The Question This Earth Day: Will Humanity Survive?

by Berthony
Dupont (Haiti Liberte)
The life
systems of the planet are in crisis. The climate is warming. Oceans are rising.
Deserts are spreading. Wars for dwindling supplies of oil and water are flaring.
Some 90% of the ocean’s large fish – tuna, sharks, swordfish and cod — have
disappeared in the past 50 years. According to some expert estimates, about
10,000 species of plants and animals are becoming extinct every year – an
average of 27 a day.
            In Haiti alone, biodiversity is
under huge assault as we are rapidly losing many species of frogs, bees, fish,
flowers, and trees every year.
            For example, of the 50 frog species
on our island, two-thirds — 30 species — live only in Haiti and do not occur
in the neighboring Dominican Republic, according to Dr. Blair Hedges, a biology
professor at Penn State University and a leader of “species rescue missions” in
Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean.
            “Haiti is on the brink of an era of
mass extinctions similar to the time when dinosaurs and many other species
suddenly disappeared from the Earth,” wrote Barbara Kennedy on Penn State’s
science website in 2010 about Dr. Hedges’ work.
            This week, in the midst of this
bleak tableau, comes Earth Day, which has been celebrated worldwide since April
22, 1970.
            “Happy #EarthDay!” tweeted the US
Embassy in Haiti, in both English and Kreyòl, on Apr. 22. “ Today we’re
celebrating greener cities & cleaner energy.”
            The irony of this Tweet, which
treats the day as a celebration rather than an alarm, could not be greater.
This same embassy, hand in hand with the Martelly regime, is championing
investment priorities and policies which devastate Haiti’s natural environment,
and promise to devastate it even more, all while wrapping themselves in the
words and images of being “green” and “pro-environment.”
            If ever there was an example of how
capitalism has savaged the natural environment, it is Haiti. When Christopher
Columbus landed on our island in 1492, he saw mountains covered with beautiful
forests of pine, oak, and mahogany, that reminded him of verdant Spain, and
hence he renamed the island Hispaniola in honor of Queen Isabella and King
Ferdinand, the Spanish sponsors of his voyage.
            However, the European colonists
immediately began to rape this paradise. After killing through massacres,
disease, and slave labor in gold mines the Arawak population of over three
million in a mere 15 years, the Europeans, particularly the French, began to
clear-cut the forests to fuel the first great capitalist enterprise on the
island: sugar mills.
            Two centuries later, capitalism
continues to stoke this deforestation by punishing the descendants of the
slaves who worked in the sugar mills. Haiti’s peasantry has been pushed off the
land by capitalist-imposed neoliberal policies – agricultural dumping and
lowering of tariff walls – and forced to flee to the cities. The ruling groups
provide no infrastructure for this influx – housing, water systems, sanitation
systems, roads  – not even electricity or
gas. So the millions of uprooted peasants who have fled to Haiti’s cities over
the past 40 years must rely on charbon,
which requires twice as much wood per energy unit output as fresh wood used in
the countryside.
            The deforestation caused by this
IMF-dictated urbanization, which is also killing our frogs, is then blamed on
the peasants. About 98% of the forests Columbus saw are now gone.
            And what is the Martelly regime
doing? Accelerating this rape of the land. On the southern island of Ile à
Vache, for example, the government unilaterally cut down the island’s one
forest, which used to provide the population with livelihoods harvesting crabs
and honey, to put in an airport. They are now going to uproot peasants from
food producing land in order to put in hotels, golf courses, and casinos, all
without the population’s input or participation.
            In Haiti’s North, we see a similar
crime with the Caracol Industrial Park, for which authorities bulldozed some of
Haiti’s most fertile farmland, destroyed a virgin mangrove forest, and
destroyed precious coral reefs. A 2009 study for the Organization of American
States and the Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN)  put the “value of ecosystem services” of the
mangroves and coral reefs in Caracol bay at US$ 109 million per year.
            Now the Caracol Park, which pays its
workers pennies an hour, is sure to spawn another Cité Soleil, complete with
canals of open sewage, mountains of smoking garbage, and dirty oil and smoke
from nearby power plants fouling the slum next door.
            Finally, there is gold-mining, which
both President Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe are enthusiastically
encouraging (and investing in?), despite the Senate’s attempts to block their
moves. The Spanish removed most of the big veins of gold five centuries ago.
What remains is mostly gold dust, whose extraction requires an extremely
destructive and toxic process. Mountain-tops, already denuded of trees, are
removed and millions of tons of rocks are “washed” with the deadly agent
cyanide, which then poisons streams and groundwater, rendering agriculture and
even life nearby unviable.
            As we have detailed in past issues
of Haïti Liberté, multinational
companies like Newmont Mining, after causing massive ecological damage in
countries like Peru and Ghana, have been practically chased out of those
nations and are now alighting in Haiti. With gold prices at about $1,600 an
ounce, they estimate that Haiti has some $20 billion in gold dust in its
mountains. They pretend, as they did elsewhere, that they will generate revenue
and jobs for Haiti. But in reality, after taking out the precious minerals,
they will leave the land defiled and polluted, and the population just as poor
but now unable even to practice agriculture due to the poisons they have left
behind. Only a handful of local cronies, like Martelly and Lamothe, will get a
cut of the riches extracted.
            So on this Earth Day, let us
remember that we, the Haitian people, are not just fighting against
exploitation, oppression, and injustice and for self-determination, equality,
and human dignity. We are fighting for the survival of the human species on
this planet, starting in Haiti.
            “The economic order imposed on the
world after World War II has led humanity to an unsustainable situation,”
declared Fidel Castro in a Sep. 21, 2009 speech entitled “Humanity is an
Endangered Species.” Humanity is facing “a really imminent danger and its
effects are already visible.” Fidel gives us a mere 60 to 80 years to avoid
mass extinction.

            So don’t be fooled by the happy face
the U.S. Embassy and the Martelly regime are putting on Haiti’s environmental
destruction. Let us all join in the struggle against the forces of unbridled
and destructive capitalism in Haiti today – principally Martelly and MINUSTAH –
to build a new sustainable future, where our children will have unpoisoned
land, water, and air in this little corner of the world which our ancestors
bequeathed to us.