November 27, 2016 Robert Bradley Jr. / Master Resource.org & Rachel Cernansky / TreeHugger.com
Fidel Castro (1926-), one the great wealth destroyers and wealth averters of the last fifty years. Fidel Castro combined Marxism-Leninism with environmentalism. He railed against industrialization on environmental grounds, most recently criticizing Canadian oil-sands development. Cuba gets a lot of attention for sustainable practices it has adopted over the last few decades. Cuba is home to the Caribbean's largest and best-preserved wetland area and is a model for urban sustainability.
Fidel Castro's 1992 Earth Summit Speech:
Big Red as Malthusian Green Robert Bradley Jr. / Master Resource.org
"An important biological species -- humankind -- is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat . . . . It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction."
-- Fidel Castro, Rio Earth Summit, 1992.
"If you look at the time since 1992, we sort of started out with a bang with Rio and Kyoto. [Since then] things have slowed down."
-- Tim Wirth (UN Foundation Vice Chairman; former State Department Undersecretary for Global Affairs). Quoted in Lisa Friedman, "The Diplomatic Road to a New Climate Agreement May Not End in Paris Next Year," ClimateWire (sub. req.), January 14, 2014.
(February 19, 2014) -- Fidel Castro (1926-), one the great wealth destroyers and wealth averters of the last fifty years (he came to power in 1961), has come back in public after an eight-month absence. Alive but not much else, Castro ceded power to his brother Raúl Castro in 2008 because of deteriorating health.
Fidel Castro combined Marxism-Leninism with environmentalism. His Communist rule of Cuba has been filled with innumerable human-rights abuses under his dictatorship. He is both the smartest and the meanest guy in the room in the name of socialist humanitarianism. And he continues to rail against industrialization on environmental grounds, more recently criticizing Canadian oil-sands development.
Big Government loves Big Environmentalism and vice-versa. It is not coincidental that Marxists are environmentalists, and that environmentalists believe in central planning. (Earth Day is on Lenin's birthday, coincidental or not).
Here is Fidel's June 12, 1992, Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro) address, titled "Tomorrow Will Be Too Late":
"An important biological species -- humankind -- is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it. It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction.
They were spawned by the former colonial metropolis. They are the offspring of imperial policies which, in turn, brought forth the backwardness and poverty that have become the scourge for the great majority of humankind.
"With only 20% of the world's population they consume two-thirds of all metals and three-fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have polluted the air. They have weakened and perforated the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer.
"The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed every year into the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of nature.
Third World countries, yesterday's colonies and today nations exploited and plundered by an unjust international economic order, cannot be blamed for all this.
The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it the most. Because today, everything that contributes to underdevelopment and poverty is a flagrant rape of the environment.
As a result, tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in the Third World, more than in each of the two world wars.
Unequal trade, protectionism and the foreign debt assault the ecological balance and promote the destruction of the environment. If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technologies must be distributed better throughout the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world."
Stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment. Make human life more rational. Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity.
Now that the supposed threat of communism has disappeared and there is no more pretext to wage cold wars or continue the arms race and military spending, what then is preventing these resources from going immediately to promote Third World development and fight the ecological destruction threatening the planet?
Enough of selfishness. Enough of schemes of domination. Enough of insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit. Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago."
(April 20, 2012) -- Cuba gets a lot of attention for sustainable practices it has adopted over the last few decades, but they're often framed as accidental choices—that embargo restrictions have made it difficult to get things like pesticides and traditional building materials and so has ended up with sustainable architecture and agriculture because it had no other choice.
Although that's true to some degree, it's an unfair generalization in many ways.
Cuba is home to the Caribbean's largest and best-preserved wetland area, the Cienaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve, and some statistics show that Cuba's protected lands overall have grown by 43 percent since 1986.
A bicycle culture has taken hold, and whether or not that started accidentally, Havana officials have worked to make the streets safer for cyclists by adding bike lanes and offering a bus to take cyclists to and from the center of downtown so that they don't have to ride along cars and trucks on busy roads.
And while deforestation is said to be Cuba's most pressing environmental problem, there have been some impressive reforestation efforts, including one in a low-income neighborhood in Havana that "used to be a garbage dump" and is now an extensive woodland area.
Writing the Environment Into the Laws
These are individual examples of specific efforts -- but the government deserves credit for integrating sustainability, very intentionally, into policy initiatives.
GreenLeft summarizes the policies and initiatives that unfolded after 1992, when Fidel Castro delivered a strongly pro-environment speech to the Earth Summit in Rio: Between 1992 and 1998, the National Assembly of People's Power amended the Cuban constitution to entrench the concept of sustainable development; the National Environment and Development Program was developed (outlining the path Cuba would take to fulfil its obligations under the Rio summit's Agenda 21); CITMA was established; an overarching environment law passed; and a national environment strategy was launched.
Other major initiatives included a national strategy for environmental education; a national program of environment and development; projects for food production via sustainable methods and biotechnological and sustainable animal food, as well as a national scientific technical program for mountain zones and a national energy sources development program.
Each of these program are composed of smaller projects and initiatives, involving local communities, People's Power bodies, universities, schools and mass organizations.
Authors Daniel Whittle and Orlando Rey Santos explain in a research paper on Cuba's environment that CITMA, the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment, became the first cabinet-level agency devoted to the environment when it was established in 1994 -- and that it almost immediately began assessing Cuba's air and water quality, land degradation, biodiversity resources, and human settlements, among others.
The paper continues that the National Assembly formally approved in 1997 the Law of the Environment (Law 81), which would affirm CITMA's role as the lead environmental agency:
Among the six stated objectives in Law 81, there are two that expressly provide for a new and meaningful role for the general public in environmental decision making. The law tracks Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration by establishing the public's legal right to access to information, access to participation, and access to justice.
If faithfully implemented, these provisions promise an unprecedented role for nongovernmental organizations, trade associations, and the general public in the realm of policymaking and decision making on particular projects and activities of government agencies, state-owned entities, and foreign investors.
Cuba is also home to a 2010 Goldman Prize winner, a biodiversity researcher whose work with farmers has helped to increase crop diversity and ultimately encourage Cuba's agricultural shift away from a dependency on chemicals and toward sustainability.
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