Please forgive me but this will be a very emotional post as I am an advocate for Haiti and for the environment.
Today I heard that missionaries discovered a fruit tree was cut down at the House of the Lambs of God Orphanage in Ouanaminthe. This was done by villagers to make cooking charcoal. In addition, some cassava and sweet potatoes were stolen out of their garden. Pastor Daniel and his wife run this orphanage where they house over 25 children. (To the left is a photo of Pastor Daniel, his wife Clynie, and some of their children.) Pastor Daniel is a college-educated agronomist and has established a garden at the orphanage in order to feed the children and sell the surplus at the market. The tree was cut down to provide charcoal for cooking. Since the earthquake, the price of charcoal has skyrocketed. People are desperate.
I need to provide a bit of background in order for you to understand where I'm heading with this post. Haiti shares the same island as the Dominican Republic. Often, both countries are struck by the same tropical storms and hurricanes. Typically, the D.R. suffers minor damage as a result; Haiti is usually devasatated. In 2004 and 2008, Haiti was struck by storms that killed thousands, destroyed homes, and created more orphans. They were still staggering from the results of these storms when the earthquake hit. Haiti suffers more from the storms because of environmental degradation. In 1923, 60% of Haiti was forest. Today, it is less than 2%. As a result, it is estimated that 15,000 acres of topsoil are washed away each year. Many efforts have been made to reforest the land. However, due to the demand for cooking charcoal, the trees don't survive.
This morning I was struck by the thought that Haiti is microcosm of the world. Many of us in the western world are concerned with the environment and living green. However, there are also a number of individuals who say we are exagerating our case. When I look at Haiti, I imagine the nation 80 years ago when it was a lush paradise, I'm sure its leaders and citizens never envisioned the degradation that ensued over the past few decades. They simply wanted to live the "Haitian way."
Today the world is dependent upon fossil fuel. Like charcoal, it is a finite resourse. Rather than seriously exploring alternative resources, we continue to extract fuel from the earth, even waging wars in order to insure we have our share. We want to continue to live the "American way." How is this different than the quest for charcoal? And why do we believe we will have a better outcome?