Saturday, January 30, 2010

What are the Man-Made Contributors to the Haitian "Natural Disaster?"

If we are to truly come to terms with nature of the Haitian “natural disaster” we have to understand what role humans played in creating it. The earthquake toll was in part caused by long festering man-made problems—political corruption inside the country, long-term neglect from neighboring countries. The Haitian earthquake was one part natural disaster and several parts human disaster. Mark Danner makes the following point in a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece:

Haiti is everybody’s cherished tragedy…And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti’s pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti’s harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.

Danner goes on to list all the man-made contributors to Haiti’s misery, including how the US forced the new republic of Haiti between 1804 and 1860 to pay reparations to France for all its lost slaves. Now there's something I never knew before!?!?!

It’s important to understand these man-made contributors to disasters when we react to them. When we see the role of people’s choices in creating the disaster we can make different choices in responding to it.

(to be con't)

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