society responded to cultural and environmental change as it evolved and managed to survive.


1. Easter Island as an icon
2. From the east or the west?
3. The green past
4. Culture appears, nature disappears
5. Makemake, moai, and the tangata manu
6. Resilience and sustainability
7. Foreigners
8. Christianization, sheep breeding, and research
9. The earth and Easter Island: doom and destiny

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Jan J. Boersema is Professor of Principles of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Integrated Environmental Sciences and editor of the textbook Principles of Environmental Sciences (2009, with Lucas Reijnders).

Diane Webb has translated numerous books and scholarly articles on historical and art-historical subjects. She was a member of the team that translated Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. In 2005 she was awarded the Vondel Prize for Dutch Translation.

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