Haiti The Devastation of Deforestation

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Haiti:The Devastation of Deforestation

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Abstract

Deforestationis a major threat to the environment, and in turn to the well-beingof people due to its devastation effects. Deforestation has played asignificant part towards poverty and underdevelopment in Haiti. Thepurpose of this paper is to extensively explore the issue ofdeforestation in Haiti, examine current initiatives to address theissues, identify persistent underlying causes, and charts a wayforward to address this social and environmental menace. Increasedawareness and more education are established as sustainable optionsto address the overwhelming menace of deforestation in Haiti.

Haiti:The Devastation of Deforestation

Haitiis a country that is fraught with poverty. This poverty is the resultof many factors. Haiti is an underdeveloped country with littleknowledge of how to capitalize on the resources it has available.What might be available to the people of Haiti has been all butdestroyed by many natural disasters over the last century. It hasbeen left with virtually nonexistent infrastructure and government soineffective that it will not, as it stands, be able to recover orimprove in the foreseeable future. There are parts of Haiti that, inaddition to all mentioned above, have almost no rule of law. Thepeople are not only mired in poverty but also too often pittedagainst each other. The combination of bad luck and disaster thatHaiti has seen over the years is unparalleled. It has, of course,left this country in a very grim state. This aim of this paper is tocomprehensively explore the issue of Deforestation in Haiti.

Theproblem

Inthe late 1700’s, Haiti was occupied by the French and their richland and resources were capitalized on during that time (Haiti,2017). However, the pursuit of great wealth and power lead to thestate that the people of Haiti find themselves in now. The Frenchheld slaves in Haiti centuries ago and their treatment was criminal.In addition to such treatment of the Haitian people, the French werenegligent in managing the land of Haiti. This, many experts surmise,led to the increased potential of natural disasters in Haiti today.Haiti has had its share, or more than its share, of natural disaster.These have put Haiti in an even worse state than they might have beenotherwise.

Intoday’s age, the exploitation of Haiti and its people has notceased. People from other countries still see Haiti as a land primedfor building wealth and establishing power. This is, of course,because the people of Haiti are ill-equipped to defend themselves ortheir land. They live in some of the worst poverty conditions in theworld and live day-to-day. Outsiders have come to prey on thisvulnerability and see the land in Haiti, though diminished andill-managed, as profit. This is particularly true of the trees andforests that once covered the landscape of much of the country. Asthese trees have disappeared, the land has become even morevulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes and landslides.This leads to even more economic tragedy for the people of Haiti.

However,outsiders are not the only people who have cut trees in Haiti.Haitians themselves cut the trees though not for profit. Many peoplein this country are so poverty stricken that they do not haveelectricity and use fire for light, heat and means of cooking. Assuch, they must have wood which comes from trees. Many people inHaiti burn the wood raw though some of it is made into charcoal foruse. Most outsiders have cut trees and demolished forests in Haitifor profit Haitians have cut them for survival. Both have led to aneven greater state of despair for the people in Haiti. Forests thatused to cover nine tenths of Haiti now cover only 1-2 percent(Taylord, 2011)

Initiativesto address the situation

Therehave been many American initiatives designed and implemented to helpthe people of Haiti. None of these, however, can replace the trees sodesperately needed in any timely fashion. To plant full grown treesin all or even most of the places needed would be entirely costprohibitive. To plant saplings would be time prohibitive, requiringmany years of growth and maturation. American initiatives includeprograms that help Haitians learn more about adaptation to climateand landscape changes. In addition, many relief efforts have beensent to Haiti, especially in the wake of the many natural disastersthat have been sustained. Government aid has been sent in order tohelp restore small businesses and small-scale, rudimentaryinfrastructure. Different government agricultural groups have alsotried to teach and implement different models of sustainabledevelopment in Haiti. This is development that will persist for yearsto come and, specifically, will not degrade the natural capital ofthe country. Sustainable development is a means of operating in thepresent with the future always in mind (Perțicaș, 2015). For Haitiand the current state of their natural resources, sustainabledevelopment is imperative.

Inaddition, many private groups have mobilized to help Haiti. Theseinclude civic groups, churches and even school groups. These examplesof activism have done much in helping the people of Haiti. However,there is always much left to be done. The state of Haiti goes farbeyond building beds or huts for the people there. These efforts areimportant and are beneficial to the people. And yet, naturaldisasters continue to plague Haiti and, too often, even these effortsare washed away and must be done again. This is due, in large part,to the disappearance of trees and forest and the natural barrier thatthey provide. Activism is positive and beneficial though, all toooften, not enough.

Mostactivists who do not have the contradicting focus of wealthaccumulation have very specific reasons for their activism. One ofthe main arguments of activists is their adherence toanthropocentrism. This is the belief that humans are the highest andmost superior of all species. Higher thought processes, reasoning,and ability to discern right from wrong make humans the highest andmost important species. For devout activists, anthropocentrism comeswith a sober responsibility. Where the environment is concerned, thisresponsibility includes respect and protection of natural resources.As Hemmingsen says, “Greens ought to oppose intervention in thenatural environment because it has negative consequences for humanbeings, prevents human beings from achieving their ends, or worksagainst our ability to actualize our values” (2015). Greens, asHemmingsen calls environmental activists, value natural diversity andprioritize precautions for the future.

Haiti’slack of infrastructure, modern technology or equipment and strippedland have made it a country that produces very little global carbonemissions. In fact, the country emits a scant 1 percent of the totalglobal carbon emissions (Paik, 2013). That Haiti has so few trees asa result of deforestation and yet contributes so little to emissionsmight seem like an anomaly. However, though emissions could easilyescape into the atmosphere with so few trees acting as a barrier, dueto Haiti’s underdeveloped, almost primitive state, there are fewemissions to escape. Though this may be a benefit for global warmingand climate change, the reasons for this low percentage aredevastating to Haiti and its people. Haiti is only behind Somalia asthe world’s most endangered nation due to climate change (Paik,2013). The extent of the deforestation in Haiti has no doubtcontributed greatly to their current state.

Underlyingcauses

Theknowledge management sociological school of thought factors ingreatly to the state in Haiti and its endangered status. This thoughtmodel takes human thought and evaluates its effect on society. Forexample, how has the human development and perception of technologyaffected society as a whole? Such issues cannot only be examined fromthe standpoint of the United States, Canada or other first worldcountries. Countries such as Haiti must be factored in as well. Forthem, the lightning speed advancements of developed countries havehad a negative effect. This is, at least in part, because they areutterly unequipped to keep up. Their state of poverty and almostconstant hardship of all varieties make it impossible for them to doanything other than survive. These, however, are not the only factorsthat they are up against.

Thereis great irony in the contradiction of advancement greater than manycould ever anticipate and the constant desire for more. In placeslike the United States, there is great focus on money and power as ameans of survival. There are people in the United States who, likethose in Haiti, struggle daily to survive. But, even sometimes amongthose people, the desire for and pursuit of money isall-encompassing. Wealth, power and status are all means of gettingahead and are, for many people, synonymous with success. Such humanthought processes have effect not only one one’s home society buton societies around the globe. This is the concept of knowledgemanagement in practice.

Anothergreat irony is that activism is the most prominent in affluentcountries such as the United States, despite their overwhelmingcontribution to global pollution and exploitation (Dalton, 2015b). Infact, reported self-releasing of toxic pollutants into the air, waterand soil by United States industries was 3.37 billion pounds in 2009alone (Bell, 2015). This is only that pollution that was reported. Itis certainly expected that many more pounds were released but notreported. This shows the irony. Though many groups from countriessuch as the United States either go to or send aid to countries suchas Haiti, they are, at the same time, contributing far more thantheir share to the problem on a global scale. This can be at leastpartially attributed to lack of global environmental regulations andpoor enforcement of the laws that are in place (Bell, 2015).

Fortoo many developed, prospering countries, money is at the core ofpollution and lack of consideration for what it creates for countriessuch as Haiti. Bell calls such widespread pollution a “cost-savingsmeasure” (2015). Instead of properly doing away with pollutantsfrom industry and commerce, plants, factories and other businessesrelease these byproducts in the easiest and cheapest way they can.Though this is largely a lack of consideration, it is also due to laxregulations and minimal punishments. Simply, too many people, onindustry and government levels, value and prioritize profit, economyand wealth over the environment and its long-term health. This isespecially true in recent years of economic recession in developedcountries (Dalton, 2015a). Simple ways to reduce environmentdestruction have been put far down the priority list in favor ofbuilding the economy back at any price.

Fewpeople consider debt in relation to environmental concerns. Despitethis, they are very closely linked and have great effect on eachother. Countries like Haiti are in debt and have been for many years.The more they remain in debt, the more they try desperately to usethe natural resources at their disposal in an effort to get out ofdebt or at least decrease it. They not only use these resources as ameans of survival but also, whenever possible, as trade. They exploitresources of their land in the desperate hope for cash, or any meansof relief. Often, especially for countries as poor as Haiti, this issimply a spinning of wheels. From many years ago, the land andresources were exploited and very poorly managed. Now, there are nomore resources that can be leveraged. The cycle is vicious andperpetual.

Thereare many people and lands who value and respect natural resourcesabove almost everything else. Native Americans, for example, rely onthe land for many things, including medicine, spiritual guidance andhealing. They have sustained their land through responsiblestewardship and great respect. However, there are people who havebeen plunged into poverty by outside forces, people who have almostno choice but to turn to the land for whatever means of survival theycan extract. This is not necessarily a reflection of lack of respectof the land. It is more a reflection of imposed poverty that hasforced them to abandon their native ways. Many times, this forcedpoverty is the result of politics, economics and the greed of otherpeople and nations. Land rights give way to the pressures ofindustries to profit and advance their interests. People with littlemeans of standing of for themselves and their land are pushed to theside and left to sort out the consequences.

Debtis accumulated by such countries when other countries loan money fordevelopment such as infrastructure or, in Haiti’s case, housing forits people. Haiti’s debts were cancelled by donor countriesfollowing the devastating 2010 earthquake. Since that time, it hasrisen again to almost $2 billion, mostly owed to Venezuela. ThoughHaiti has increased its revenue collection somewhat, it still reliesheavily on foreign aid and loans (Haiti, 2017). Though aid issometimes given without expectation of remuneration, loans are meantto be paid back. This is something that, at least for the foreseeablefuture, seems virtually impossible for Haiti.

Countriessuch as Haiti look to any means necessary to pay back debts they oweto other countries. Often, the first solution is to turn to whatevernatural resources that are available and strip them off in order toexport for cash. Another common solution is to cut back on anyenvironmental protection acts or initiatives that might have been inplace. This alleviates the costs associated with such acts and alsomakes it possible for natural resource stripping to take place withfew or no repercussions. They also often see cutting back on socialprograms and benefits as a cost-savings solution as well. This onlyplunges the people of a country even further into poverty. ForHaitians, this is dire. Currently, 80 percent of Haitian people liveunder the poverty. Fifty six percent live in abject poverty (Haiti,2017).

Countrieswith very high debt are usually the first to turn to natural resourcestripping as a means of repayment. Haiti would fall under thiscategory. Haiti’s main industry is agriculture with two-fifths ofHaitians depending on some degree of farming for their livelihood(Haiti, 2017). Even so, countries seeking debt repayment oftenover-farm and strip the land of any health or prosperity it mighthave once offered. This contributes to the cycle in that poor soilcannot yield healthy crops. Furthermore, they allow developedcountries access to their forests in order to profit as they can.This destroys entire ecosystems and habitats for many species,including humans themselves. Deforestation also takes place in effortto expand or continue the agriculture industry in Haiti. Trees arecut in the hopes of uncovering rich, healthy soil that will yieldprofitable crops.

Haitifurther suffers economically in the way of avoided deforestationfunding. These payments are aimed toward underdeveloped or developingcountries as a means of encouraging preservation of naturalresources. Consequently, this contributes to a higher level of globalenvironment protection. One such funding initiative is REDD+, orReducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plusconservation. Pledged REDD+ funds total almost $4.3 billion globally(Barbier, 2014). Such initiatives, however, usually fall flat withcountries such as Haiti. They struggle to survive and do not have anyway of making ends meet. This is true on both individual andgovernment levels in Haiti.

Thereis also the issue of environmental debt which, for Haiti, is almostas pressing as the current financial debt. Environmental debt is thecost to future generations of current ill-use of natural resources.Not only will this type of debt be detrimental for future generationsbut will mount up financial costs that future leaders will have todeal with. To now, many countries, industries and people havefunctioned and behaved as though natural resources were infinite,entirely renewable or simply inconsequential. This way of thinkinghas created extensive devastation and has not, overall, lead toincreased wealth. While many advances may have come about as a resultof the use of natural resources, the disadvantages have equaled thoseadvantages. For countries like Haiti, there is no way to continue onthis path. As it stands, current generations of Haitians will likelynever experience life without poverty.

Conclusion

Deforestationis a major problem in Haiti. Wealth, power, poverty and debt all playa part. Many initiatives have been put in place to address thesituation but the problem still persists. It is now time to focus oneducation. Although help in physical and utilitarian ways is stillneeded, knowledge and awareness would be more effective in reversingfortunes. In such situations, activism is imperative because, simply,Haitians cannot rise above on their own. They are far too mired inpoverty, survival, repression and use of any resources or meanspossible of helping themselves to even the slightest extent. Thoughcurrent generation Haitians may never find their way out of poverty,they must be reminded of forgotten values and priority of the land.They must be educated on intelligent use of land and sustainabledevelopment so that future generations have chance at a life beyondabject poverty. For activists, this is the only way to approach theenvironment and the grave effects that wealth, power, politics, theeconomy and poverty have on it.

References

Barbier,E. (2014). Climate change mitigation policies and poverty. ​WileyInterdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change,5(4),483-491.

Bell,S. (2015). Bridging Activism and the Academy: Exposing EnvironmentalInjustices Through the Feminist Ethnographic Method of Photovoice.​HumanEcology Review,​21(1),27-58.

Dalton,R. (2015a). Environmental concerns during a time of duress: anintroduction. ​EnvironmentalPolitics,​24(4),523-529.

Dalton,R. (2015b). Waxing or waning? The changing patterns of environmentalactivism. ​EnvironmentalPolitics,​24(4),530- 552.

HAITI- The World Factbook.(2017). ​Cia.gov.Retrieved 2 February 2017, fromhttps://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/geos/ha.html

Hemmingsen,M. (2015). Anthropocentrism, Conservatism, and Green PoliticalThought. ​ValueInquiry Book Series,​282,81-90.

Paik,P. (2013). ​Debt:Ethics, the Environment, and the Economy.Indiana University Press.

Perțicaș,D. (2015). Aspects Regarding the Link Between Sustainable DevelopmentEnvironmental Pollution and Poverty. Annalsof The University of Oradea, Economic ScienceSeries,​24(1),479-485.

Taylord(Uploaded may 17, 2011). Deforestationin Haiti: A Documentary.West Career and technical Academy.http://www.schooltube.com/video/db42579f5c612cfd2faf/Deforestation-in-haiti