Groundbreaking Research Sheds Light on Ancient Mystery
“A researcher at Rochester Institute of Technology is unraveling a mystery surrounding Easter Island. William Basener, assistant professor of mathematics, has created the first mathematical formula to accurately model the island’s monumental societal collapse.
Between 1200 and 1500 A.D., the small, remote island, 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, was inhabited by over 10,000 people and had a relatively sophisticated and technologically advanced society. During this time, inhabitants used large boats for fishing and navigation, constructed numerous buildings and built many of the large statues, known as Tiki Gods, for which the island is now best known. However, by the late 18th century, when European explorers first discovered the island, the population had dropped to 2,000 and islanders were living in near primitive conditions, with almost all elements of the previous society completely wiped out.
“The reasons behind the Easter Island population crash are complex but do stem from the fact that the inhabitants eventually ran out of finite resources, including food and building materials, causing a massive famine and the collapse of their society,” Basener says. “Unfortunately, none of the current mathematical models used to study population development predict this sort of growth and quick decay in human communities.””
So Easter island ran out of wood and died. We also think that the Mayan civilisation ran out of clean drinking water and died of disease. Heavy reliance on single resources can lead to the extinction of thriving civilisations; our single resource is oil.
(EDIT) I’ve just remember that Larry Niven’s Ringworld (which I read a couple of weeks ago) has a similar conclusion; the fantastic civilisation of the Ringworld becomes derelict after the people living there ‘forget’ (i.e. the systems become so automated no-one understands the complete process) how to manipulate atoms cheaply, meaning as soon as the vital component supplying power to the ringworld fails, everything collapses at once. A good metaphor for oil, if pure space-opera.