Haiti’s Poverty and Deforestation

United Methodist missionary Rick Jost and Solar Ovens

Usually I blog about running and health here. My posts here seem often to be about the beauty of nature – trees, birds, wildlife – seen as I run. This is a story about trees being cut down in Haiti and this problem of deforestation.

Yes, earthquakes kill and maim and destroy, rich and poor alike. But the real killer and maimer and destroyer is poverty. Poverty leads to deforestation.

If the same magnitude – 7.0 earthquake that decimated Port-au-Prince – had struck in a country with better infrastructure and less poverty, perhaps a hundred people would’ve died, not tens of thousands. The earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco was a 7.0 magnitude and killed 63 people. So, poverty makes natural disaster thousands of times worse.

Haiti is often called the poorest of the poor. In 2006, I wrote a story for the Global Ministries’ magazine New World Outlook about Solar Ovens in Haiti. I learned that in May 2004, light rains triggered flooding in Haiti. The same rain fell in the Dominican Republic, the country which shares the island with Haiti. In the DR, less than two dozen people died. In Haiti, three thousand people died. The DR is greener and wealthier.

The problems with deforestation cannot be underestimated. Trees mean more topsoil, less runoff, less disaster when flooding hits, less killer mudslides. That’s why people from the Dakotas United Methodist Church supported the Solar Oven project.

The sun’s heat is an alternative cooking source. I really don’t know how having more trees might positively impact a country like Haiti during an earthquake. I have only reported on the natural disaster of flooding.

But I do know, as the weeks unfold, and as yesterday’s Christian Science monitor story suggests, reforestation should be a priority as Haiti rebuilds and returns. Harnessing the cooking power of the sun is preferable to cutting down trees for firewood.

2 thoughts on “Haiti’s Poverty and Deforestation

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more about deforestation being a huge problem that makes this unbearable in Haiti. However, I have to take issue with the fact that you compared the Bay Area earthquake to the earthquake in Haiti. SF is so prepared for earthquakes, the buildings are built to code, they practice for disaster and are ready but more importantly the roads – at rush hour were practically empty!!!! There was a World Series that saved so many lives. SF was playing Oakland and it was the first night. If it had not been for that, myself and hundreds and hundreds of others more than likely would have likely perished on the bridge or freeway that collapsed. I live grateful for that every day. I witnessed a miracle!

    That said Deforestation is a horrible problem and one worth fighting for in Haiti. Keep up the great work.

  2. Rick does amazing work. I was blessed with the opportunity of going to Haiti with Solar Oven Partners in March of 09. It is hard to imagine the level of deforestation until you see it. Re forestation should be a priority. Thanks for mentioning Haiti. I am scared that it will drop out of the news and out of people’s minds before the rebuilding gets fully underway. Keep these people in your thoughts and prayers.

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