This January, the world witnessed one of the worst tragedies in modern times. A 7.0 earthquake rocked the already struggling nation of Haiti and caused incredible amounts of death and destruction on a level not many had seen before, including myself. Before the earthquake, Haiti had its fair share of issues, ranging from infrastructure to the economy. And it is even worse off now, with a death toll of at least two hundred thousand and over a million homeless, not to mention the near destruction of the UN mission efforts and parts of the government. With such a grim outcome, it doesn’t seem like anything positive could come from this. However, in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, Haiti has a unique opportunity to rebuild.
Haiti not only has an opportunity to rebuild their capital city, but they have the chance to restructure their country in a sustainably: economically, socially, and environmentally. Hundreds of conventional international aid groups have already made their way to the country; however, there are groups such as Global Green who are looking to help rebuild the country in a truly sustainable way. Global Green USA has been instrumental in the reconstruction of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Recently, Treehugger published an interview with Global Green’s CEO and President, Matt Petersen. Global Green has been constantly in contact with all parties including the Haitian government, local businesses, and several NGOs. The interview is a very insightful look at the struggles and opportunities Haiti will face in the coming years including some issues seen in Iraq and New Orleans, such as corporate leaps of power and some long-term investments like job creation. Global Green is looking to end these challenges as well as many others and begin assisting a sustainable future for Haiti.
So, is it possible for Haiti to emerge out of the destruction with a new lease on sustainablity? As Matt Peterson mentions in the interview, there are many challenges; however, there is hope. One can take a look at rebuilding New Orleans as an example. On a recent visit to the city, it still looked as if much of the 9th Ward and parts of downtown had yet to be rebuilt. But upon researching as I returned home, it became clear that there is a movement to sustaibably rebuild the city, with organizations such as Global Green or Rebuild Green. Perhaps it is too early to tell whether Haiti can be rebuilt completely sustainable, but with organizations such as Global Green on their side, they do have a good chance. In his interview, Peterson mentioned their main focus was “four fold:”
1. To inform the codes and system for enforcing codes for rebuilding.
2. Identifying school(s) and partner groups to help ensure disaster-resistant, energy efficient/sufficient, and healthy construction.
3. Identifying partners to do the same with homes (we’re talking to Habitat about this).
4. Working with others to identify and support re-forestation, ideally via a network that supports women to lead the charge and supports job creation
Even with the massive challenges this country and the organizations involved in its reconstruction face, there is hope for a new Haiti. A Haiti that is self-sustaining in every sense of the word. If this can truly be accomplished it will be the only silver lining to one of the most destructive events of this century. And although we look to the future for hope, let us not forget the thousands that lost their lives.