25 March 2011

If a tree falls in the forest, should you replant it?

Do I look happy in this picture? It's only because I am. In this picture, I am on my way to the Dominican Republic for our MAF retreat. It was a much-needed rest...for four days, there were no trucks barreling by. I took a hot shower (okay, more than one), and then stayed clean. I felt the sand between my toes. 

It was glorious. 

But along the way, I got a birdseye view of one of Haiti's more serious problems. 

This is what Haiti looks like from the air.

This is what the Dominican Republic looks like from the air:

In case you missed it, these two nations are on the same island. The only distinguishing factor is the way the land's been treated. The Nature Conservancy reports that the DR just expanded its protected territories by three million acres in 2009. As far as I know, Haiti only has one protected park.

What difference does that make? Maybe a lot. 

Because when we were in the DR, I noticed that it rained. A lot. In order to get rain, you need trees. They reflect heat back into the atmosphere and release moisture into the air. In order to get crops, you need rain. Crops make for a stronger economy. In order to have a strong economy, you need...products. As it is, Haitians import almost all of their chief staple: rice. (Here's a fascinating but sad article about how cholera has affected rice production here.)

Haitians are forced to import a lot of food products, actually. The soil here is poor, they say. Really? They don't seem to have that problem over the border. Remember how I said I was clean in the DR? It's because their ground stays on the ground, rooted down by trees instead of flying on the wind. I learned in school that soil erosion is connected to deforestion...but maybe they're not teaching that here. 

So the solution is simple, you say. Just plant more trees.

And we are planting more trees--that's one of the ministries of our church here. So do the MCC and lots of other organizations. But who's going to water these seeds? And who's going to keep the goats away from the young seedlings? And if they grow, who will protect them from people wanting to make charcoal? And with only 2% of Haiti's forests still standing, will it make a difference? 

I don't know. I wish I did. Here's what I do know...

This pilot is working that uniform.

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