Working across Disciplines toward an Environmental Understanding for Haiti
Konbit miltidisiplinè pou konesans anviwònman ann Ayiti
“Devastated Landscape,” Henry Nickson, Cap Haitian, 2003, courtesy Elizabeth Deloughry. Photo by Jon Ries.
The recently convened working group (konbit) on the environment of the Haitian Studies Association (HSA) held its first public presentation at HSA’s 32nd Annual Conference, “Nou La Pi Rèd! Embodying a New Praxis.” The presentation took place in virtual webinar format on the Zoom platform, with live streaming to Facebook, on October 7th. Speakers across disciplines ranging from environmental sciences and agriculture to religion and musicology but with a common interest in the past, present, and future of Haiti’s ecosystems presented problems and perspectives from their research and application. LeGrace Benson moderated. Presenters included Marc Cohen, Evens Emmanuel, Gerdès Fleurant, Ellie Happel, and Jean Wiener. Karen Richman provided a summary, and Rebecca Dirksen announced the Journal of Haitian Studies special issue on the environment. We thank HSA—especially President Mark Schuller, Julio Perez Centeno, and Darlene Dubuisson—for providing the platform and technical support.
Watch the session on YouTube.
The Konbit membership, currently at fifteen, met virtually on December 1. You may find meeting notes here.
We have created a bibliography on the environment, available for viewing here. This is a work-in-progress, and we intend to transfer it to a database, where items may be searched in a variety of ways. The Konbit also aims to place special emphasis on the work of environmentalists on the ground in Haiti. Suggestions are welcome.
Through this working session, we aim to (1) define a set of recommendations for management of Haitian land and natural resources in a time of climate change and profound environmental challenges, and (2) develop more effective models of environmental communication moving forward. Haitian history bears numerous approaches to environmental policy, ranging from excessive resource exploitation (at the level of central government) to a more balanced exchange that sees humans as integral participants within the ecosystem (at the level of a decentralized rural population). The balance of power weighted toward the former pole has brought large-scale destruction of ecosystems and loss of resources. Furthermore, such externally imposed policies as those of the United States Occupation (1915–34) have exacerbated the erosion of Haiti’s ecosystems. Today, Haiti ranks among the most vulnerable nations to climate change.
We hope to include Haitianists from a range of academic disciplines (natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities) and practitioners with diverse language, gender, and generational perspectives. This working session will examine case studies of programs directly involved in such initiatives as shoreline restoration, forestry, water resources management, and sustainable agricultural programs. We are particularly seeking those who can report on cooperative collaborations with ordinary residents, citing their insights, concerns, advice, and resistance. Participants will identify models with the potential to revolutionize policy and compile a set of future possibilities based on grounded realities.
LeGrace Benson (lead convener), firstname.lastname@example.org
Lois Wilcken (co-convener), email@example.com
Working across Disciplines toward an Environmental Understanding for Haiti’s Entries
The Energy Potential of Marine Macroalgae in Haiti
Haiti, like most Caribbean countries, faces a growing energy crisis due to the increasing costs of fossil fuels and the lack of indigenous domestic energy supplies. Biofuels are increasingly considered as alternatives to fossil fuels to power modern societies, but they carry their own negative environmental impacts and limitations. In order for biofuels to make a more positive impact on the energy economy of Haiti, three conditions must be met: (i) a new source of millions of tons of sustainably sourced biomass must be discovered with fewer negative environmental impacts than fuel wood; (ii) the biomass must be safely and efficiently transformed into a useful fuel to serve the needs of homes and industries; and (iii) an entire transportation and distribution network has to be created to place this new energy supply in the hands of the end users. Today, we will discuss our research into turning sargassum seaweed into useful biogas energy.
The Roots Are Many and Deep: Social, Cultural, and Spiritual Dimensions of Haiti’s Ecological Crisis (Oct. 19, 2021)
On boarding the ship to his captivity in 1802, Toussaint L’Ouverture delivered a characterization of liberty that would become famous: its roots are many and deep. In the 217 years since Haiti’s independence, the nation’s liberty has been challenged, its roots entangled with invasive species, likewise many and deep. This meeting of HSA’s Working Group on the Environment (Konbit) will present the multidisciplinary perspectives of five scholars and activists. After introductory remarks—presenters’ names and affiliations and discussion ground rules—each of the five presenters will make a statement of no more than five minutes in order to allow maximum time for comments, questions, and discussion with attendees. The meeting will end with an announcement from our blog/vlog team about the progress of that effort, and with suggested ways for all to become involved.
SOIL Haiti – A Circular Economy Model for Urban Sanitation in Vulnerable Communities
Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is a Haiti-based non-profit social enterprise that is setting a global example for how to affordably and sustainably provide safely managed sanitation in rapidly growing urban communities. Since 2006, SOIL has been working to provide access to in-home sanitation through its EkoLakay toilet service. Its circular economy approach includes providing in-home toilets, the collection and treatment of wastes, and the transformation of that waste into rich, organic compost. SOIL’s work sits at the intersection of human rights, environmental justice, and economic development, and we are proud of our long-term commitment to Haiti.
Documentary Screening: ‘Men Sa Lanmè Di’ with Q&A with Filmmaker & Marine Scientist (July 17, 2021)
From its trailer text: “The Haitian Sea as you’ve never seen or heard it before. In this documentary, the Sea tells its story with the Haitian people. Wave after wave, the Sea showcases its riches, reveals its mysteries, and raises the alarm. From the excessive use of its resources to the consequences of climate change and pollution, the Sea displays its different shades of blue and suggests opportunities to seize. This film is an invitation to travel, discover, and also to raise awareness. Haiti’s future lies in its coasts or will not be.”
Event held by this Working Group in 2020
Working across Disciplines toward an Environmental Understanding for Haiti (Oct. 7, 2020)
The recently convened working session on the environment of the Haitian Studies Association (HSA) is pleased to announce its first public presentation at HSA’s 32nd Annual Conference, “Nou La Pi Rèd! Embodying a New Praxis.” The presentation will take place in virtual webinar format on the Zoom platform, with live streaming to Facebook, on Wednesday, October 7th, from 2 to 4 pm Eastern Time. Speakers across disciplines ranging from environmental sciences and agriculture to religion and musicology but with a common interest in the past, present, and future of Haiti’s ecosystems will present problems and perspectives from their research and application.