Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

far up in the north

Far up north, further north than any Southern Hemisphere or tropical resident could imagine, where the snow falls for months and months, and wind chills are rather uncomfortable, sits people of the Global North. I am a long distance from Haiti, which lies in the tropical Caribbean in a world entirely different to me.

I’ll stop sounding cliche and mellow dramatic and get to the point.

I realize it is necessary to take action in terms of helping the victims of Haiti. I can donate money, donate some more money, and discuss the disaster with family and friends over a cup of coffee. Right there, in that previous sentence, I have alluded to environmental injustice.

I am tired of hearing about these natural disasters that:

1. Strike a third world nation suddenly
2. Makes headlines in the news for about 2 weeks
3. Is then never discussed again, except for a brief mention or two, before the news and other agencies resume their usual routines.

I have not read one thing about the Haiti earthquake other than that is happened and that lots of people died and that rescue efforts are underway. The rescue efforts will take time and money, there will be many bodies and gore, and much sadness. Perhaps the death toll will be impossible to calculate, and perhaps relief efforts were too slow or not good enough somehow.

We know all to well the reasons for why this disaster happened. It has little to do with the geologic event and has A LOT to do with the political, social, and environmental circumstances in place right now. No sir, this is not a natural disaster. I refuse to call it that. This is a social and environmental mess that has climaxed to a collapse…of buildings, infrastructure, culture, ecosystems, etc.

According to Jared Diamond, in his book Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, (2005), he makes the point that Haiti has had a long history of decline, and that there seems to be little hope in the minds of most people for Haiti’s reclamation. As arrogant as this might sound coming from a white suburban boy such as me, I find it no surprise that the disaster of the recent earthquake has occurred with such force. We have failed to evacuate people from that degraded island and to bring them the resources they feel they need. We don’t listen to that people feel they need, because we think we already have the answers. Yet as indicated by this recent disaster, which the news will enjoy dramatizing and my old suburban high school will raise funds for with gimmicky bake sales, we have failed.

As to not end this entry on a negative note, I must say that the people in place who work in the environmental justice field are mighty and strong. We need to support a long term plan for countries like Haiti that are based on the needs and desires of environmental activists and the people themselves.

Send money their way. Donate equipment. And if you ever have time out of your busy work schedule, go down there and see what’s up. Forget the bake sails and red iPods…do something!

But remember, think in the long term, and don’t get sucked up in the reactionary behavior of post-disaster events.

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