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Rebuilding Haiti

Among the 24/7 coverage of the recent devastation triggered by an earthquake in Haiti, I’ve begun to hear something promising – talk of the opportunity to design and rebuild the “right” way a city which was flattened. On this topic I wonder what is considered the “right” way. Does it include all the new bells and whistles of an emerging regenerative society, or just the bare minimum of what is considered standard in industrialized nations (therefore better than what Haiti has had)? I realize that somebody has to pay for whatever goes in, but it appears that the U.S. will be the most likely candidate for this. If this is done using our best available understanding of regenerative practices, Port-au-Prince could be a model for future urban redevelopment. What role can companies like Biohabitats play in working to push toward that goal of regenerative design?

Bryon Salladin
Environmental Scientist
Biohabitats, Inc.

4 comments

  1. Phil Jones says:

    As we in the restoration community consider short- and long-term solutions to reduce Haiti’s suffering and help it find a sustainable path, we should keep in mind that economic and social instability is as much a cause of environmental degradation as a symptom. Deforestation in Haiti is one of the clearest examples. Under the right circumstances, reforestation can certainly be transformative on a large scale. For instance, I recently came across an encouraging story on reforestation in west Africa. But until the global community and the Haitian government address the political and economic factors that cause many Haitians to turn to wood for their energy source, reforestation may not have the transformative and long-lasting impact that we wish for.

  2. Adam Ganser says:

    Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and continues to get poorer. Before the earthquake Haiti was in dire straits economically and environmentally, and now…well, it is a nightmare scenario. Desertification is probably Haiti’s biggest problem, driven by deforestation and extreme erosion. Haiti is the most mountainous country in the Caribbean and has two rainy seasons. What little soil the country has washes into the sea at an alarming rate.

    The UN Commission on Sustainable Development outlines Haiti’s problems and needs here. http://www.un.org/esa/earthsummit/haiti-cp.htm#chap2 There is no doubt that Haiti’s biggest problem has been and will continue to be its intense level of environmental degradation. Where better than Haiti can Biohabitats apply our expertise to “restore the earth and inspire ecological stewardship”? Haiti needs organizations like Biohabitats to offer suggestions for redevelopment strategies, to create living conditions that are more environmentally sustainable and humane.

    Some of the things we can do.
    •offer strategies for reforestation and erosion control
    •develop master plans that incorporate agriculture to help fight malnutrition
    •develop short-term strategies for green systems aid in refugee camps (trees for shade, garden space, forage for livestock, wetlands for sewage treatment, etc)
    •please add to the list

  3. Nick L. says:

    It would be important to emphasize some of Haiti's historic natural capital. For instance, I know in Peru there is an active research community working to re-establish many of the 1,000s of native potato varieties to the country's farmers. The work has environmental, economic, and social implications. What type of natives are part of Haiti's heritage that could be used during their re-building?

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