Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond has adapted his 2005 book Collapse into a forthcoming National Geographic TV documentary, and tonight he’ll discuss both with sad, particular application to Haiti. Which, even before the earthquake, was a case study in deforestation and population growth that outstripped the meager natural resources available on its half of the unhappy Caribbean island. As the author of the Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel observes of Haiti, it gets less rain that the lush Dominican Republic, whose mountains drain the east-moving storm clouds. Then, after its colonial French rulers employed slave labor to produce profitable crops of tobacco, sugar, and cotton, Haiti’s agricultural boom depleted the soil. Trees were felled for timber or charcoal, nothing was left to export, and today Haiti is the poorest country in the region. The island’s carrying capacity is now insufficient for a population approaching 10 million; and, unlike ancient days, its people are constrained by national borders—they can’t just pack up and leave. As he told NPR last month, “Haitians will rebuild Haiti. We won’t rebuild Haiti. The most we will do is help Haitians to rebuild Haiti. With a little help, they’ll go a long way.” BRIAN MILLER

Mon., March 1, 7:30 p.m.; Tue., March 2, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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