An unprecedented stormy season that may be our last warning

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An unprecedented stormy season that may be our last warning

Post by Guysanto » Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:27 am

Haitians have suffered large-scale devastation by a relentless string of tropical storms and hurricanes, none of which was "a direct hit". The waters did us in. Our eroded lands offered no resistance to the waters. The lack of shrub and tree cover led to the erosion that robbed our lands of natural resistance to the destructive power of waters run wild from the glancing blows of hurricanes which have, contrary to all appearances, actually spared Haiti from total destruction, as if giving us one last warning. In truth, it's not the waters that did us in. It is the utter lack of responsible management of our country's natural resources in the last 100 years that truly did us in.

From stripping forests to deny "Cacos" of hiding places during the 1915-1934 U.S. Occupation, to Papa Doc's use of the same tactics to uncover "camoquens", to the cutting of trees in the countryside for selling charcoal in the cities (Port-au-Prince consuming the largest share, by far), to the displacement of small farmers to Port-au-Prince and the D.R. and Nassau, to our total lack of respect for our environment and vacuum of leadership regarding soil conservation practices... WE HAVE BEEN AT WAR AGAINST HAITI. Most of the time, admittedly, without even knowing it.

And now, we are back to a new season of "Brother, can you spare a dime?" The answer should be yes, because the needs are urgent and above all intellectual considerations. But, at the same time, the answer should be that we need to cancel that yearly series, that we absolutely must stop waging war against our motherland, that we need to create an Army Corp. of engineers and agronomists, of farmers and conservation-minded industrialists, of teachers who place the survival and reconstruction of Haiti as the highest of their priorities and students who learn to love Haiti through concerted action, not just patriotic songs. An Army of Haitians who take their clues not from the mindless spectacles of "do-nothing-worthwhile" politicians but from a higher authority.

When I was 12 and 13 years old, I spent most of my Saturday mornings digging deep holes in the mountains by Petionville, filling them with natural fertilizers and planting mahogany trees. Twenty to thirty more like me were led, year after year, by the indefatigable Frère Albert who worked much harder than any of us could, but we all strived to match his peerless example. The sweat pouring from the face of this "blan" [whom I disliked in general for his severity and his constant "Antoine, 5 laps!" for not playing hard enough at recreational matches of volleyball and soccer, but never for any lack of intensity on my part when planting trees for a greener Petionville], yes that sweat inspired me more than any words of benediction or malediction could ever have. If this "blan" worked silently but tirelessly, like a peasant, for my country, then so could I . . . and I did to the full extent of my ability. I doubt that any of those trees have survived today or been replaced after getting cut for whatever purpose by strangers who came to harvest the fruit of our labor without putting anything back in the soil for the next generation of young Haitians. But the lesson endures, as I count those efforts as perhaps the most precious engagement of my life in Haiti.

We call on the so-called leaders of today's Haiti to lead the way by example. Let us send each of them some seed, a pick and a shovel, and ask them to go back to their districts and plant a tree... show those they represent that they are not above their constituents' basic concerns. If they will not lead us, then they had better step aside to avoid being trampled, because we have the capacity to generate new models quite apart from the failing models of the past and the present. Enough of nice speeches and empty promises. Enough backroom maneuvering and positioning for top government posts. The only deal is: heal Haiti or get out of the way.

"A pick and a shovel" should be our new motto.

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