“The Eroding Nation” was conceived and reported by South Florida Sun-Sentinel staff writer Tim Collie and staff photographer Mike Stocker, who made several trips to Haiti and spent more than a month traveling throughout the nation. They interviewed several hundred environmental and land-use experts, government officials, foreign policy analysts and Haitians.
Collie, a six-year veteran of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, has reported from Israel, Jordan and Colombia this year. His first foreign assignment was in Haiti in 1987, and he has visited the country many times. Stocker, a staff photographer for five years, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has covered stories in Haiti, Israel, Latin America and Africa.
Art directors: Jeff Glick, Xavier Marañón, Tom Peyton
Sun-Sentinel Editor’s Introduction to Interactive Report
by: Belinda Long September 12, 2008 09:44 AM
Haiti is in the middle of a major environmental disaster, not unlike Katrina when it hit New Orleans. Except, instead of a breach in levees, Hurricane Ike has left Haiti has to deal with runoff from the mountains which cause extreme flooding to the valleys and cities below.
Why is the runoff so bad? Consider this: Poor Haitians go into the mountains to harvest trees to make charcoal which is sold in the cities. Because there’s no regulation, the trees disappear before you know it and now there’s nothing to keep the ground soil from washing away.
December 7, 2003, we did an interactive series called Haiti, “The Eroding Nation”, South Florida Sun-Sentinel staff writer Tim Collie and staff photographer Mike Stocker, The Hal Boyle Award 2003
Award Type: Other
Award Date: 2003
Award Name: The Hal Boyle Award
Award Recipient: Tim Collie, Mike Stocker
Award Recipient Affiliation: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Award Honored Work: Haiti: The Eroding Nation Go to here for entire interactive with flash videos & photographs Please take time to see & hear.
Follow up article by Tim Collie: Friday, 15 Jan 2010 Read more: Deadly Quake Piles on Haiti’s Man-Made Disaster here.
Excerpt:………………”Think of Port-au-Prince as a city of 3 million people built on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The city rises from sea level to peaks higher than 6,000 feet in a distance of just 20 miles. Overall, the country is more mountainous in parts than Switzerland.
Port-au-Prince has a larger share of its national population — one-third of the country’s 9 million population — living in its borders than any other major city in the Western Hemisphere. Most are squeezed into shantytowns and slums built on the sides of mountains with population densities that rival those of India or Bangladesh. The only way to reach these cities is by walking up narrow slopes in hikes that can last for hours.
And that’s where the casualties are. During the past 50 years, because of government corruption and often-misguided development policies too numerous to name here, millions of poor Haitians fled the countryside for the capital city. They first moved into the low-lying swamplands, forming some of the most dangerous, drug-infested slums in the world. Then they built on the sides of steep mountain slopes, creating communities that looked like shoeboxes heaped thousands of feet high.
They left fertile farmland from which Haiti used to export rice, coffee, and other crops because the country’s systems of canals and highways were poorly maintained. When international food prices went up and down, the country’s farmers had nothing to protect them from economic cycles.
At the same time, a booming trade in charcoal that the rich still use to dryclean clothes and cook with led many sharecroppers to cut down trees. The trees were never replaced. When it rains in Haiti, as it does intensely during the hurricane season, huge floods begin in the mountains and rush down these slopes, carrying the best topsoil out to sea. The result is dust-bowl conditions much like those of 1930s America.
And that’s ultimately what killed so many people this week. The country technically has a building code enforcement department, but it was a joke. Rich and poor could build any structure they pleased with the right bribes. That same corruption likely led to watered-down mortar and poor quality bricks that turned to powder when the earthquake hit………………”Read more: Deadly Quake Piles on Haiti’s Man-Made Disaster here.
This bears studying now especially in light of today’s Hatian situation, I discovered this 5 years ago and am pleased to see that it’s still on the internet as it gives quite a bit more about the plight of this nation of beautiful resilient people who can’t seem to catch a break in the modern world. Many indignities have been perpertrated upon Hatians, I pray they prevail against all odds and am amazed at their courage to reject the GMO seed “gift” sent them after the earthquake, and I stand in awe of their refusal to let go of their traditional seeds and saving ways, and also it is quite interesting that Hatians have a love for children and do not cooperate with UN efforts to limit their births. I applaud these brave poor people who seem to have something inside them that is richer than worldly goods that goes beyond the powers of those who have tried to enslave and destroy them for hundreds of years. God Save the Hatians!