I spent two weeks in Haiti shortly after the earthquake and what I saw there was truly unreal. For starters, the devastation is beyond belief, bordering on the incomprehensible. You can look at pictures of what has happened, but to truly understand the scope of it, you need to see it firsthand. Essentially, the city of Port Au Prince, a city of roughly three million people, needs to be completely rebuilt.
I would like to throw out my back of the napkin, relatively naive yet hopeful beyond belief idea for the rebuilding of Haiti. Don’t ask me how these things can be accomplished as they are just thoughts to use as building blocks based on what I saw there. Before I start in though, I’d like to mention what extreme admiration I have for the Haitian people. While there I was privy to an experience that should have brought out the worst in people yet seemingly did the exact opposite.
Instead of “looting” (I use quotes because looking for food is not looting) and riots, I encountered a relative calm and an unwillingness to accept defeat. The Haitians are an extremely proud and strong people and I was humbled by their ability to deal with extreme adversity. I say that to point out that we do not have the right to tell the Haitians how to rebuild, but have the obligation to offer them our help and support should they choose to accept it. The bottom line is that the future of Haiti should be decided by and for the Haitian people.
So here goes.
Solar Power: There was sporadic infrastructure in Port Au Prince before the earthquake and for obvious reasons that has been all but eradicated. Close to 80 percent of the power created there was from diesel generators which are expensive to maintain and heavily polluting. On an island in the Carribean, which is bombarded with sunlight, doesn’t it make sense to rebuild with solar in mind? Shouldn’t every house be solar powered? Every building generate it’s own power? Forget about building a new grid, photovoltaic companies should step in and offer assistance to create a city that is truly green, where power is free, and everyone has it. Critics of this idea have pointed out that there is no economic model for this as there will be no way for anyone to collect fees on electricity, but in a country where the average person wouldn’t be able to afford it to begin with, is that a point of contention? Free power will provide security, better education (reading in the dark tends to be hard) and afford people the ability to live better lives.