Yuji: I was thinking about what you said about Haiti.
Dane: Did you learn much?
Yuji: Yeah, I learned to do my homework.
Dane: What are you talking about?
Yuji: Well, you said so many Haitians are dying because America and France made them poor.
Dane: That’s right. But I did say there were other reasons too.
Yuji: Yeah, but you didn’t say what other things. So I checked online.
Dane: What did you find out?
Yuji: One thing is the natural environment.
Dane: How did the environment make Haiti poor?
Yuji: The mountains. There are a lot of them, especially in the Dominican Republic. Some of them are over 3,000 meters high.
Dane: Switzerland is nothing but mountains but the Swiss aren’t poor.
Yuji: Yes, but the mountains on Hispaniola keep most of the rain on the eastern half of the island. That means Haiti gets less rainfall.
Dane: So what?
Yuji: So the forests aren’t as thick. And most the rivers flow to the east, so the soil isn’t as rich.
Dane: But Haiti is a lot greener than Iraq or Afghanistan.
Yuji: Yeah, it’s green but the land is drier than the Dominican Republic and most of it is mountains. There’s not much land that’s good for farming.
Dane: So you’re saying the Haitian people are poor because the land is poor?
Yuji: Not only that. There are also too many people in too small an area.
Dane: The French are responsible for that. They imported too many African slaves.
Yuji: Yeah, and those people cut down most of the trees for cooking fires. So the best soil is washed away every time it rains.
Dane: So now you’re blaming the Haitian people?
Yuji: Yes. And not just for cutting down the trees.
Dane: What else are they guilty of?
Yuji: After they kicked the French out they imitated their old masters.
Dane: You mean they kept the French language and culture?
Yuji: No. Well yes, they did that. But the bad part was they made a new caste system.
Dane: Like India?
Yuji: Like a slave state. The lighter people acted just like the whites; they treated the darker people like slaves.
Dane: But that’s the case in most Latin American countries.
Yuji: It was worse in Haiti. The new elite just taxed the poor people and never invested in developing the country.
Dane: Now you’re starting to sound one-sided. I’m going to have to do some more homework too. Then I can argue with you.
Yuji: Okay, but this argument isn’t going to help the Haitian people recover from the earthquake.
Dane: I don’t know. If people know more about how Haiti got to be so poor maybe we can figure out how to help them change all that.
Yuji: Good. Then you’d better go do your homework!
THIS CONVERSATION IS A FOLLOW UP TO: