Whether or not a civilization survives a crisis has to do more with whether its leaders make the correct decisions in time. Leaders became so fixed in their traditional values that they were unwilling to alter them, even if it meant destruction. One of the best-known examples of a collapsed society is Easter Island. On Easter Island, the ruling class developed a tradition of building enormous statues as a way of proving their legitimacy. The bigger the statue, the more status it gave the chief who had it erected.
Unfortunately, the process of erecting these statues required huge amounts of timber and rope (made from tree bark), not to mention human labor. As a result, over a period of three hundred years, the Easter Islands cut down their forests until every last tree was gone. This drastically reduced their food supply. No more trees meant no more fruit, nuts or other wild foods. It meant no more canoes with which to fish in deeper waters. And it caused soil erosion, which lowered crop yields.
Looking at the Eater Island collapse today, we cannot help feeling dismayed by the sheer stupidity of it. Did they not realize what they were doing? Could they not have abandoned their statue building in time to save their food supply? Even today’s Easter Islanders have had a hard time admitting their ancestors were so shortsighted. Yet it seems the leaders of Easter were too entrenched in their ways to willingly change.