I find the Interdisciplinary Environmental Association to be a perfect home for my transdisciplinary scholarship in Haiti. Many of the ideas that I develop in Haiti are honed at the IEA’s annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment (IICE). The interdisciplinary feedback, constructive criticism, conversations, and support from colleagues in IEA are invaluable. I was trained in the natural sciences and hired as an applied ecologist, but I recognized early-on the importance of social sciences, humanities, and arts in my efforts to restore and protect ecosystems in Haiti. The IEA gives me these other perspectives. My use of music, science, history, culture, recreation, and politics in ecosystem protection in Haiti was welcomed, even encouraged at IICE, which was a sharp contrast with many hard-science colleagues. Rather than a focus on STEM disciplines in my work, I use HAMSTER (Humanities, Arts, Math, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Recreation) disciplines. An example of this approach is this 60 second video, to the music of a song written by a colleague and recorded by me, to give an overview of some of my environmental work in Haiti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT2apzqy0Bs.
The IEA invited me to give a keynote address at their 2014 IICE. My presentation was about “Rewarding Transdisciplinary Scholarship in Higher Education”, and was eventually published in 2015. I remember meeting the other keynote speaker Adam Briggle at the opening social gathering. We conversed about Colorado and ice hockey, and what I planned to present during my talk. He warned that he might play “devil’s advocate” during Q and A. I invited the challenge, as scholars should discuss and debate ideas. Dr. Briggle and I have remained in touch, and I gain much motivation and inspiration from following his transdisciplinary work in environmental field philosophy. Our collaboration will soon be published, and should be a significant contribution to the field of Applied Ecology (Cronin and Briggle, in press).
Haiti is the most challenging, engaging, promising, and rewarding place that I have ever worked as an applied ecologist. Haiti is one of the wealthiest nations in the western hemisphere, if you value history, culture, and human spirit. The Haitian Revolution marked the decline of the institution of slavery. Haiti has done much to combat colonialism and racism, and has paid a dear price for doing so. The first words out of most people’s mouths when describing Haiti is “Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere”: this is true of her economy and ecosystems, but not of her spirit and potential. I hesitate to call Haiti my “study site”: yes, I conduct my scholarship there, but she is also a second home to me. I am personally invested in realizing positive results, because I want my home and neighbors to improve. In my transdisciplinary scholarship, Haitians are more important to success than I am, as we work in solidarity to improve the environment, livelihoods, and future of Haiti. I am confident that the lessons learned in Haiti will translate to other parts of the world. For example, working in Haiti has helped me realize that racism must be disrupted for Haiti to thrive, and for my scholarly accomplishments to be rewarded (this was the theme of my most recent IICE presentation). Ending racism would benefit other wicked problems in the world. I feel that the transdisciplinary scholarly approach we use to tackle wicked problems in Haiti can be used in other parts of the world. I founded an NGO for my work in Haiti called “Yon Sel Lanmou”, which means “One Love” in Haitian Kreyol. Though running an NGO is time consuming, there are many benefits to having one. The benefits and pitfalls of using an NGO is now a scholarly pursuit. I occasionally update our progress at YonSelLanmou.org.