HAITI, LET US LEARN!
As we have all been told over and over again by the media, Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas. But what the media doesn’t usually tell us is that this poverty is, and was, deeper than corrupt leadership and a lack of financial and social structures. Haiti’s poverty, aside from lack of industrialization and competent government, is also the product of almost complete deforestation. Only one percent of Haiti’s former forests are still standing while on the same island right next door, 32 per cent of the Dominican Republic’s land area is in parks or reserves. And Haiti’s one percent is constantly under siege from people taking what few trees are left to make charcoal to cook food with. As a result of all of the deforestation in Haiti (re: COLLAPSE by Jared Diamond) the island nation also suffers , aside from the loss of the trees for food and building materials, soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, sediment loads in the rivers , loss of watershed protection and hence of potential hydroelectric power, and decreased rainfall. Environmentally speaking, the island nation was a wreck before the earthquake. As Tracy Kidder (recognized expert on Haiti) said this morning on CBC, with the massive deforestation in Haiti one big rainstorm can kill hundreds if not thousands of people in the flooding as has happened during hurricanes.
I am not implying Haiti’s deforestation caused, or had anything to do, with the earthquake. But again, Haiti’s people were in heartbreaking serious trouble before the earthquake hit. And this trouble was, and is, intimately entwined with the devastated physical environment. In addition to the money and supplies being sent to Haiti which is so very sorely needed, environmental agencies worldwide must, absolutely must, start a massive reforesting program in Haiti. Otherwise the forces of nature will continue to pound Haiti and make of it a very large mud hole which it was in the process of becoming from the hurricanes before the earthquake. International logging companies will happily log to devastation any country they can get access to, and work to promote this same mentality in the citizens. No country is safe from this mentality, certainly not Canada, as we look to our own mudslides and denuded landscapes in BC and the tar sands in Alberta. We can learn from the unfolding horrors in Haiti. Let us learn good and hard. Betty Krawczyk