Friday, January 29, 2010

A green Haiti is a saved Haiti, Part 3

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Green Haiti is a saved Haiti, Part 2

Haiti’s Sad Story
Haiti’s ecological situation is grave. Approximately 70% of Haiti is mountainous. This usually translates into the soil being hard to hold in place. Furthermore and even more detrimental, for every one tree that is planted, there are at least six more chopped down. At the beginning of the century, 60% of Haiti was covered with trees. As of today, a mere 2% of Haiti has trees. Haiti has been victim to uncontrolled logging and the conversion of forests into farmland. This has resulted into what can only be described as an epic environmental nightmare.

The major source of energy for many Haitians is wood, in the form of charcoal. Charcoal is accessible, easy to use and most importantly—inexpensive. For many of Haiti’s poor there is no alternative fuel source, therefore the deforestation goes on, causing an endless cycle of environmental pressures. Pressures that Haiti, a country that is already steeped in political and economical hardships, can hardly afford to sustain. The systematic deforestation of Haiti dates back to the 1600’s, French colonialists used African slaves to chop down trees in order to plant the sugar cane that would make Haiti the world’s largest producer of sugar. The production of the sugar required fuel, more wood was cut to fuel the sugar mills. Entire forests were shipped to Europe to make furniture of mahogany and dyes from cam peachy. Ironically, it is the increase in charcoal production that has lead to the declining soil fertility, resulting is low production of food crops which in turn has resulted in Haitian farmers resorting to charcoal crops as a means of guaranteeing cash income.

Over the past two decades, the charcoal and firewood consumption has more than doubled. 85 to 95% of Haiti’s energy for home and industrial use is provided by charcoal. Most Haitian people do not have access to electricity, therefore they burn tree-derived charcoal to cook in their out door kitchens. Even those few Haitians, who do have the means to have an indoor kitchen, also have an outdoor kitchen, choosing to have their food cooked outdoors, believing that their food tastes better when cooked on a charcoal stove. Convincing Haitian people that they should choose to cook, using another source of energy, is going to require a re-education of an entire country of people. No small undertaking. Cooking with charcoal is not only economical, but it also has deep cultural roots. In an effort to find a solution to the rapid deforestation of Haiti, government ministers have met to consider solutions ranging from importing propane or wood to increasing enforcement of the logging bans. Actually, Haiti, within Latin America and the Caribbean, has some of the best laws on record regarding preserving land and forests. However, due to lack of resources, these laws are rarely, if ever enforced. Thus the problem continues.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Group activity...

I had my first session of group therapy last night… It was fine. The people in the group all seem really smart and so interesting! Makes we wonder why the Shrink thinks I would be a good addition to this particular group.

There was someone in the group who was feeling guilty about complaining about their life, when there are so many people who are truly suffering in this world. This really stood out to me, reason being that I often hear the same tape in my head. ‘You have no reason to be unhappy’. You’ve been blessed, etc. Hearing someone else say it made me realize that each us is allowed to be unhappy. While it’s not cool to wallow in the misery, you are entitled to feel what you feel. Hmmm… saying that to this person was easier than applying it myself.

Well played Shrink…

Green Haiti is a saved Haiti...Part 1

I was trying to edit my post and somehow deleted it instead. Sigh... I think it might be best if I post my paper in parts. It's seem way to long to be a blog...I am second geussing this whole thing...

Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.” [Uncle Vanya, 1897- Anton Chekhov]

All aboard the “Green” Train
Lately, it seems that everyone has gotten the “green” band wagon. You can’t turn the television on or open a magazine with out being accosted by and advertisement for another green product. There are websites such as www.greenhome.com and there are a surprising amount of magazines, such as, Positively Green and Organic Gardening that are dedicated to helping you live a more sustainable lifestyle. The popular cable channel HGTV, is having it’s annual dream home sweepstakes, in “which some lucky HGTV viewer” will win a fully decorated and landscaped home. Usually the home has a theme. 2009's theme was “Green”. According the HGTV website, the house will be built with environmentally friendly materials. Consideration has been paid to the construction and building materials, which are locally made and do not release dangerous fumes and can be rapidly re-grown or recycled. The home will come equipped with low energy appliances and come stocked with environmentally sound cleaning products. The water and energy consumption will be at 50% less than that of a conventional home and the air quality will be controlled by sealing off or exhausting unwanted dirt and fumes. Lastly, the landscape was designed to conserve water, as well as provide fresh herbs and produce for the homeowner. (http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv-green-home-2009-giveaway/package/index.html)

While some of the ideas and ads we are being bombarded with may seem contrived, the fact is that our planet will not be able to withstand the demands that we place her forever. The United States contains only 5% of the world’s population, but contributes 22% of the world’s carbon emissions. This means that as Americans, we contribute the equivalent of 54,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person per year—or about five times the emissions of the average global citizen. Scientists today refer to this measure of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during daily activities as a “carbon footprint.”
(http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/activities/art19631.html)

So indeed, we are being bombarded with all this information and perhaps some people think that it is all just doomsday predictions being made by hysterics. However, the fact is that deforestation is happening at an alarming rate around the globe.

Global Ecological Woes
Brazil, which has the largest rainforest in the world, has suffered a devastating loss of trees and natural grasses. Between May 2000 and August 2006, nearly 150,000 square kilometers of forest—an area larger than Greece—and since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers (232,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed. (www.mongabay.com) The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. report states that the effects of deforestation can be classified in three ways:

1. Environmental effects: Decreased soil fertility from erosion; runoff soil into aquatic systems; premature extinction of species; loss of habitat; climate changes; release of CO2 into the atmosphere and acceleration of flooding.
2. Local social effects: Indigenous people, become victims of Transmigration—which is forced removal, and most times, lose not only their homes but also their way of life. In addition of losing all that is familiar to them, these same Indigenous people, who have spent generations living in total isolation, very often fall victim to disease after coming in to contact with logging industry employees. Soon, if the rampant deforestation that is happening does not cease, these native people will meet the same fate as their counterparts did after being “discovered” by foreigners. (i.e. Christopher Columbus)
3. Global social effects: Forest degradation and land clearance are significant causes of Forest Fires, greater chance of flooding and contaminated water sources. With the removal of so much forest and trees, the water from rains will not be absorbed, resulting in mudslides, flooding and disease.

Focus and Concentration
I am someone who, in general, cares about the world I live in and all that embraces, decent treatment of all humans and animals and being mindful of my impact on the planet. I have a faith that industrialized countries, with a sound infrastructure, will be able to make a positive impact as far as the environment is concerned. My focus and passion, however is for the country that is barely keeping itself afloat. A country, for example, like Haiti.
I am a first generation Haitian-American and I love Haiti. I can say with complete authority that my Haitian-ness makes me who I am. The older I get the more I feel as though it is in my destiny to be a part of the equation that helps save her. Haiti is in desperate need of help. Many people, I am quite sure, will say that Haiti’s environment, when compared to the socio-economic and public health issues that are plaguing Haiti, can wait. I disagree. I am convinced that once Haitian people learn to respect their environment, learn how to plan, preserve and cultivate their environment, the problems facing Haiti would not appear to be so insurmountable.
I grew up going to Haiti. I will always remember how I used to vie for that window seat; one of my most favorite parts of the plane ride to Haiti was that amazing view you got when you flew right over the island. There was such anticipation of my first glimpse of the lush green mountains and the blue, blue ocean. As the years have gone by that view has changed enormously. What was once green and lush is now brown and dry. Why? In the past 20-30 years Haiti has been gone through a radical deforestation, and today Haiti’s forests have virtually been eliminated.