Hermeneutics and the culture of birds: The environmental allegory of 'easter island'

Ethics, Place and Environment 8 (1):21 – 38 (2005)
Abstract
It has become commonplace to interpret 'Easter Island' in terms of an environmental allegory, a Malthusian morality tale of the consequences of over-exploitation of limited natural resources. There are, however, ethical dangers in treating places and peoples allegorically, as moralized means (lessons) to satisfy others' edificatory ends. Allegory reductively appropriates the past, presenting a specific interpretation as 'given' (fixed) and exemplary, wrongly suggesting that meanings and morals, like islands, are there to be 'discovered' ready-formed. Gadamer's hermeneutics suggests an alternative understanding which expresses something of the ethical ambiguities involved in giving meaning to the environmental history of Easter Island.
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