July 3, 2011

Fatu-Hiva by Thor Heyerdhal

 Thor Heyerdahl - yes of the 'Kon-Tiki' fame from the 50s - actually started his career studying the flora and fauna of Fatu-Hiva, one island in the Marquesas islands.  His 'experiment' was to leave 'civilization' (home was Norway) for a year and 'Get back to Nature' (the subtitle of the book).  This is his tale of that year. A good read, any way you look at it, but especially since this past couple years i've been thinking alot about sustainable living in Polynesia.  I read it with interest, especially as an autobiographical account of his & wife Liv's life as they played 'Adam n Eve' in their own Garden of Eden, and learned to appreciate - and speculate - about our ancestors' sustainable 'stone-age' ways of life in Polynesia.  However their romping tale of survival using the bare minimum ended for they could not live a lie anymore.  Although they had lasted one year, they knew they could survive, but they probably would never really have the know-how to thrive, and thus they returned to Europe.  (Of course Thor later returned many times to Oceania, in order to prove his South American migration theory in academia). In closing his book he writes something that I feel now as we get ready to leave Motuha:

"We hated leaving. We hated going back to civilization. But it was something we could not resist.  We had to do it.  We were sure then, and I still am, that the only place where it is possible to find nature as it always was, is within man himself.  There it is, unchanged, now as always...We cannot get away from ourselves. We have nowhere to retreat to, no choice but to help one another to build a durable civilization in harmony with whatever natural environment we have left.  What we can no longer find wild, we can cultivate. Nature itself is like a hearth: We can revive the fire wherever there are embers" (1974: 267-268).