Resource Use, Institutions, and Sustainability: A Tale of Two Pacific Island Cultures
This paper examines two Pacific Island cultures, Easter Island and Tikopia, and the relationship between natural resource systems, human-made capital, population growth, and institutional change. Easter Island followed a preindustrial society pattern of overshoot-and collapse. However, Tikopia evolved cultural practices leading to zero-population growth and sustainable resource use. Using a modified Lotka- Volterra, predator-prey model, we find (1) investment in human-made capital does not necessarily eliminate the boom- and bust-cycles of economic activity and population observed in many past societies; and (2) institutional adaptation and resource conservation can be critical in achieving population stability.