The island of Hispaniola, shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, is a unique case study that explains how the exploitation of natural resources can directly affect the fate of a nation. That the two countries have starkly different trajectories is largely related to how they have historically managed their natural environment.
Jake is a leader in the field of sustainable development. For over ten years he has confronted social and environmental challenges in the Dominican Republic as Environmental Director for Grupo Puntacana, successfully implementing sustainability programs that have garnered the company nearly every existing global sustainability award: The World Tourism Travel Council “Tourism for Tomorrow” award, The Conde Nast Traveler “World Saver’s Award,” The Travel & Leisure “Global Vision” award, and The National Geographic Traveler “Leader in Sustainable Tourism Award.” Jake also directs the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, where he helped pioneer one of the Caribbean’s largest coral reef restoration projects and created several market-based community development projects. He helped design and implement Zero Waste, the Dominican Republic’s first and largest corporate recycling program. He directs the Center for Sustainability, a think tank that works with some of the world’s best universities to conduct research and devise experiments related to sustainable development. In 2001, as a Cornell graduate student, Jake Kheel researched the impact of deforestation in the mountains along the Dominican-Haitian border. Based on his Master’s thesis, in 2011 he developed the concept for “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” a feature length documentary film that looks into a Dominican park ranger’s gruesome murder and unfolds into a larger exploration of illegal Dominican-Haitian charcoal trafficking, mass deforestation and escalating human conflict on the border. Jake regularly speaks at symposia and conferences on sustainable development and has keynoted several international conferences. For the last 8 years Jake has written a monthly environmental column in the one of the mostly widely read Spanish-language newspapers in the Dominican Republic, El Hoy. He has been published in the Harvard Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies journal “ReVista” and other academic journals and popular media. He serves on the board of half a dozen environmental associations and foundations. He has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from Cornell University and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American Literature from Wesleyan University.
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