Description for ENVSTY380:
This course will provide students with an immersive experience in which students will gain knowledge of individuals, societies, and natural systems away from their home institution. Domestic or global learning will occur as students gain intellectual and practical skills, gain personal and social responsibility, and integrate their learning through synthesis and advanced learning across general and specialized studies. Some sections may also partake in civic engagement and service learning. Each section of the course will visit international or domestic locations and situations based on instructor expertise and opportunities.
For this section, students will visit the country of Haiti and explore the environmental and social issues occurring at and around the brackish lake Étang Saumâtre in the Quest Department of Haiti. The Republic of Haiti (27,750 km2; 10,714 mi2) is a French and Haitian Creole speaking Caribbean country occupying the western portion of the island of Hispaniola (76,192 km2; 29,418 mi2), while the eastern portion of Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic. While Haiti is the most populous country in the Caribbean (~10.6 million with a population density of ~844 individuals / km2), it is considered the poorest country in the Americas based on the Human Development Index (UNDP 2014). Environmentally, Haiti has been impacted significantly by natural and anthropogenic perturbations. For example, since the 1920s, Haiti has gone from being an agriculturally productive country covered by 60% forest to being far less agriculturally productive and only ~2% forested. The original forest is cut down for cook-stove fuel and building materials resulting in desertification of fertile farmland soils. The deforestation and conversion to farmlands has led to high levels of soil erosion and periodic flooding. Furthermore, a series of tropical storms has hit the region since the late 2000’s (including several in summer 2015), and in January 2010 the southern portion of Haiti, including Port-au-Prince, was impacted by a major earthquake. Étang Saumâtre (= brackish pond in English), Haiti [a.k.a. Lake Azuei] is Haiti’s largest lake and is the second largest lake on the island of Hispaniola. It is an important regional fisheries, however lake levels have lowered in recent history and caused the lake to become more salty. Further environmental pressure on Étang Saumâtre comes from a June 2015 Dominican Republic deadline in which tens of thousands undocumented immigrants, many of Haitian decent, began being deported. A local group of concerned citizens in the area, Mouvman FANM de Fond Bayard (MOFAF; Women Movement of Fond Bayard), has put together a need document for the Dominican and undocumented Haitian expatriated from Dominican Republic for the village Liberte (Commune: Ganthier; Department: West). In this document, they identified 38 family (77 people) of need consisting of 40 adults, 20 boys and 17 girls with some of the adult women being pregnant. Needs identified were shelter, food, clothes, solar powered lamps, improved toilet infrastructure, and improved drinking water infrastructure. Thus, the history, culture, and geography of Haiti, and Étang Saumâtre specifically, provide an interesting and important study abroad and service learning educational opportunity for our students and faculty. Furthermore, the University of Massachusetts Boston faculty, staff, and students are well position to make this an impactful activity.
Prerequisite: Instructor permission required.
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