This week while doing the readings, and while in class, I was most intrigued by the striking differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was hard for me to wrap my head around how these two areas could be completely different even though they are on the same island. It just happens that Haiti got the shorter end of the stick and is situated on the side of the island that is more susceptible to erosion and less rainfall. A question that was raised to me while doing this reading was whether or not this problem could have been prevented if the roles of the countries were reversed or if France treated its colonies as well as Spain did during their time of reign over them.
An interesting fact I noticed while reading the chapter on the two countries in Diamond’s book was that 28% of the Dominican was still forested where as only 1% of Haiti still is (page 329, 2005). This almost complete deforestation in Haiti has had many negative impacts on the country including increased erosion that have led to numerous floods that cause poor living conditions for its citizens. These poor living situations and damaged environment has led to 80% of the country being impoverished with an average annual income of $500. The lack of education in the country, with only 52% of the nation being educated, has led to a 1.8% population growth and roughly 9 million people in total in the country. I was very taken aback by these numbers, especially since this area used to be so prospering in regards to its trade with French. I did some research and found that although the nation has only 1% of its forests left, efforts are being made to make it back into the area it once was.
This article, written in March of 2013, states that the country aims to plant 50m of trees a year in order to tackle the poverty that is devastating the nation. This aim is said to double the amount of the nations forests by 2016. What interests me the most about this is the correlation between deforestation and poverty. I never really thought about one causing the other or that the two would be linked. Before taking this class I knew deforestation was a big problem in the world but I never really knew the specific problems it could cause, especially such detrimental poverty for an entire nation. The picture below shows the devastating effects the deforestation and subsequent erosion and flooding has had on the land in Haiti.
Diamond, J. M. (2005). Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed. New York: Viking.