I am part of a Facebook group called “Deep Adaptation” – which is part of the larger Deep Adaptation Forum (https://www.deepadaptation.info/) –  an international virtual community where folks share information on the inner and outer deep adaptations required as societal breakdowns intensify due to climate change.

If that’s a lot to take in  – it’s also a lot to wrap one’s brain around. Unfortunately, or fortunately, by virtue of being part of this Facebook group, I’m regularly reminded of the dire situation we are in locally and globally.

Although a lot of this is outside our control, at the same time, having an awareness of the state of the environment and therefore the world because of climate change, is helpful to have front and centre of consciousness. So far, I have found these reminders help me be more appreciative of the life I have today and more determined than ever to support myself and others in this difficult transition time.

So, I was, in an odd way, buoyed today when someone from the Deep Adaptation group posted an article about an alternate way of looking at the demise of Eastern Island.  Jared Diamond has popularized the idea that the small Polynesian island, named by Europeans as Eastern Island, is the “clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources.”

Yet, Dr. Terry L. Hunt, an internationally renowned anthropologist, archaeologist, and educator did very focused studies in the last twenty years on Easter Island and found evidence for a very different reason that the population went extinct.

You can check out the article yourself for all the twists and turns of Dr. Hunt’s research, but the conclusion that jumped out at me is that the population of Easter Island was not decimated by the ignorance of the population of its impact on the environment. There were, seemingly, continued adaptations to the environment, despite environmental challenges like a burgeoning rat population eating at the tree seeds, which would have contributed greatly to the tree demise.

What collapsed the population was not cutting all the trees down, but European and South American invaders landing on the island in the 1700 and 1800s, with slavery, murder and disease devastating the indigenous population. In the early 1860s, more than a thousand Easter Island inhabitants (Rapanui) were taken from the island as slaves, and by the late 1870s the number of native islanders numbered only around 100. In 1888, the island was annexed by Chile and remains part of that country today.

According to Hunt and others, it was “genocide, not ecocide, that caused the demise of the Rapanui.”

So why does this idea buoy me?

It has helped solidify some of my thinking by moving away from blaming humans. It’s been my experience in conflict that blame is a dead-end game. What I find more constructive is to think more broadly about the climate-change pickle we are in. Instead of it being all our fault as humans, which leads us to point fingers and become defensive and closed off from each other, can we step back and come together?

We will surely need stronger collaborations and power-with relationships as our climate continues to grow more extreme. Can we put our emphasis on searching out ways to work together? As old institutions and ways of delivering food systems collapse, we will have more and more need to build something new.

Whether we will all perish from thirst, starvation, smoke inhalation, burning or melting to death, we will still need each other and do better in cooperation than in conflict. Whether any of our species survive as our climate grows more inhospitable, can we stay connected, loving and cooperative in the extremes?

As odd as that might sound, that’s my vision and why I’m buoyed!