It was the first trip for Wiener, leader of Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity, since November 2021, his absence largely attributed to the violent gangs that have engulfed the Haitian capital in recent years and reached parts of the countryside. Nominally present already and undermined further with the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise in the bedroom of his home, the government has done little to wrest control from the brazen gangs.
For years, Wiener used to visit Haiti every month or so, but now restricts his trips to only a few times a year while being compelled to work remotely and delegate more responsibility to staff members dispersed throughout the country. Haiti is just too dangerous otherwise. So when he does come, as he did for three weeks in March, he hopscotches the country via puddle-jumper plane; travel by road is too perilous, with major thoroughfares blocked by gangs fond of extortion. Many passengers hide in their cars by lying on the backseat.
It’s a conundrum that bedevils Jean and others like him around the world. As climate change plays a greater role in contributing to conflicts, that in turns makes it more difficult to carry out scientific research and work on environmental projects that seek to offset the effects of climate change. The environmental group Global Witness released a report last year noting that 2020 saw a record number of environmental activists killed around the world; the death toll of 227 was the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year, with Colombia having the highest number of recorded attacks, with 65, and Mexico second, with 30.
“The extent to which failed states make it difficult for scientists and the international scientific community to work on these issues simply means it will be more difficult to solve these problems,” said Peter Gleick, president emeritus and a senior fellow with the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based research group that focuses on water issues around the world.
Said Jessica Olcott Yllemo, senior fellow for climate security at the American Security Project, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C.: “If the temperatures continue to rise and you don’t have basic functions because you don’t have a functioning government, climate sort of just exacerbates all of those different threats and hazards.”