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Drawing lessons from COVID quarantine

Miguel Sanchez

AFP – For more than two years during the coronavirus pandemic, Easter Island has been closed to tourism, forcing residents to turn to a more sustainable lifestyle and relearn forgotten skills.

Now that the island’s borders have reopened, locals, including those of Rapa Nui, want to resist the temptation to return to their pre-pandemic lifestyle.

“The time has come for the ancients to prophesy,” said Julio Hotus, a member of the Easter Island Council of Elders. AFPMore.

According to Hotus, Rapa Nui ancestors warned of the importance of maintaining food self-sufficiency as the islands were at risk of becoming isolated one day, but recent generations have ignored those warnings. It is said that

Before the pandemic, the island’s food supply was provided almost exclusively by Chile.

Easter Island is located 3,500 kilometers off the west coast of Chile and is world-famous for its monumental figures with giant heads called moai.

Olga Ickapakarati checks the vegetable harvest. Photo: AFP
Moai on Easter Island, off Chile in the Pacific Ocean 3,700 km

With a population of just 8,000, it was attracting 160,000 tourists a year – an “avalanche” according to Hotus – but in March 2020, Easter Island closed its borders due to COVID.

Olga Ickapakarati used to sell small stone moai statues to tourists, but when her income ran out she decided to resort to farming and fishing to survive, as her ancestors lived before contact with European explorers. turned to

“We were all left with nothing, stranded in the wind….but we started planting,” said Ikkapakharati. AFPMore.

She used a program to deliver seeds before the island was cut off from the outside world.

Ikkapakalati planted spinach, beets, coriander, chard, celery, basil, pineapple, oregano, and tomatoes.

She shared what she didn’t eat with her neighbors, just as many families have built an island-wide support network.

“All the islanders are like this. They have good hearts.

This renewed focus on sustainable living does not mean the end of tourism on Easter Island.

Last week, the first tourist plane in 28 months landed on the island, much to the excitement of locals desperate to see a new face.

But we won’t be returning to the old two flights a day anytime soon.

Twice a week for now, but will gradually increase.

Major hotel chains have decided to close.

“We will continue to welcome tourists, but hopefully the pandemic has taught us lessons that we can apply in the future,” Hotus said.

Another thing the pandemic has done is raise awareness about the need to protect natural resources such as water and energy that are affected by climate change. and the iconic moai.

Carved out of volcanic rock by the Polynesian Rapa Nui people between 1200 and 1500, the island is home to over 900 people on its 24-kilometre-by-12-kilometre island.

Statues are up to 20 meters tall and weigh over 80 tons. Most remain in the quarry where they were originally carved, but many others were taken to coastal areas to see inland, probably for ceremonial purposes.

The moai have been damaged by heavy rains, strong winds and sea waves crashing into the statue and its pedestal, causing fears for the moai’s future.

“Climate change, accompanied by extreme events, is endangering our archaeological heritage,” said Bairoa Ika, the local environmental director.

“The stone is deteriorating” and needs to be protected.

“The problem with the moai is that they are fragile,” added Pedro Edmonds Paoa, the mayor of the island, who said the value of the moai was “immeasurable.”

He said authorities need to “forget the vision of tourists” and take protective measures, even if that means covering the statues “with a glass dome.”

He also wants residents to maximize resources and prioritize employment for locals, while also reviving ancestral practices that foster community solidarity.

“It used to be visited by foreigners, but now tourists have to become friends of the place,” says Edmunds Paoa.