Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti's Unfortunate History and Today

If you read folks like David Brooks, you will see suggestions (mis-timed I believe) offering all manner of suggestions about how things can and should change -- especially relating to our use of foreign aid.   Unfortunately these critics end up heeping further blame on the Haitians. at a time we need to be focusing on rescue and recovery.  Yes, we'll have to deal with the underlying problems as we work to reconstruct the nation -- but what will that look like, especially considering that the US occupied Haiti for nearly two decades early in the 20th century.

Many of these critiques/suggestions will point to neighboring Dominican Republic and suggest that the Dominicans share the same island and lack the problems of their neighbor -- Haiti is on the left (note the above picture -- James P. Blair/National Geographic/Getty Images).    This is all true.  The Dominican Republic, while not rich, is in a better position than Haiti.  But their histories  and their geography are very different.  In many ways both history and geography have conspired against Haiti,  a nation that has more people than the DR and less land.   Haiti's forests were taken down more than a century ago -- to provide land for  a slave-based cultivation of sugar and then the exportation of logs to Europe.  Reforestation has been hampered by the nation's dependence on charcoal for fuel.

So, as one ponders the future, even as one considers the present situation (one that seems to becoming more complex and sad as time marches on), I found this article by Jared Diamond at the Guardian helpful in setting the current situation in context.

My concern, as I've noted in a couple of comments at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog, is that bigots such as Rush Limbaugh have taken cover under Brooks more measured statements.  That is not helpful. I do agree with a point that Scot makes in his response to my comments that there is little room for error, but the key to Haiti's future may lie in extended periods of calm and stability, along with the provision of alternate forms of energy beyond charcoal, a dependence that continues to compound the original causes of the nation's deforestation.  Are we willing, perhaps to finance and provide maintenance of advanced energy technology, whether solar, wind, or even nuclear? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments on the situation in Haiti. “Collapse” along with Dianond’s “Gun, Germs, and Steel” are frequently referenced in my personal library. It is a shame that the media fail to reference such readily available information, before their dispersal of misinformation, speculation and myth based on personal agenda’s and political correctness.