Saturday, May 3, 2014

Landslides and deforestation; in your village and in mine

Landslides and deforestation;
In your village and in mine

Land slide in Haiti caused by de-forestation

Landslide in the United States caused by de-forestation

One of the things people say to me about Haiti is how they saw a photo taken by NASA that shows the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.   The photo shows Haiti with 100% brown dirt and no vegetation and a green Dominican Republic.  

When I traveled between the two countries I did not see any difference in the landscape but I understand that Haiti, like my country, lost most of its original forests.   I live on a mountainside and all of the original trees were cut down a few hundred years ago; the same time Haiti’s were.   The difference is that the trees on my hillside are growing back and the climate in Haiti makes this very difficult. 

When the forests were cut, in their villages and in mine, the small streams and springs were filled in with dirt and animals fled.   Water, which was once absorbed by large trees became floods of water heading down the hill to the river.   Smaller trees and bushes were knocked down along the way.   Thousands of years of deeply rooted and naturally nurtured topsoil was washed to the sea.   Food and medicines and habitat for wildlife was destroyed.   The food chain which fed and clothed people were destroyed.

Although much of this wood was used to build the small towns and farms of Oregon, it goes without saying that the first people of Haiti and Oregon managed to live happily without destroying all the old forests.  It is also true that most of the timber was sold and not used for the basic needs of the local communities.

Later, the forests in Haiti and the forests in Oregon were taken over seas and sold.   Wealthy and powerful people took the trees and the earth beneath them wept with the loss of springs and topsoil.  

Without the complex root system that was part of the mountainside, the land slid down hills taking people, houses and wildlife with them.   Recently in my country many people died and a town was destroyed by a landslide.   It is estimated that 5 million cubic meters of dirt on heavily logged land slide down the hillside after heavy spring rains. When it was suggested that it was caused by decades of clear cutting, the critics were silenced and called disrespectful.   It has taken the dedication of many, many people to protect the forests and streams of my villages.   De-forestation, in my village and in Haiti’s village, cause climate change, a loss of forest food and medicine and yes, landslides. 

When people ask me about the picture of Haiti I answer, “Yes, it was de-forested by colonial powers who sold it to become very rich.  Our forest were logged too and we have very few ancient forests, as well.  This is a problem in all the world’s villages.” 

When we value healthy, sustainable lifestyles for all living things we can help prevent landslides; in my village and theirs.   Beneath rests the question of how rich, is rich enough?   Do some people’s need for wealth justify the poverty of others? 

The line between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is the line we walk each and every day.  It is the divide between rich and poor,  between walled communities and borders between nations.   Somewhere,  someone left the ground bare and scorched; in my village and in theirs.   The impact of deforestation and land slides on families is significant.  In my villages and theirs, families morn the loss of friends and family. Homes are destroyed and lives are forever changed.  Mothers need solid ground, clean water and top soil to help their families grow.  These are the things we all need; in my village and in theirs.

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