Post #4 – Climate Change, Sustainability and Cuba

 

 

Do we, as residents of Earth, have a moral obligation to protect the future of our planet?  Of course we do, in my opinion.  It is almost shocking to me that this is even a question, and yet, here we are.  The fact that anyone might believe that it is alright to destroy a planet that is billions of years old that did fine without humans for almost the entirety of that time, or even act with indifference – and thus directly contribute to its inevitable demise due to what we are doing to the ecosystem, is saddening, angering and upsetting on many levels.  We are destroying our planet at an exponential rate.  The overarching reasons for not doing anything, even when the majority of people can see and agree that we are not living in a sustainable way, boil down to money most of the time.

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Wanting to get or stay rich, at the expense of the “little guys”, or those that just do not want to invest their money now for the future.  But, for the “little guys”, such as Inuit people or the people living on Kiribati, who are at the mercy of those that are bigger, in power and have more money – the outlook is dim.  There are still people disputing whether or not climate change is “real”, while it is happening already – polar ice caps melting, islands and coastal cities are beginning to disappear, and entire communities and even countries are being displaced.  Why?  Because there is still money to be made from oil, from deforestation, from pollution, from overfishing… from convenience. I believe that a lot of us realize it is wrong, and even so, we continue to do things that contribute to the destruction of the environment, far more than we would need to in order to be comfortable, much less live.  We ask “why bother?” and blame the billions of people in other countries for canceling out any good we can do.  It does seem futile.

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There really isn’t much time, if any, to reverse the effects long enough for future generations to survive here on Earth according to many scientists.  Really, though, individuals do have a limited ability to help, much less reverse the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.  It is very much the moral obligation of the “big guys” that are causing the majority of the problems, in my opinion. Corporations, wealthy and large countries – in addition to individuals, will all need to change their ways in order for us to redeem our planet – it is a collaborative effort.  Surprisingly, instead of pouring money into environmental programs, clean energy, space, or anything else that may help us in the near future, we (the United States particularly) spend the majority of our country’s budget on military defense.  I feel like that says a lot about where we are as a species.

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Cuba is an interesting country to look at when considering the environmental crises facing so many.  Cuba happens to have “exceptional biodiversity”, with many plants and animals seen nowhere else in the world. This makes it important to protect this land, and therefore important to convert to sustainable lifestyles and laws, and do anything possible to prevent or reverse the effects of climate change, although the effects are, like in many other places – especially islands, already hitting Cuba hard. The environmental issues that affect Cuba are often water scarcity, due to drought caused by rising temperatures and unpredictable weather patterns, deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, garbage and waste issues and air pollution.

 

Cuba is actually ahead of the rest in many respects, called an “Accidental Eden” because of its history of development.  While the environment in Cuba has been threatened and harmed in ways such as destroying habitats with farmland from expanding sugar and tobacco production, industrial development polluting the country, as well as lack of passion for the environment often influenced by political views, and Cuba’s focus more on agricultural development than industrial, which may have been its saving grace.  Additionally, the US embargo on Cuba may have actually helped keep them from worse environmental destruction because the travel ban kept millions away, while also straining the economy, which was, in fact, another reason the environment is not as bad off as it could be.  The fact that Cuba has been suffering economically kept them from destructing the island themselves since they were unable to move to using less sustainable ways of farming for their large agriculture economy.  Also, an important effect was after the Soviet Union collapsed and there were fuel and import/export shortages, Cuba was further forced to find more sustainable ways of living.

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Many areas in Cuba still rely on tanker trucks for water.
Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

 

Fidel Castro’s 1992 address to the UN Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro expresses this attitude of environmental awareness and urgency:

“An important biological species is in danger of disappearing due to the fast and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions: mankind. We have now become aware of this problem when it is almost too late to stop it. … Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.”

Cuba has taken some other steps toward sustainability, including efforts toward environmental and sustainability education programs, creating protected areas, implementing biking efforts, reforestation, clean up of garbage, and new laws.  Groups like water.org and Greenpeace don’t appear to have much of a presence in Cuba, but the group Care.org helps in Cuba with a long list of human and environmental issues – such as poverty, clean water, agriculture, women’s rights, social justice, and climate change issues, and ChinaWaterRisk has worked to help Cuba’s water scarcity problem.  The US embargo being lifted may be a blessing in the sense that Cuba’s economy – specifically tourism – will benefit, but since tourism is one of the biggest threats to wildlife and pollution, will it be at the cost of the environment?

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