Haiti is a tiny island country in the Caribbean and the poorest in the Western hemisphere with 49 percent of its people living in absolute poverty.
Worldfocus special correspondent Benno Schmidt and producer Ara Ayer visited there recently and report that in their struggle to survive, Haitians are destroying the very elements of their environment that sustain them.
Months after the storms have passed, some Haitians are trying to dig their homes out of 10 to 15 feet of mud. The video Hurricane mudslides bury Haitian towns explores how long-gone storms continue to interfere with day-to-day life.
Below, bloggers discuss the environmental disaster in Haiti and what can be done.
A blogger at “Haiti Tales” describes her experience visiting Haiti for the first time:
We were “prepared” to be bombarded by locals when we arrived begging for money, but never was I ready to see the amount of people waiting – for our plane only (only two fly in each day). Surreal thing – as we landed in Port au Prince, you could see the devastation on the mountains from past and recent storms […] I was dumfounded by the amount of people in the streets – very dirt[y], very condensed streets. There were fires started in the roads, stray (skinny) dogs everywhere eating from garbage and little kids walking around near dark by themselves. […] The air wreaked of fire.
Very devastated place here — very poor — very sad. Lots of beauty though too, and I am hopeful that I will see more of all of it.
Blogger Daniel Schnitzer, the director of an organization working on environmental innovation projects, writes about possibilities for building Haiti’s future:
Back in August of 2008, during my first trip to Haiti, I was standing in front of the heaviest paperweight I had ever seen in my life. It was a perfectly new 170 kW diesel generator, connected to a non-functional streetlighting grid in a coastal town called Tiburon on the western tip of Haiti’s southern peninsula. My Haitian friends had told me that the local congressman invested tens of thousands of dollars and a great deal of effort into developing this project. But now that he had been re-elected, no one was sure whether this generator would ever give light to Tiburon. Electricite d’Haiti built the grid, but had since abandoned it.
This was just one of several personal encounters I had on that trip with symptoms of the governmental and market failure we read and hear about. […]
In Les Anglais, InterIntel is building a clean energy retail store to stock appropriate energy technologies like solar lamps, solar home systems, and efficient charcoal stoves. Of course, merely having a brick and mortar store is insufficient to engender the transition to cleaner energy sources. This project is characterized by three other key features – cooperation, training and microfinance – to foster this type of change.
Another Web site, Konkou Biznis Ayiti, has launched a contest for entrepreneurs, hoping to bring biogas — a form of renewable biofuel — to Haiti.
For more Worldfocus coverage of Haiti, visit our extended coverage page: Haiti’s Poor.