Lessons from Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) for Governance in Conditions of Environmental Uncertainty

Carl P. Lipo, Pamela Mischen, Terry L. Hunt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The effectiveness of governance depends on the knowledge upon which decisions are based. Knowledge veracity is particularly significant when future conditions are uncertain. In the context of global climate change, communities around the world, including the residents of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile), face tremendous uncertainty in resource availability. In the context of these looming challenges, prehistoric Rapa Nui is often treated as a warning about human-induced ecological catastrophe. With contemporary populations of the island wrestling about issues of governance, it is vital that researchers carefully validate their knowledge about the island’s past. Despite the claims of traditional narratives, new empirical research on Rapa Nui indicates that the traditional “collapse” narrative has no basis. Instead, the island is now known to have been sustainable from its prehistory until European contact. These findings point to the potential of alternative action models and new governance structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationKnowledge and Space
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2020

Publication series

NameKnowledge and Space
ISSN (Print)1877-9220
ISSN (Electronic)2543-0580


  • Adaptive governance
  • Climate change
  • Collapse
  • Easter Island
  • Environmental change
  • Governance
  • Knowledge
  • Rapa Nui
  • Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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