Cuba’s Take on Climate Change

Enemies and allies of Cuba alike can probably come to agreement on one thing: Cuba is by far leading the fight against climate change, internationally.

Armando Choy, a key figure in the Cuban Revolution, and today head of the massive environmental cleanup operation in Havana Bay, explained, “This is possible because our system is socialist in character and commitment, and because the revolution’s top leadership acts in the interests of the majority of humanity inhabiting planet earth—not on behalf of narrow individual interests, or even simply Cuba’s national interests.”

A lot is spoken of Cuba’s health care and education, but their fight against capitalism’s destruction of the environment is remarkable as well. For starters, it is the only country to fit the UN’s “carbon footprint” scale.

Choy is president of the State Working Group for the Cleanup, Preservation, and Development of Havana Bay. This operation is one such example of how high a priority the environment is to the Cuban government. Using over 40 local People’s Councils, the operation has evolved from being simply a cleanup procedure.

One such example, which is incredible when put into context, is the river Luyanó. This river was accumulating organic waste from four large slaughterhouses that were contaminating the water. The government simply relocated the slaughterhouses, a simple procedure yet how inconceivable for this to happen in a capitalist country!

Another example is a Wind Park that has just been opened in the municipality of the Isle of Youth. The fact that it will provide 10 percent of the municipality’s electrical needs is one thing, the workmanship is quite another. Work began on it in August of last year and by January one machine was already in operation! Not only that, but given the ferocious storms which affect the area, the entire structure can be dismantled within three hours!

Cuba’s example is not just this ingenuity by its working class, but its mobilization of the entire people to fight climate change. The UN Climate Change Conference’s call for 140 billion trees to be planted in 10 years was responded to accordingly: 24.3 percent of Cuban land now is planted with trees. The key to the success of this mission was the Ministry of Agriculture mobilizing the people through mass organizations such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) and the Federation of Cuban Women.

Mass youth organizations were also mobilized to make every single Cuban household have energy-saving light bulbs, which today is a living reality. Ron Ridenour illustrates this in his new book, “Cuba: Beyond the Crossroads” [available from].

In contrast, the president of the United States preferred to discuss “solving” climate change with the top capitalists of the aautomobile industry. And their solution? Ethanol, a bio-fuel created through processing corn.

Fidel Castro used his first political statement since being ill to attack the auto bosses for their disgraceful “solution” to the lack of oil. With expert insightfulness he points to the potential outcomes if mass ethanol production were a reality.

He describes how the bourgeoisie would “lend funding to poor countries to produce corn ethanol, based on corn or any other food, and not a single tree will be left to defend humanity from climate change.” In effect, some semicolonial countries’ agriculture could be coerced into being entirely ethanol-based; leaving their populations to starve even more so than now.

We have a lot to learn from the Cuban Revolution when it comes to climate change, but Armando Choy’s comment at the top of this article shows clearly what the real and only solution is for the working classes of the world.

[This article first appeared in the British journal Socialist Resistance. The author is James Haywood.]

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[Editor’s note: We reprint this article by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM). In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched, inviting popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the global South, has led to an explosion of worldwide inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment.