The Greening of Haiti: L'Union Fait La Force?
The solution, in theory, is simple. Reforest Haiti. However, anyone who is seriously considering taking on a problem as vast as this one is needs to ask themselves several questions.
Can Haiti be reforested? If so how? If not, why not? Is it possible that Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, can become an example of an environmentally sustainable country? Becoming environmental sustainable is the process of making sure current processes of interaction with the environment are pursued with the idea of keeping the environment as naturally pristine as possible.
Can Haiti be “green”? How would that be possible? Where would one have to start? What would the Haitian Government’s involvement be? Can the greening of Haiti be done at the grassroots level? Greening is the practice of restoration, vitality and rejuvenation. By “greening” and “environmentally sustainable”, one needs to consider several things.
It is not enough to reforest Haiti. Systems must be put in place to offer poor Haitians an opportunity to support themselves. How? By educating and enlightening each industry, one at time. Those in field of agriculture need to be taught how to farm in an organic and a sustainable way. Those in the field of civil engineering and architecture must consider and be taught sustainable or green building. Those in the fishing industry must understand the devastating effects of over-fishing. The socio-economical and political issues that have plagued Haiti for decades would have to be addressed.
This, of course, begs the question, can all Haitian people, regardless of class and social status, come together, putting aside whatever cultural, religious, educational differences they have in order to be untied towards a healthier, stronger and truly independent Haiti? Will Haitian people be able to live up to the motto that is on the Haitian flag L'Union Fait La Force (Unity equals strength)? After all a country that depends on it neighbors for the most basic necessities of life, can not truly claim independence. On the contrary, that is the very definition of dependence.
Because of the lack of trees needed to hold soil in place, Haiti’s rural residents are vulnerable to floods. According to Haitian Ecologist Jean-Andre Victor, “When you remove vegetation, the topsoil washes away and the earth left is not capable of absorbing rainfall.” Heavy rains go hand in hand with tropical storms and hurricanes, which create huge amounts of water that cascade down mountains and through valleys, under normal circumstances, if there was sufficient top soil, this water would be absorbed into the earth. However, because the extreme deforestation, the water simply cascades into villages and towns, gathering rocks, gravel, debris and boulders along the way—ultimately taking out the people, animals and property standing in its path.
Once the water levels have fallen, the devastation awaits. Not only is there significant damage to property, there is monumental loss of life. The streets are left littered with the decaying bodies of people and animals in the hot burning sun of Haiti, which of course spreads disease. Creating yet another tragedy that Haitian people need to try and recover from, only with out the resources that it desperately needs in order to adequately recover from the chaos.