If we look back to our last blog on sustainability and review the definition, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of generations to also meet their needs,” we can see why sustainability is such an important focus. The resources that we use today are, inevitably, finite. If we parse this statement out to look at Haiti specifically, we know that Haiti is only roughly 10,000 square miles and, chances are, it will never be any bigger. Within those 10,000 square miles, roughly the size of the state of Maryland, there are approximately 10 million people, roughly 1,000 people per square mile. Within that land mass, there is a finite number of trees, a finite amount of clean useable water, a finite amount of land suitable for agriculture, etc. Once those resources are gone, they cannot come back. As an example, to meet the charcoal-based cooking needs of Haitians, Haiti is now over 98% deforested. With deforestation comes hotter temperatures, higher rates of erosion, poor soil quality, and decreased agricultural yields – all from cutting down trees. It’s a system and it all works together.
Historically, if we look at Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Hispaniola was an island with rich tropical forests, native fish and wildlife, and plenty of clean water. Due to hundreds of years of un-sustainable practices, especially in Haiti, they are now environmentally and economically unsound with rates of social injustices skyrocketing each year. Ancestral Haitians met their current needs for water, food, and shelter without considering the needs of Haitians hundreds of years in the future. These unsustainable practices in the past have systematically, along with inter playing political and socioeconomic factors, led to the modern day Haiti we see today and the one thrust in the spotlight following the 2010 earthquake outside Port-au-Prince. It’s often said about sustainability, “everything flows downstream.” Chronologically, our actions today flow downstream and affect people in the future. Geographically, our actions in one area affect another area. Cutting trees on the hillsides of Petionville pretty soon affects the water quality of Port-au-Prince Bay. Every action has an equal, yet opposite reaction.
These trends can be reversed and CPR-3, along with other organizations, is working hard to ensure a future for Haiti that is sustainable. A future in which rivers run clean and supplies can meet the demands of 10 million Haitians and the billions to come in the future. We envision a future in which Moringa dots the hillsides outside of every village, town, and city. With quick regeneration and multiple uses to impact air quality, building materials, nutrition, ecology, water filtration, and more – this native plant has the potential the flourish throughout the country. By developing and supplying opportunities for meaningful employment at living wages, we collectively can envision a positive economic, environmental, and socially just society for all Haitians of every class. We can envision a land in which, because people have jobs, children are no longer needed as domestic slaves. We can envision a land, a nation, and a people with hearts reaching out to impact their brothers and sisters for the Gospel. “Everything flows downstream.” Will you help us in the headwaters? Will you join us on this journey?
Cory St. Esprit
M.S. in Sustainable Systems
Ph.D. Geography (In Progress)