How to Grow a Forest: A Call for Ideas

  • Posted on: 2 June 2005
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s the extent of the devastation to Haiti’s environment. Over 98% of the country’s original forest has been destroyed, erosion threatens over 25% of the country, and areas that where once tropical rainforests are now indistinguishable from the desert surrounding Las Vegas. For a country dependent on farming, this level of environmental degradation does not just limit development, it’s life threatening.

STOP CUTTING DOWN THE TREES. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The primary source of cooking fuel in Haiti is charcoal, which is made from, you guessed it, trees. So, when you ask a Haitian to stop cutting down the tress, all she hears is STOP EATING.

Obviously, there is not one single approach that is going to magically restore Haiti’s environment to its earlier grandeur. Yes, deforestation has to be better managed, environmental education has to be improved, alternative forms of energy have to be utilized and more seedlings need to be planted. Only through a comprehensive approach to environmental rehabilitation, will Haiti’s environment be saved.

But is there an environmental ‘silver bullet’ that can save Haiti’s environment? The approaches mentioned up to this point have been around for years. Where is the technology, where are the ideas that can make an immediate and lasting impact? Fifty years ago heart transplant surgery was only and idea. Today, that technology is being used to save the lives on thousands of individuals with degenerative heart failure.

Thankfully, Haiti’s environmental ‘heart transplant’ may be available soon. John Pina Craven is currently developing a technology that utilizes the ocean’s cold and hot water to provide inexpensive electricity, potable water, and irrigation for crops. In an interview with Weird Magazine, Craven concludes his explanation of the technology by adding, “once we’ve proven the technology…imagine what it could do for places like Haiti.”

Whether or not this will be the technology that revolutionizes environmental rehabilitation in Haiti is yet to be seen. However, it does represent the kind of bold, inventive idea that has the potential to turn Haiti’s deserts back into tropical rainforests. Rehabilitating Haiti’s environment is not a lost cause.

The question is now: Where is the next technology that will revolutionize the repair of devastated environments?

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