Easter Island: lessons from the navel of the world – 02/11/2024 – Ronaldo Lemos

Easter Island: lessons from the navel of the world – 02/11/2024 – Ronaldo Lemos

Ask any Easter Island resident and they will tell you that life has changed in the last 24 months. The main reason is the arrival of internet connections via low-orbit satellites. Just remembering, Easter Island is the most remote place on the planet, being at least 2,000 kilometers from any other place inhabited by more than 50 people. Today it has high-quality internet like any other urban center.

Before that, watching a series via streaming was impossible. Films and other productions arrived via pendrives, brought by people from outside. They were then eagerly copied and distributed. There is also a local TV channel on the island, called Mata Ote. Chile —of which the island is a territory— even tried to revoke the canal concession in 2022, which is absurd. But the population resisted and the Chilean Parliament supported its continuation in 2023.

The island also has two local radio stations: Radio Rapa Nui and Radio He Re’O Ote. Today, thanks to the island’s current connectivity, both can be heard online from anywhere in the world. The programming includes traditional music, reggae, news and the work of local DJs who mix it all, young people like Vaimanu or local celebrities like Lucke Lyons. Everything very original.

The history of this fascinating place is full of lessons for the present time. Its origins date back to Polynesian navigators who, around the year 400, took to the sea in a Noah’s Ark-style expedition. They sailed thousands of kilometers carrying varieties of plants (bananas, sweet potatoes), Polynesian rats, chickens and around 200 people.

When they landed on the island, they were able to create their own civilization, which had 16 thousand people at its peak, whose name was Te Pito o Te Henua (the navel of the world). Among his activities was the construction of Moai, statues with spiritual, political and social significance.

The disorderly use of the small island’s resources led to a period of decadence and civil war. The trees were cut down for agriculture, to make Moai and because of attacks by Polynesian rats, which had no natural predator on the island. When the first European arrived there at Easter 1722, he found the island already in a state of decay, with several of the Moai felled by wars.

From then on, the Rapa Nui people continued to suffer hardships. They were enslaved by Peruvian expeditions and faced diseases brought from abroad. In 1888, the island became part of the territory of Chile, in an agreement seen as controversial by locals. The country “washed its hands” and rented the island to the English company Williamsom Balfor, which for more than 50 years used it to raise sheep, keeping the population confined to a small area, working in exchange for food.

With the construction of the airport in 1965, positive changes accelerated. The Moais (more than 900) were being recovered and the island became one of the most sought after tourist destinations. Today, with around 10,000 inhabitants, there is a sense of pride and well-deserved stability in the air. When the Moais were erected, the idea was that they would bring prosperity. This finally happened. What no one expected was that it would take so long.


It’s over
Remote places without internet connection

Easter Island connected, but still with power generated by diesel generators

It’s coming
Take a careful look at what the disordered use of natural resources can do to human life

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