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Divided island: How Haiti and the DR became two worlds

Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a border, and an island. But the two countries are very different today: the Dominican Republic enjoys higher quality of life for many factors than Haiti. I went to this island and visited both countries, to try and understand when and how their paths diverged.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This video is an exciting debut for the new series "Vox borders."  By just about every development metric available, the Dominican Republic is doing better than Haiti, the only bordering country on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the DR.   


Questions to Ponder: How does the border impact both countries?  How has sharing one island with different colonial legacies shaped migrational push and pull factors?


Tags: Haiti, Dominican Republic, video, poverty, development, economic, labor, migration, political, borders.

Kelsey McIntosh's curator insight, February 13, 2018 8:41 PM
This video is extremely interesting seeing as it points out the differences between two very different worlds that are only separated by a single border. The video shows how racist the Dominicans are to their neighbors and shows us how the Haitians live under such scrutiny. On each end of the border, there are two markets that are supposed to allow both the Haitians and the Dominicans to trade their goods, however, the strict border patrol officers keep the Haitians from entering until their neighbors have set up their shops at the best spots. The director of the video also notes that he believes the reason Haiti is much poorer than the Dominican Republic stems all the way back to when they were colonies of France and Spain. 
Matt Manish's curator insight, February 16, 2018 12:47 PM
I found this video to be very insightful into the relationship Haiti has with the Dominican Republic and how the Haitian government has formed into what it is today. It was especially informative for myself because I didn't know very much about these countries before watching this video. I knew Haiti was the first slave colony to have a successful revolt against their slave holders, but I didn't know or realize all the consequences of that slave uprising. It seems like Haiti wasn't given a proper chance right off the bat to succeed as a nation. The French overworked their land and destroyed the soil which is still a problem today. Once Haiti declared independence, many nations enforced embargoes on Haiti because it was considered a threat due to it being a black republic, which strangled their potential for a strong economy. Adding to that France demanded a large sum of money from Haiti after they declared independence because France was upset about losing profits from the colony, which hindered the Haitian economy even more. It's too bad that Haiti got a bad hand of cards right from the beginning, I hope that one day they can rise above adversity, and truly flourish as a nation.
tyrone perry's curator insight, March 14, 2018 10:43 PM
watching this showed many disturbing facts about the island shared by the D.R. and Haiti.  because of both of their previous owners the island went in two different directions.  Haiti owned by the French brought over many slaves to pillage and exploit their side of the Island.  Haiti could not flourish because of racism and debt.  D.R. had a different history the Spaniards integrated with the locals and worked together to help the country grow.  they took care of their land and their was no racism playing any role in destroying the people of that country.  driving up and down the you can see the difference on both sides.  Haiti has a bare and eroded land while the D.R. has lush jungles.  according to the narrator there is strong racism towards the Haitians by the Dominicans.  Even thou they both share the island the Dominicans look down on the Haitians and refuse to help them even thou D.R. is a so to speak rich nation they could really help improve and grow both nations as a whole.  Its sad to see that the reason people cant grow is because of systemic and blatant racism. 
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Cutting Haiti's Forests

The major environmental problem facing Haiti's biodiversity is explained, including video of tree-cutting within a national park.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Deforestation does not happen in a vacuum--it occurs in an economic, political, and historical context.  Having successfully staged a slave revolution against France in 1806, they were ostracized from the global community (since the powers that be did not want to see slave rebellions or colonial uprising elsewhere) and were forced to look within for their own energy resources.  The nation's forests were (and still are) converted into charcoal, leading to long-term environmental problems such as soil erosion, flooding, and habitat destruction for many species.  All of this increased  increased Haiti's disaster vulnerability in the earthquake of 2010.     


Tags: Haiti, biogeography, environmentecology, video, poverty, development, economic, labor.

chao pan's curator insight, June 15, 2017 6:50 PM

a good video to show how human activity negatively impacts the ecosystem. I will use this video in phase three

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T-Shirt Travels

When filmmaker Shantha Bloemen was stationed in a remote village in Zambia as a worker with an international aid organization, she had to adjust to living in a different culture. But one thing struck her as oddly familiar: almost everyone in the village wore secondhand clothing from the West. Bloemen began to imagine stories about the people who used to wear the clothing, wondering if the original owners had any idea that the castoffs they had given to charities ended up being sold to Africans half a world away.

Seth Dixon's insight:

This PBS documentary shows some of the unexpected consequences of globalization and less well-publicized economic interactions.  This online supplemental to the video allows users to track the journey of a T-shirt.  For additional reading on topic, this article shows how some the same process is impacting the those in Haiti.  The complex interactions that stem from globalization never cease to amaze me.


Tags: industry, economic, poverty, globalization, Africa.

Kristen McDaniel's curator insight, July 19, 2013 9:48 AM

It's fascinating to look at the effects of globalization, and a great look at how economies change.  When people in the Western world drop a bag of clothes off at a charity, I doubt we think they'd end up in a village in Africa. Warning:  it does get a little preachy at the end. 

Mr Ortloff's curator insight, October 8, 2013 12:44 PM

Is direct aid a good thing or not? How does secondhand clothing impact local economies?

Jess Deady's curator insight, May 4, 2014 3:57 PM

Westernization is a popular theme thats happening in the East. Even though people don't know it, the clothes they give away may be some that are taken to places like Africa. Hand-me-downs are popular in the U.S. but even more so in Africa. The t-shirt you give away to someone might end up across the world. Who knows.

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Protest over Haiti slum eviction

Protest over Haiti slum eviction | Geography Education |
Residents of hillside shanties above the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince protest against plans to clear their homes for a flood-protection project.


Even before the earthquake, Port-au-Prince was a city filled with slums.  The earthquake exacerbated so many of the urban, economic and environmental issues.  This eviction of the flood plains has class implications as the poor feel that they are being unfairly targeted in plans to improve the city. 

Chris Costa's curator insight, September 23, 2015 2:08 PM

Geography and geographical events plays a great role in shaping the course of human civilization, and the 2010 Haitian earthquake is no exception. The devastation that occurred as a result of the earthquake has had severe political and economic consequences for the Haitian people and government, in part because the nation is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Despite Western aid, thousands of people have yet to relocate so safer areas or find new homes. This example of the dismantling of slums is a sad story, where the government refuses to allow citizens to live there, but cannot offer them somewhere to go. Despite the government citing safety concerns for the dissolution of the slums, many poor citizens feel that it is a gentrification plan and that they are being unfairly targeted- it would be interesting to see if richer Haitians are allowed to remain in similar areas, which would totally undermine the "safety" argument held by the government. Thousands of Haitians again find themselves homeless, adding to a legacy of devastation and human suffering left by the 2010 earthquake. Geography: 1, Humanity: 0.

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, October 12, 2015 11:16 PM

While I can understand why the government feels the need to assert this project, the talk about the poor always being targeted struck a cord. The government hasn't been able too supply stable housing as it is for the recently displaced Haitians so why would these people believe that they would replace their homes? In one of my recent scoop its Mexico talked of lessons that need to be followed and one of them was " lesson the corrosive affects of a general lack of trust". I would have to say that Haiti could benefit from working on this.

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 10:53 AM

on the one hand the government has a point. the neighborhood which they plan on destroying is at risk, and those people would be better off living somewhere else, but on the other hand they must provide housing in exchange if the residents cannot afford to get new housing for themselves when the time comes to move.

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Haiti: Legacy of Disaster

Haiti: Legacy of Disaster | Geography Education |

"Even before the earthquake Haiti's environment teetered on the brink of disaster. Brent and Craig Renaud report on the country's deforestation problems."


What about a disaster is 'natural' and what about the disaster is attributable to how people live on the land?  This video highlights the poverty, architectural and environmental factors that exacerbated the problems in the Haitian Earthquake of 2010.  This is a merging of both the physical geography and human geography.  

Jess Deady's curator insight, April 28, 2014 1:49 PM

Natural disasters occur because of two things; the environmental reason and how people react to it. This earthquake was only half the reason Haiti is in a natural disaster state. The people who don't know how to respond to such "natural disasters" are the real reason of problematic changes.

James Hobson's curator insight, September 25, 2014 10:26 AM

(Central America topic 2)

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or in this case:

Which came first, the deforestation or the disparity?

I believe the answer can be both.

At first such a country's inhabitants might not know what devastating impacts manmade environmental changes such as deforestation can have - or, they might just have no other choice. Here disparity comes first. But unfortunately such effects can be far reaching. Deforestation can 'come back around' and be the cause (not only the result) of disparity: erosion, flooding, landslides, lack of natural resources. These all contribute to further disasters and crises, which continue the repeating trend.

Dr. Bonin has held classes pertaining to this same issue of deforestation, among the other issues which Haitians face. IN addition, the company I work for has been sponsoring a campaign to help humanitarian efforts in the country, and I have worked with people who have lived there.

Lastly, I can't help but notice an uncanny similarity between the deforestation of Haiti and that of Easter Island. I hope Easter Is. will be used as a warning message.


Adam Deneault's curator insight, December 6, 2015 8:05 PM

Conditions in Haiti are just terrible. This place is 90% deforested and people use charcoal and such to cook. Haiti was hit by an earthquake in 2010, but even before the earthquake, deforestation was a major problem. Most of the people that live here live in darkness with no electricity. To get light, people use charcoal, charcoal has very many great uses in Haiti. Individual survival means cutting down as many trees as possible to get charcoal so you can provide for family. Problems with this country is that technologically and natural disaster survivalness is poor. Floods and mudslides will continue to happen and people will die, also the infrastructure will not improve. A lot of problem would come from the government too, lack of help from a government creates a failing nation. 

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Why reconstructing Haiti has been so slow

Why reconstructing Haiti has been so slow | Geography Education |
Experts and aid officials discuss ongoing challenges and lessons learnt on the ground in Haiti...


Development and humanitarian aid projects must always take local geographic factors into consideration when devising any plan for the future.  Political uncertainty, poor transportation infrastructure, disease and not enough locally based programs are but a few of the issues that continue to plague the communities in Haiti. 

Paige Therien's curator insight, February 13, 2014 7:06 PM

Haiti is in a prime "natural disaster" zone and it is difficult for a country to recover fully after each "hit".  Disaster after disaster begins to weigh heavily on an already struggling infrastructure, government, and hope.  The earthquake that Haiti experienced in 2009 was particularly devastating.  This article aims to shed some light on a few of the reasons why, two years later, Haiti was in pretty much the same condition.  Haiti's government was basically non-existent before this earthquake, and anything that did exist was quite ineffective at making decisions.  Bureaucratic procedures made incoming aid and their supplies move into Haiti extremely slow.  Some of it stopped coming altogether when cholera began to make a huge presence within the population.  As seen with this situation, as well as in other countries, uncoordinated aid and conflicting agendas of different organizations can do more harm than good.  Also, urban settings are extremely complex and can be puzzling to an outsider, particularly in times of desperate need.  When rebuilding, it is important to consider the future in terms of what else nature and location has in store for them.

Kendra King's curator insight, April 14, 2015 11:31 PM

There are a myriad of reasons for why “after almost two years…reconstruction has barely started,” but the lack of “local” help stood out to me the most. As the article mentions, the NGO’s have been responsible for taking care of Haiti’s relief efforts, most of whom are outside sources. On some level it isn’t surprising that the UN and NGO’s took the lead as their seemed to be no prominent leader in the country due to the lack of political stability mentioned in the article. However, for the outside efforts to “ignore” the actually population of the country just perpetuates the problem. As the people enforcing all the change, I consider the NGO’s to be more of a leader as they are trying to go about handeling the welfare of the nation (however misguided there attempts) as they are the ones calling the shots about what is done. Since they are doing work with no help, when they leave no one is around to lead once again because an atmosphere was never cultivated to encourage Haitian leadership.


Just throwing money at the problem without local support is also troubling because it doesn’t actually seem to be an effective met the needs of the population either. In the paragraph that discussed poor coordination, one sees a major concern is that groups are duplicating efforts of another group through the use of donations. We know this is happening without the “local community.” So one would think the people who actually live in the country would maybe know there country the best. Not the outside European relief efforts though despite the fact that they respond poorly to “urban settings” poorly. Time and time again, this has been a problem with the way developed countries respond to under-developed countries. I often think developed countries hold on to the success the IMF had with England after WWII, when throwing money at a situation actually worked. However, this isn’t the 1940’s anymore and there are many studies showing those methods just aren’t working (probably because the money isn’t being used correctly). As such, it should be time for a change in methods. Yet, it seems only the developed countries are capable of making that call and it’s not one they seem to be making anytime soon.


I am in no way suggesting the world just let Haiti be. One positive aspect of globalization is that communities in need can actually get relief from other parts of the world. Yet, in that same hand is the negative aspect. For that money is typically misused. Instead I propose that as a means to rectify the downside of globalization other nations work with the Haitian people to create a country that the Haitians can actually claim as their own. 

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Hurricane Matthew-Humanitarian Mapping

Hurricane Matthew-Humanitarian Mapping | Geography Education |

"The Humanitarian OpenSteetMap Team (HOT) has activated to provide geographic base data in areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. Category 4 Hurricane Matthew continues to strengthen and is advancing on Haiti and the Bahamas. Hurricane Matthew is expected to cause 'catastrophic' damage including extreme flooding and landslides potentially affecting millions in Haiti, Jamaica, and Bahamas. To start we are mapping coastal communities in the storm path."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Want to see geographic knowledge and geospatial skills in action?  Crowd-sourced mapping is increasingly an important resource during an emergency.  Poorer places are often not as well mapped out by the commercial cartographic organizations and these are oftentimes the places that are most vulnerable to natural disasters.  Relief agencies depend on mapping platforms to handle the logistics of administering aid and assessing the extent of the damage and rely on these crowd-sourced data sets.  My students and I are working on this over the weekend; can you join in and help?  The projects that are marked urgent by the Red Cross are all in Haiti right now.  Here are is a video playlist that explains the project and how you can help if you are new to OpenStreetMap (OSM).


Tags: disasters, mappingSTEM, physicalHaiti, weather and climate.

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Haiti: From Recovery to Sustainable Development

"Since the 2010 earthquake, Haiti has successfully pulled through the humanitarian recovery phase and seen significant socioeconomic gains. Yet as Haiti moves toward long-term, sustainable development, the country faces significant challenges. The political system remains fragile, sustainable jobs are scarce, and the environment is still as vulnerable now as it was then."

Seth Dixon's insight:

While this is primarily a promotional campaign for the UNDP's efforts in Haiti, it nicely contextualizes the problems that Haiti faces before discussing how to improve the situation.  Some keys for the future include: 

  • Governance and Rule of Law
  • Recovery and Poverty Reduction
  • Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Environmental Management
  • Medical Outbreak Management  


Tagsdisasters, Haiti, NGOspoverty, development, video.

Keone Sinnott-Suardana's curator insight, June 22, 2016 10:19 PM
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Smartphones as geospatial tools

The disastrous earthquake in Haiti taught humanitarian groups an unexpected lesson: the power of mobile devices to coordinate, inform, and guide relief efforts.

Tags: technology, disasters, Haiti, TED.

Seth Dixon's insight:

We are only beginning to see the applications of smart phones to improve peoples lives.  In this TED talk, Paul Conneally explores some of the possibilities (citizen mapping, crowd-sourced disaster recovery, etc.) that is just sitting in the palm of our collective hands. 

Tony Hall's curator insight, February 18, 2013 6:43 AM

This is why ICT is important. No. Vital! Our students need to see things like this so that they understand the positive aspects of technology. They need to see that SMS, Facebook & Twitter are so much more than just a way sharing silly photos of themselves. This technology has the power to affect real, positive change. 

techsavvygirl's curator insight, February 18, 2013 8:21 AM

Augmenting human potential with smartphones

Lorraine Chaffer's curator insight, April 23, 2016 4:11 AM
Responding to disasters and preparedness using technology
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Haitian 'invasion' in rural America

Haitian 'invasion' in rural America | Geography Education |
Over the past 18 months thousands of Haitians have flocked to a small town in rural North Carolina.


This video is filled with geographic content.  How does immigration change the cultural and economic profile?  While large cities are typically the destinations for migrants why are these Haitians coming to this small town? 

Nathan Chasse's curator insight, February 8, 2014 5:52 PM

This video is about a sudden influx of Haitian immigrants in a small rural town in North Carolina. This is not typical because because immigrating to the United States usually means settling in cities.


The atypical destination is the result of where job availability is currently located in the United States. Many of the immigrants had originally tried Florida and found either little work or much worse conditions in a city like Miami. In this rural area of North Carolina, there were some grueling factory jobs (I worked one once, they suck but the pay was not awful) that weren't being filled so the Haitians simply went where the jobs were. Filling the jobs that weren't being filled can only be good for that local economy and signs of Haitian culture are cropping up in the form of restaurants and church services. Unfortunately, poverty is a problem for these immigrants but being in a rural area means the cost of living is likely lower so there may be a better quality-of-life for them there than a city so long as the jobs last.

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, October 13, 2015 12:06 AM

It made me happy to hear that they were welcomed in by locals. I don't feel like Americans have the strongest track record of accepting new comers. I am happy that the people have an new opportunity at life, they deserve it just as much as anyone else.

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Haiti: After the Quake

Haiti: After the Quake | Geography Education |
Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker asks why a system that was designed to help Haitians ended up exacerbating their misery.


Why isn't more money the answer to the 'poverty problem?' What geographic factors make Haitian development such a difficult issue? 

Tracy Galvin's comment, January 30, 2014 2:41 PM
Once again, American's arrogant beliefs about how everyone else SHOULD live their lives has caused a bad situation to become worse. We rush in to help, with good intentions, but we fail to see what the Haitians really needed help with. Instead of asking them "What can we do for you?" and really listening to the answer, we rush in and help them the way WE want to. Ultimately our 'help' actually makes their situation worse.
Tracy Galvin's curator insight, February 4, 2014 5:57 PM

Once again, American's arrogant beliefs about how everyone else SHOULD live their lives has caused a bad situation to become worse. We rush in to help, with good intentions, but we fail to see what the Haitians really needed help with. Instead of asking them "What can we do for you?" and really listening to the answer, we rush in and help them the way WE want to. Ultimately our 'help' actually makes their situation worse.

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, October 12, 2015 11:58 PM

I couldn't stop watching. I felt horror for those people who so desperately needed help and instead were treated like criminals. The mass injustices were ridiculous. The continuous tropical storms, earthquakes, and flooding create disastrous situations for Haitians in poverty. The way the government tried to desert them in a barren area was disgraceful if they were afraid those people would be angry they should be. They have a right to be angry. People were more busy guarding spilled milk then saving the lives that were still alive in that market!!! It absolutely was a massive failure!