On my desk stands a miniature of an Easter Island moai, carved for me by a Rapa Nui craftsman from the same stone his ancestors used for the world-famous monoliths. It is precious to me, but it is also an uneasy symbol of humanity’s precarious relationship with the material world. The original 13-foot ancestor statues were quarried in the Middle Ages with a fervour to match any modern production line; more than 800 were carved and dragged into position using rope and log rollers hewn from timber, before somebody cut down the last mature tree on the isolated habitat. Ecological collapse ensued, bringing strife and starvation.
You would think that this blunt parable of unsustainable consumption would help me moderate my relationship with my stuff.But my mobile contract is nearly up, and shiny new iPhones beckon. My desktop moai is frowning reproachfully: what kind of object needs to be replaced every two years? At least statues endure.
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