Care For The Environment: A Cuban Priority

By Alejandra Garcia on June 6, 2022 from Havana

Havana, photo: Bill Hackwell

Yesterday June 5th, the world marked International Environment Day, a date to raise awareness among humankind about the care and rescue of our common home, a struggle that Cuba has made a priority for decades. This should be a day where the whole world stops to reflect and take action against the alarming deterioration of the planet but unfortunately, especially in the developed world, it passes with the minimum of official notice.

Caribbean islands are particularly hard-hit by the impact of climate change. Cuba is losing fragments of land at a worrying rate due to rising sea levels, is hit by increasingly powerful storms and hurricanes, and lives under sweltering temperatures almost all year round.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, foresaw 30 years ago the catastrophe that was coming to humanity and pointed out the main responsible for this crisis: consumer societies.

During a conference at the United Nations in 1992, Fidel pointed out that, “they are fundamentally responsible for the atrocious destruction of the environment, as they pollute the seas and rivers, contaminate the air, weaken and perforate the ozone layer, and saturate the atmosphere with gases that alter climatic conditions. We are already beginning to suffer the catastrophic effects”.

At that meeting, he warned that “forests are disappearing, deserts are spreading, and billions of tons of fertile land end up in the sea every year as numerous species are becoming extinct.”

“Tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in poor countries as a result of this, more than in each of the two world wars,” he said.

Recently, Cuba began implementing policies such as the Life Task (Tarea Vida), which help us prepare in advance of the imminent rise in sea level. For example, this document outlines a strategy to move coastal communities to non-endangered areas more inland.

Despite its few natural and economic resources, Cuba has not stopped thinking about the well-being of its people and the ways in which we can contribute to the environment.

Long before those words, Cuba was beginning to create initiatives that would reduce man’s effect on the environment. In 1959, the Revolution returned the lands to farmers -after the successive governments of the U.S. neo-colony Era exploited them for profit- so that they could make it germinate and, at the same time, the people could be as self-sustaining as possible.

Over the years, the Cuban scientific community joined lawmakers in creating regulations to help contain the effects of environmental pollution, rural and forest fires, unsustainable agricultural, and illegal species trade.

“On this date, it is impossible not to return to Fidel’s words,” Cuban intellectual and former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto commented. “The severity of those words is frightening. They go into the essence of predatory capitalism and reveal the suicidal race that consumer life models and paradigms implicate. Fidel’s wake-up call went unheard, as have so many scientists and leaders distressed by this chronicle of an announced tragedy. The situation today is much more serious. The signs herding the collapse of the planet are multiplying. The blind selfishness of the elites keeps them from understanding the impending end,” he added.

But, as Brazilian theologian and sociologist Frei Betto would say, we have to leave the pessimism behind for better times. Fidel summarized a meeting on this topic with a similar phrase: “Our duty is to fight.” And that, at a Congress for World Balance, when foreign delegates asked him what to do in the face of Empire’s seemingly invincible power, he replied: “Sow ideas, plant consciousness,” Prieto recalled.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English