Only when the last tree has died and the last river poisoned and the last fish is caught, will learn we can’t eat money. Cree, Native American Proverb.
In the middle of the great Pacific Ocean is a tiny lonely island thousands of miles from any other land. We have named it Easter Island.
Once this island was rich with giant palm trees and fertile soil.
A long time ago, 1300 years in the past and long before Columbus crossed the sea and started the written history of America, some people saw the island and landed on its shore after sailing an empty ocean. They called themselves the Rapa Nui.
No one knows where they came from but it is believed they were Polynesians. They must have been overjoyed at finding such a scene – filled with palms, plant life and a sea alive with fish.
The Rapu Nui brought sweet potato, yams, sugar cane and bananas with them on their boats as well as chickens and an edible Polynesian rodent. Some people say they also ate native sandalwood nuts and sap from the palm trees for energy.
Landing on a beach, they brought their long boats ashore and turned them upside down to provide homes and protection from the weather. They named their new country Hofu Matua and created a small nation far from any other humans.
The Rapu Nui cut down some of the giant palms for firewood and material to build homes that were in the shape of the overturned boats. Food was plentiful and life was good on this island that had no enemies.
In the center of Hofu Matua was a quiet old volcano that long ago had erupted and created the land in the middle of the sea. One day a member of the Rapa Nui visiting the volcano had an idea. He or she was very artistic as well as spiritual and thought to carve a small head from the soft stone of the mountain. The statue was to recognize the God who had led them to this beautiful but lonely island.
Because the palm trees, the rich soil and the sea provided them with food that was easy to find, the Rap Nui had a good deal of time to spend on other activities and they taught one another to carve more heads.
As more stone artists learned the skill, the heads became larger and the Rapa Nui had to find a way to move them from the mountain to the cliffs of the island. Someone suggested cutting down the Palms and using the logs to roll the carvings across the land. The heads were then put standing around the island looking out on the empty sea.
The people of Rapa Nui were pleased with their great works of art. If any other sailors came by they would see the giants guarding the island and think twice about landing and taking over.
On their small island they grew into a large population and divided into clans working together to farm, fish and carve ever-larger heads.
But no one stopped to think about what was happening to the island. The last heads were rolled into place by the last of the palms.
With the forest gone, the wind and rain from the sea blew away the soil that provided food. With the giant palms gone there was no wood for fire, houses, or boats for fishing.
At first they had used their boats to sail out into deep water to fish but with the wood gone they were forced to look for their sea food close to shore where the fish were smaller and less available.
As the Rapa Nui became hungrier, the different clans began to go to war against those that were once their friends.
And as they began to starve, they became cannibals feeding on the bodies of other Rapa Nui. A cave below one of the sea cliffs was used as the place where men were eaten.
There was no way to escape the problem they created. The food was gone, the houses were wearing away and there were no boats to take them to land once again.
The surviving Rapa Nui brought down the giant statues even separating the heads from the bodies supporting them and smashed the eyes away.
They became carvers of birds, worshipping them because they had the ability to fly away.
When the first explorers came across Hofu Matua, now called Easter Island, there were very few people there, only giant heads laying broken along the cliffs of the island, carvings of birds on the rocks of the sea, and only one writing left to tell us what it said.
Easter Island is small bit of land in a vast sea. The lesson of the Rapa Nui is a lesson for the citizens of Earth. We are living on a small island planet drifting through the vast sea of space. If we destroy that which supports us, we will be trapped on a barren globe with no one to hear our cry for help.