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Thomas Malm, Photo.

Thomas Malm


Thomas Malm, Photo.

No Island is an "Island": Some Perspectives on Human Ecology and Development in Oceania


  • Thomas Malm


  • Alf Hornborg
  • Carole Crumley

Summary, in English

It has often been argued that the Earth is like an island in space and that its brittleness is most clearly reflected on small islands in the oceans. Easter Island, in particular, with its largely depleted resources, has been seen as a microcosmic warning about what could happen to our entire planet. However, the analogy of the Earth and islands with finite natural resources is not self-evident from perspectives on human migration, trade, or carrying capacity. Using the islands of Oceania as examples, it is argued in this paper that unlike our “Earth Island” in space, these islands are not any isolated, finite “planets”, but that the worst tragedy for their human populations has occurred because they no longer have remained isolated from a larger economic system. This paper also shows that the economies of the Pacific microstates increasingly are becoming dependent on global transnational networks of kin and economic transactions that have very little to do with local natural resources, but rather with something which actually might be their most important economic resource of all: independence.


  • Human Ecology

Publishing year





The World System and the Earth System: Global Socio-Environmental Change and Sustainability since the Neolithic

Document type

Book chapter


Left Coast Press Inc.


  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Human ecology
  • Earth island
  • Easter Island
  • French Polynesia
  • Oceania
  • Polynesia