Floods, Fetes, and the Future

  • Posted on: 2 November 2007
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
Blog Tags 2 Terms: 

Below is an article I was reading in the International Herald Tribune entitled, "Haiti's Usually Raucous Day of the Dead Solemn After Flood Deaths".  I was struck by a quote by Dessaville Espady who said "Each of these trees is a life spirit.  The more trees we cut, the more we suffer"


The interconnectedness between humans and the environment  is becoming clearer and clearer.  We've known for a long time that people are eating less and becoming sicker more often as a result of the deforestation.  However hunger is a quiet catastrophe while floods are highly visible, rapid onset, and merciless.


Individuals can make a difference. Wangari Mathai, who organized a massive groots-roots movement in Uganda against deforestation, was the first African woman to win the nobel prize.   


Communities can make a difference.  Various communities throughout Haiti have founded tree nurseries and adopted alternate forms of fuel such as briquettes made with presses.   If you drive from Thomonde to Hinche, it seems like the only trees left are mango trees.  Fruit trees provide food and cover for crops that need shade to grow. 


Governments can make a difference.  In Ethiopia and many other countries, there is a national day of planting when everyone plants two trees.  These days are organized with broad support from local and provincial authorities.  It is not a panacea, but it is a start.


You as well can make a difference.  The Diaspora and other friends of Haiti need to put reforestation on their radar with their voices, dollars, and influence.  We need a long term vision of change.  


Can Haiti's environment recover completely?  Unlikely.  Can the land be rehabilitated to the point where it is more capable of sustaining life - both by producing crops and preventing floods?  Certainly.  It will however take cooperation between leaders at the indivdual, community, and governmental levels. There is not time to lose - I hope that it this time next year, I will not be writing about another round of funding, but can instead talk to you about initiatives at all levels aimed to finally, after decades of neglect, begin to reverse deforestation.  Haiti was not meant to be a desert.


Those who know Haiti understand the importance of Fet Gede. When we die, we will all become Gede (spirits).  The spirit world mirrors the material world, affects it, shapes it.  I don't like to think of it as "Day of the Dead" because it is also very much a celebration of living in addition to a recognition of those who have become for us. 


Life is precious, precarious, and to be lived to the fullest.  By investing in, organizing, and expanding programs to prevent deforestation, hunger, and flooding we would be honoring both the living and the dead at the same time. 


You can find the IHT Article by clicking here.



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