Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On to Haiti: Expecting severe deforestation

I'm in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and about to jump on a bus that will take me to Haiti.
Since I'm going to Cap-Haitien, the bus will cross via the northern border instead of in the south where we entered the country on the last trip days after the 7.0 earthquake.
I expect today's crossing will not be as devastating, but still eye-opening.

On this second trip, I'm anticipating great poverty and major deforestation, which has been a severe environmental problem.

Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit side by side on the same island — Hispaniola. But the Dominican Republic has lush green forests. Haiti, on the other hand, is almost completely bare. More than 98 percent of its forests are gone.
Most Haitians are descendants of African slaves brought over in the late 1600s by French colonizers who destroyed tens of thousands of acres of forest to plant the cane that made Haiti the world's largest sugar producer. More wood was cut to fuel the sugar mills. Entire forests were shipped to Europe to make furniture of mahogany and dyes from campeachy.
In 1804, slaves defeated Napoleon's army and Haiti became the world's first black republic. The great plantations were divided among the residents. Most families got small pieces of property -- not enough to sustain a large family. Haiti is one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Many farmers chopped down more trees to make and sell charcoal.

I also want to share this video with you. This video below represents, in my mind, some of the most powerful moments of my first trip -- how Haitians helped Haitians.
The man in the video, Estime Gesner somehow survived a four-story building falling on top of him. Here he is reeling in pain as Dr. Will Conner of Matthews treats his broken and infected leg. Spontaneously, Linda Pierre, 40, began to sing. Pierre, who had a 10-inch scar across her face and full casts on both a leg and arm, sang "Gen konfyance nin bondye, Gen konfyance nin bondye."
Each time Gesner moaned, Pierre sang a little louder. Other patients and their families joined in until nearly the entire room was singing. "'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Just to trust him at his word."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Photos: AP, Franco Ordonez


Anonymous said...

Great Story. I love to read about the strength of the human spirit. The little background was important in helping me understand. Thanks.

Chris Lawrence said...

If you look at the history of Haiti, this helps to explain why they are much poorer and have fewer natural resources than their neighbour.


Anonymous said...

Long ago the people on Easter Island perished because they destroyed their land. So have many other civilizations.

I think Haiti should go the same way. I have no sympathy of people that encourages the raping of the land. All they know how to do is have babies and join gangs. The population will double again in 30 years if they continue to live on the dole of other countries. They need strong birth control regulation there. My fear is that 10 million will come here to the US. Of course that is what Franco wants.

Franco, I hope you get to spend some time there as I have. Reforestation and birth control is the most important thing they can do. The population there is five times to big.

Chris Lawrence said...

Anon, half the country was cleared for slave plantations, and much of the rest was cleared to send lumber to the west. The country is poor because they had to pay reparations to France for their own liberation for more than a hundred years. Then when they couldn't pay, the US occupied them for 20 years, and took almost half their national income.

Please read the history before making such ignorant and racist statements. We owe *them* money, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

NO way do we owe Haiti anything. This past year the USA gave Haiti approximately one hundred million dollars of taxpayer money. This does not include all the private money they receive. Take a look at Little Haiti in Fla. and see what that population has done in our own land. Please no more Haitians!!!!!

Chris Lawrence said...

Anon, how much money did the US take during 20 years of occupation? Then adjust that for inflation. Nevermind the human cost of all the people killed under the dictators Papa Doc and Baby Doc that the US supported.

100 million is nothing, that's less than half a buck per American. You won't even notice it. If you want your government to save money, start with the trillions in bank bailouts and the trillions for the wars.

Anonymous said...

Haiti looked like Bedrock before the quake. I think its an improvement. They just have to re-arrange the bolders. I hope Franco brought a few million unbreakable condoms for those who breed like wild rabbits. It couldn't happen to a nicer group of pro-creators. If you can't feed them, don't breed them.

Paul said...

Great story! This is a good reason to read the Observer. Hopefully you can go back in ten years and see improvement!

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