Haiti has long been plagued by environmental degradation making the small island state extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, the over-exploitation of natural resources has reduced the country’s ability to shield and protect itself from rising sea levels, loss of soil from erosion, intense weather events, flooding, and habitat loss – all the result of a warming planet.
In 2008 four hurricanes struck the country within a space of thirty days, destroying more than sixty percent of agricultural crops and killing more than a thousand people. Climate change is suspected to increase the length and severity of these storms, and magnify the flooding risks. After Hurricane Hannah in 2008, the urban center of Gonaives was flooded for days with many residents stranded on rooftops. Heavy rains, lasting for more than seventy-two hours, hit Haiti in 2011 causing extreme flooding, displacement of entire villages, and outbreaks of disease.
Exacerbating the physical impacts of global warming is Haiti’s poor socioeconomic conditions. In order to survive and thrive, the country requires outside aid. We must help.
One overlooked way to help a country like Haiti, is the donation and planting of trees. Haiti has the highest rates of deforestation of any country in the world, with just two percent of its original forests remaining. Open, barren land has allowed climate change to ravish the island state. And the problem will continue to grow as climate change intensifies. The country needs trees.
Trees are Mother Nature’s army. They serve as a natural line of defense in so many important ways - from clearing the air of carbon dioxide to shielding the land and its citizens from harsh weather and extreme heat. Without trees, soils are less fertile, crops do not thrive, and erosion becomes widespread. Trees minimize the impacts of flooding and keep topsoil in place. They create a natural wall, a barrier that guards when storms strike. Trees are necessary, and they are desperately needed in Haiti.
Since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated the region in 2010, much of the focus has been on rebuilding and infrastructure. While important, some of the focus must now shift to helping Haiti weather the storm of climate change.
Global warming is no longer a myth. It affects us all, from prosperous nations to those that struggle most with deprived economies. We all benefit when we can take collective action. And that action starts now.
Let’s re:tree and reverse climate change!
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