Latin America

Caribbean Environment: From Cuba's "Paradise" to Haiti's Nightmare

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Luscious trees, vibrant plants and sunshine sound like a picture perfect vacation.

But what if the trees were bare and lifeless or the vibrant plants dull and droopy? That would not be so appealing. The growing problem of deforestation and lack of plant life is causing concern in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti.

According to Nadine Patrice, executive director of Operation Green Leaves Inc., in 1924 Haiti was 60 percent covered with forests. That percentage has become 1.5 percent. The majority of this decline can be attributed to deforestation, pollution, overpopulation and lack of resources.

“The issue is not protection of these areas, it’s about enforcement. The enforcing protection of the forests are complicated by poverty. Thirty-five of the forests in Haiti are protected and only three currently have enforced protection,” said Patrice.

With so many people living in the country, Haiti has suffered a tremendous loss of fish to feed its nation. Due to the decline in fish reproduction, the sizes of the fish that are still catchable are declining as well.

David Guggenheim, the “Ocean Doctor” and a senior fellow, The Ocean Foundation, and director, Cuba Marine Research & Conservation Program, displayed a video of Haiti’s people fishing for their week’s dinners.

David Guggenheim

According to Guggenheim, the biggest fish those men or anyone else had caught during the past few years were no larger than six inches.

With such pressing issues, there is a concern that things will only grow more devastating, but Patrice believes there is hope.

“The issue is working with the people and changing their ways and bad habits into ways to benefit the environment and later benefit them.  So I stress the importance of education and awareness,” said Patrice. “I am sure with our new pro-environment government, members things will only get better.”


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