It’s perplexing why Haiti, a seismically energetic nation, continues to permit development of harmful concrete houses that collapse on residents throughout earthquakes. So many lives are being senselessly misplaced beneath collapsing concrete when there are environmentally pleasant options corresponding to bamboo and hemp.
The earthquake that struck southern towns in Haiti on Aug. 14 collapsed a whole lot of buildings, killing hundreds of individuals based mostly on preliminary counts; the one which leveled Port-au-Prince in 2010 killed greater than 200,000; and the quake that flattened the Sans-Souci Palace in 1843 killed over 5,000, unleashing a cholera epidemic in its wake. And extra earthquakes could be anticipated, since Haiti sits on the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone.
So why do Haitians proceed to dwell in harmful concrete houses? Many Haitians contemplate concrete houses symbols of social development and larger safety in comparison with options corresponding to houses of wooden, wattle and daub or shanties — which 65.9 percent of Haitians are caught in. Properly-designed, high-quality concrete is fascinating for its power in hurricanes, that are frequent in Haiti. However over time, intense rain, solar and wind weaken the broadly used diluted concrete, making it extra prone to break down.
And that makes Haitians’ reluctance to make use of different constructing supplies corresponding to bamboo and hemp perplexing. The stigma that many Haitians connect to those potential development supplies tremendously imperils and impoverishes them.
Bamboo is a proven earthquake-resistant building material and, given its staggering growth rate, a perfect plant for sustainably rebuilding in areas devastated by earthquakes. The perfect bamboo cultivars for development develop to heights of between 40 and 50 toes. Bamboo possesses high tensile strength equal to low-carbon steel. Utilizing bamboo in dwelling development can tremendously scale back want for metal and wooden, considerably reducing constructing prices.
Likewise, the woody core of hemp can be utilized to create hempcrete, a light-weight, cement-like materials that can be utilized as insulation and to construct bricks and non-weight bearing wall panels that received’t crush individuals in an earthquake.
The failure to spend money on hemp is tied to draconian bans on the cultivation of hashish. The Haitian authorities has made low-THC hemp vegetation unlawful, placing out of attain this multi-faceted plant, whose fibers, seeds, flowers and leaves can be utilized in merchandise starting from cannabidiol to nutritious protein to industrial ropes and constructing supplies.
However right here is another excuse to think about using these vegetation: each bamboo and hemp are renewable sources that suck up carbon dioxide and launch oxygen into the environment. Giant-scale cultivation of bamboo and hemp might be the muse for long-term sustainable housing, which is the alternative of concrete. So why isn’t the federal government investing in bamboo and hemp to supply higher, safer houses for Haitians?
The Haitian authorities and other people can scale back the tragic deaths and destruction that follows the nation’s earthquakes, however they need to discover the willpower to encourage the widespread cultivation of bamboo, to legalize and encourage the cultivation of hemp, and so they should present Haitians construct successfully with each. If not, it’ll be extra collapsing concrete and pointless deaths.
Benjamin Hebblethwaite is an affiliate professor within the division of languages, literatures, and cultures on the College of Florida, the place he teaches programs on Haiti, Jamaica, and France. His books embody the forthcoming A Transatlantic History of Haitian Vodou, Stirring the Pot of Haitian History, and Vodou Songs in Haitian Creole and English.