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The Survival of Easter Island

Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience

Jan J. Boersema (Universiteit Leiden) Diane Webb



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Cambridge University Press
13 April 2015
In this book, 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.
By:   Jan J. Boersema (Universiteit Leiden)
Translated by:   Diane Webb
Imprint:   Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 237mm,  Width: 162mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   650g
ISBN:   9781107027701
ISBN 10:   1107027705
Pages:   308
Publication Date:   13 April 2015
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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.

Reviews for The Survival of Easter Island: Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience

'Jan J. Boersema's study demonstrates once more the 'collapse of the Easter Island society', commonly advocated by Jared Diamond, to be a myth based on shaky scientific ground. To the contrary, the Rapa Nui people adapted to the challenges of isolation in a marginal environment with remarkable resilience. This book, written for a large audience, is a must-read for everyone interested in the fascinating Isla de Pascua.' Morgan De Dapper, Past President, Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences, Belgium 'In this book, Jan J. Boersema breaks with the consensus about an ecological and cultural crash on Easter Island. In place of this big collapse, he proves the adaptation of the Islanders to a new landscape. A salutary book that sets the record straight.' Nicolas Cauwe, Curator of Oceanic Antiquities, Royal Museums of Art, and Professor, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium 'In this new publication by Jan J. Boersema, the author questions whether the history of Easter Island holds a message for planet Earth and asks, 'What happened on Easter Island?' Readers will find much to ponder in this well-written book, from the ecology to the sustainability of life on a small and isolated island.' Georgia Lee, Easter Island Foundation 'Boersema presents a convincing counter narrative about the supposed 'collapse' of Easter Island. He does a masterful job of weaving previous and contemporary scholarship on the island into his account, while adding his own research based on accounts of Dutch, Spanish, English and French explorers to the region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ... This is a significant contribution to our understanding of how small scale societies interact with the biophysical environment. It is written by a researcher concerned with facts instead of hyperbole. Easter Island scholarship has experienced plenty of the latter, making Boersma's book a refreshing and welcome read.' John Richard Stepp, Economic Botany 'The Survival of Easter Island - Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience by Jan J. Boersema is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the cultural and environmental history of Rapa Nui. Jan J. Boersema, who is Professor of Principles of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University, is known to have been a critic of the wildly popular 'collapse theory' for many years and presents here an impressive body of work once and for all disproving it ... Jan J. Boersema is to be commended for presenting such a conclusive body of evidence ...' Anette Kuhlem, Rapa Nui Journal

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