Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - SCU Access Only


Santa Clara : Santa Clara University, 2019.

Degree Name

Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL)


Lisa Fullam


How can humanity live without soil? It cannot! Soil is essential for the functioning of ecosystems and offers critical services to humanity.1 Soil produces food, fiber, and fuel; it offers a source of pharmaceuticals and genetic resources, a foundation for human infrastructure, and a supply of construction materials.2 Land degradation in Haiti raises serious questions about the future of the Haitian people. The deterioration of the soil affects the Haitian community economically, socially and environmentally. It also affects the existence of other creatures. The consequences are immeasurable for a greater part of the poor people in Haiti whose lives depend on agriculture or other enterprises dependent on what the land produces.

A few privileged people live in better-protected areas, occupying the best lands which are located in the plains. They own the land either because they inherited it, bought it, or because they have taken it by force from the peasants. Often the poor sell what little land they have in order to survive or abandon their land for the promise of a better life in a city.

No longer having access to the good arable land of the plains, the peasants turned to the mountains to access new land for agriculture. They cut down the hillside forests and used trees to produce charcoal, a lucrative economic activity because it is a principal source of energy for cooking in Haiti. They also used poor farming methods to grow their crops. These two practices left the land open to erosion, especially during times of rain. Since Haiti is mainly mountainous and located in an area that receives heavy seasonal rains and cyclones, the problem of soil erosion is increasingly serious and deserves attention.

The socio-political situation of Haiti is negatively impacted by corruption, political instability, land insecurity, fragmentation of land into small private domains, institutional weakness, and social and class divisions. These problems do not allow civil and political authorities to approach the subject of soil erosion seriously and find appropriate solutions for the citizens of the country to flourish economically. My goal in this thesis is to open a dialogue and create awareness about multiple consequences that come from soil erosion. I hope that it will give urgency to people to work together toward solutions for the issue of soil erosion in Haiti. I hope to show in this thesis that a virtue ethics approach has much to offer for such a problem that demands concrete action.

The sad situation of the poor in Haiti motivates me to seek a solution using virtue ethics. If there were virtuous agents in institutions and communities in Haiti, all people could have the opportunity to live with dignity. If people have good land and scientific techniques to till the land, they can satisfy their needs, such as food, health care, housing, a schooling and communities would live in peace and security. This is what Jean Porter refers to when she says, "The love of God is an expression of a universal tendency to love God in the sense of tending toward one's perfection and toward the good of the cosmos considered as a whole. Similarly, love of neighbor and its specifications in terms of particular obligations should be understood as expressions of our specific nature as social animals."3 What theological and ethical framework will enable Haitians to save the soil, one of their most precious resources? One answer lies in virtue ethics.

SCU Access Only

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