WE HAVE MANY REASONS TO DEFEND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION
Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro’s strong defense of the environment and his contribution to tackling the global challenge of climate change were recognized June 5, during the national act for World Environment Day.
“It is impossible to celebrate World Environment Day in Cuba without recalling the legacy of Fidel,” stated Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya, a Party Central Committee member and minister of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma), who spoke about the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution’s comprehensive approach to environmental issues, as seen in more than 50 of his public speeches, including his remarks to the Communist Party of Cuba’s 7th Congress.
The minister recalled how, facing an adverse international context and subjected to a cruel blockade by the U.S. government, Cuba has not only made the struggle to save the environment the focus of government policy, but has also worked with other nations in the region on this issue; above all by training human resources to tackle the effects of climate change.
In this regard, Pérez Montoya emphasized comprehensive efforts undertaken in the province of Sancti Spíritus to combat the drought currently affecting the country, reduce water consumption and pollution, and preserve ecosystems.
Comandantes de la Revolución, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, a member of the Party Political Bureau and a vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers; and Guillermo García Frías, president of the Central State Enterprise Management Organization (OSDE) for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, presided the event in Sancti Spíritus, the third to take place in the province since 2000.
Meanwhile, United Nations resident coordinator and Development Programme representative, Myrta Kaulard, highlighted Cuba’s willingness to undertake actions toward protecting the island’s biodiversity and terrestrial ecosystems, preserving the oceans, guaranteeing drinking water for the population, and promoting renewable energy.
Also participating in the act were José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz, first Party secretary in Sancti Spíritus; Inés María Chapman Waugh, president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, and Teresita Romero Rodriguez, president of the Provincial Assembly of People’s Power.
Presented during the event were National Environment Awards which went to the Villa Clara based Architecture and Engineering Enterprise; DIMARQ Design and Engineering Enterprise from Ciego de Ávila; as well as to Dr. Luis Joaquín Catasús Guerra and Comandante de la Revolución Ramiro Valdés Menéndez; while the provinces of Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Sancti Spíritus and Ciego de Ávila, were recognized for their outstanding achievements in the field.
Young students from the University of Havana’s UH++ team were crowned Latin American champions during the Collegiate Programming Contest, sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM-ICPC) recently held in the U.S. state of South Dakota.
The team of Marcelo Fornet Fornés, Ariel Cruz Cruz and Eloy Pérez Torres (coached by Alfredo Somoza Moreno MSc) took 44th place overall during the tournament, after solving five problems in five hours.
The Collegiate Programming Contest represents the most important university level competition for Computer Science students, and features the participation of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world.
Although 133 teams, representing the same number of universities, made it to the World Finals, Coach Alfredo Somoza, speaking a few days before the tournament, noted that competitions of this level demand an important effort by Cuban contestants:
“Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago,” said Fidel.
Fidel’s commitment to education and health care stand out as monumental achievements for Cuba under his decades of rule. While he emerged as a stalwart of anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism, his commitment to environmentalism and Cuba’s achievements in the area gets less attention.
Cuba is one of the few developing countries that has shown a strong commitment to the environment and sustainability, despite a number of obstacles such as the ongoing U.S. blockade.
Before the dangers of climate change were well established within scientific and indeed popular knowledge, Fidel spoke of the need to radically change the way societies interact with their environments.
“Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago,” Fidel said in a typically roaring speech while at the 1992 U.N. Rio Earth Summit. “Let human life become more rational. Let us implement a just international economic order. Let us use all the science necessary for pollution-free, sustained development. Let us pay the ecological debt, and not the foreign debt. Let hunger disappear, and not mankind.”
In the famous address, Fidel highlighted that consumer societies, which “arose from the old colonial powers and from imperialist policies … are fundamentally responsible for the destruction of the environment.”
In a 2003 address to U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought, he expanded on the destructive impact of capitalism:
“Such an economic order and such models of consumption are incompatible with the planet’s limited and non-renewable essential resources and with the laws that rule nature and life. They are also in conflict with the most basic ethical principles, with culture and with the moral values created by humankind,”
Because of a reforestation program which started in 1998, forests make up 30.6 percent of the island nation’s land area, and the country has been able to maintain sustained forest growth, according to Cuba’s National Officer of Statistics and Information.
Cuba has the highest proportion of its forest designated for protective functions in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The province of Pinar del Rio is covered by 47 percent forests, and Guantanamo with 46.7 percent. When Fidel claimed victory in the Cuban Revolution in 1959, only 14 percent of Cuba was thought to be covered in forest.
Spanish colonization and foreign-owned timber and sugarcane industries played significant roles destroying significant amount of forest, which was estimated at around 90 percent before the Spanish landed on the island.
In a country blessed with year-long sunshine, Cuba has begun to invest more in solar technology and has planned to expand its program across the island which not only helps reduce pollution but save money.
The Pinar 220 A1 solar park near Pinar del Rio in western Cuba uses 12,080 solar panels to generate an average of 13 megawatts per day to national electricity grid. In its first year of operation, it produced almost 6 gigawatts of electricity, which would have otherwise cost over half a million dollars to produce in a thermoelectric plant.