Television is good …

— provided you are watching the right things.

woven leaves

This week I have been happy to have a television to be able to watch BBC’s Horizons on whether Fat or Sugar is worst for you, and their documentary on the mysteries of Easter Island.

I won’t go into depth – watch the programmes is my advice – but I will remember these programmes for a long time.

The Fat/Sugar programme was presented by identical twin doctors, Xander and Chris, one working in the US and one in UK.  Being genetically identical, you could put any differences wrought on their bodies by a diet to the diet.  One went on a sugar only diet – processed stuff but also fruit, veg and carbs but no fat or dairy, and the other on fat and protein only.  The end result was that both these diets are bad for you, but that it is really hard to overeat on either.  The combination that is killing us in the West is fat and sugar in a 50:50 mix.  This a combination that you never find in natural foods (apparently – don’t tell me if that’s wrong!) and so humans don’t have on ‘off’ switch for them.  Basically we will gorge on them until we pop.  So stick to natural foods, avoid the processed stuff, and regulating your weight is relatively easy, provided you exercise.

So the mysteries of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it will now be for me.  I watched programs about this as a child and imagined the island to be an uninhabited grassy island in the middle of the Pacific, dotted with the immense statues of their ancestors – the Moai.  The story was that the people on the island had cut down all the trees in the effort of erecting the Moai, and as a result had wreaked an environmental disaster upon themselves.

Not so.

The islanders lived an environmentally balanced life in their isolated home, managing resources and the environment for centuries.  Their downfall was the arrival of Europeans.  As we are realising we are about the last people on Earth to understand how to live in harmony with the environment, so this moment signed disaster for the populace.  First, the visitors brought disease – probably colds and the flu – which the natives had never been exposed to and so were decimated by.  These first visitors were followed 50 years later by more, who captured the Rapa Nui men to go and work in the mines in Chile and people who bought land from them for minimal sums, confining them to the one town on the island, and importing thousands of sheep to graze the land.

As nations rarely dwell on the things they should be ashamed of, all this has been hidden in the distant pass, and the uninhabited land became a genuine mystery. However, a rich English amateur archaeologist wrote a book in Victorian times, when she interviewed at length the Rapa Nui elders who remembered stories of the old days.  Presumably this book has recently been rediscovered, and the truth has been uncovered.

There are people back on the island, beginning to undo the damage as far as they are able.  As one young woman said, in so many words:  just because it will be hard work, that is no reason not to try.  Amazing.

And thank you, BBC, for these great programmes!

(What does the photo have to do with this?  Nothing!)

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