All the Hills and Valleys
Abstract: The Dominican Republic is a nation rich in geographic diversity. How do you think that contributes to the lives of its citizens? Read more to find out!
Introduction: How are people connected to the environment?
The environment is not just the place where we live. It makes up the life and livelihood of a nation. In the Dominican Republic, people live off of the environment through agriculture and mining. Everything from how to build a house to the water that comes from the faucet is related to the environment. The Dominican Republic has some large environmental challenges to tackle. Can you predict what some of them might be?
What makes this environment special or different?
The Dominican Republic has tremendous geographic diversity. It is located on an island and has over 800 miles of coastline. There are several mountain ranges including the Central Mountain Range that surrounds Santiago. Santiago is located in a valley called the Cibao Valley. Everywhere you go in the Cibao, you can see rugged mountains and stretches of beautiful farmland in the valleys. Why do you think geographic diversity is important in a nation?
The Dominican Republic also has some crazy weather! Do you remember the devastating hurricane that hit New York last year? Well, before Hurricane Sandy got to New York, it was here in the Dominican Republic. There was flooding in some parts of the country, though only a little damage in Santiago. Hurricanes are pretty common in this country.
There are also earthquakes here. One day, I was sitting in my chair using the computer when I noticed my television was shaking. I hadn’t touched it, so I knew something was up. When I read the local newspaper later, I learned that there had been a small earthquake! There are tremors almost daily here, but you rarely feel them.
Another special thing about the Dominican Republic is a stone called larimar. Larimar is a pretty, blue stone found only in the Dominican Republic. It is mined in the mountains and turned into jewelry.
What parts of this environment help people to live here?
The fertile Dominican valleys are perfect for farming. When the country was a Spanish colony back in the 16th century, lots of sugar cane was grown here. The sugar cane was then refined and turned into sugar. It was agriculture that made the colony rich.
Today, many people still make a living off of sugar cane or other crops. My host father’s family owns a lot of land that was used to grow coffee. My host father’s land helps support his family. My host parents take trips to the farm and come back with plantains and other foods that we eat every day.
People also make a living by mining stones. Amber and larimar are both stones mined in the Dominican Republic. Local workers cut and polish the stones to make beautiful and expensive jewelry. This jewelry is especially popular with tourists, because it is something that can only be found in the Dominican Republic.
What challenges do people face living in this environment?
The first new phrase I learned in Santiago was “The power went out.” Since then, power outages have become a part of my daily life. Several times, I’ve gone to the gym to exercise and there’s been a power outage while I’m there. This happened to me just last week. I was running on a treadmill when the machine just stopped. I almost fell down from the jolt!
If you think that sounds bad, imagine not having any water. Many poor communities like the one next to my neighborhood have no running water. Even in my home, there are interruptions to the water service. A few times, I’ve gone to the bathroom only to realize there was no water to wash my hands. Some people have special water tanks on their roofs to store water for when the city water service is interrupted. How do you think power and water outages might affect people’s health?If a home doesn’t have a generator, power outages are more than just an inconvenience. A generator is a device that provides power during an outage. My house has a generator, so when the power goes out, everything still works. Others are not so lucky. Without a generator, they can’t turn on their fans, watch TV, or use the Internet. It can get pretty hot and boring without power!
Other times, the water comes out mud brown. You can never drink tap water here. It can make you sick because it is not clean. For example, cholera is a problem here. Cholera is an infection that causes nausea and diarrhea. You have to buy clean, bottled water from the store to stay healthy.
Pollution is one reason why the water is not clean enough to drink. I have seen dump trucks pour bags and bags of garbage down the hill and into the stream behind my house. I have also seen sewers that do not work. Dirty water overflows from the sewers and enters the stream. Often, it smells so bad that I have to hold my breath when I walk by.
Aside from electricity and water, one of the main challenges faced by the Dominican Republic is mosquitos. Mosquitos can carry deadly diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. I keep my legs and feet covered to avoid mosquito bites. Sometimes, though, that’s not enough. Once, a mosquito bit me right through my pants!
How have people been adapting to this environment?
Though there are challenges to the environment, people have adapted in many ways. My host family has a generator to provide power when there is an outage. They also installed screens on the windows to keep out mosquitos. Some people sleep with mosquito nets.
Outside of my home, many organizations work to provide clean, drinkable water to poor communities. Also, houses are designed to survive earthquakes and hurricanes. Things like solar panels which harvest the natural energy of the sun are becoming more popular. The more aware people are of the needs of the environment, the better they get at protecting it.