Easter Island Systems Analysis Project

Task: Write the “Modeling the System” section of your project report. (~500-700 words)

 

In this section you introduce your working Stella model of the problem. Because it is not identical to the CLD, you will need to explain what the model is designed to explore and simulate.

Present the diagram Stella model as an image. You might need to present it as two or three images to show everything easily in the document, as it is a big model. Walk the reader through the key building blocks of the model and identify the key stock and flow variables. Discuss the big picture system dynamics that it is modeling, including key drivers of the system and feedback loops. You are basically helping the reader understand what this model is and what its dynamics are.

Task: Explore the Easter Island problem by running simulations.

The core question is this: did Easter Islanders collapse their civilization by deforesting the land, causing widespread soil erosion that limited their ability to grow food, causing them to slowly collapse into deprivation and anarchy? This conventional way of understanding what might have happened is what you read in the Easter’s End article. Recent science has cast doubt on this explanation in many ways.

⦁ Rats were a far more serious problem than may have been appreciated. Although your model is far more conservative than this, one set of scholars estimated there may have been a peak population of 20 million rats on the island.
⦁ The impacts of the Moai on the forest may not have been as substantial as thought. New research suggests they could have been moved without the large palm trees as a way of transporting them.
⦁ Islanders were very, very skilled agriculturalists. They brought with them a large variety of domesticated animals and foodstuffs for cultivation like chickens, taro root, sugar cane, and bananas as described in the Easter’s End article. The European explorers who visited the Island made note of large plantations of crops scattered around the island. (This is something that Easter’s End did not tell us.) As one recent scholar put it, “Archaeological evidence shows that the Rapanui civilization was resilient to deforestation and remained healthy until European contact, which contradicts the occurrence of a cultural collapse.” The islanders also practiced very innovative soil and water conservation techniques using stone mulching and terraced beds, a practice known as “lithic mulching.”
⦁ Analyses of soil erosion suggest that there was indeed real loss of soil on the island, but that quite a bit of erosion at key sites simply moved the soil around on the island. For example, it eroded off slopes, but down into gullies that filled and became productive land.

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