Speed Reads

climate change strikes again

Easter Island's iconic statues are disappearing — and so is the island

Easter Island is the latest victim of climate change — and it has more than its iconic statues to lose. A dynamic visual story published Thursday by The New York Times reveals the remote island's dire circumstances.

Rising sea levels are eroding the island, putting its archaeological treasures at risk. Most of the moai — the giant stone heads the island is known for — and nearly all of the ahu — the moai platforms that often double as tombs — line the island's coasts. Some are only yards away from the ocean, and it's becoming common to find human bones resurrected by swelling waves.

Then there are the living to worry about. Easter Island is home to nearly 6,000 residents, many of whom are descended from the Polynesians who built the moai statues centuries ago. These people are losing the bones and culture of their ancestors along with their homes, thanks to rising sea levels.

The 15-mile-wide island draws more than its fair share of visitors, too; more than 100,000 tourists brought in more than $70 million last year. But with Easter Island's beaches and rocky seawalls fading fast, a huge chunk of its economy could also be in danger. Discover more through this interactive story from The New York Times.