Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cuba and the environment, by gimleteye

In “Conserving Cuba, after the embargo” the New York Times (Tuesday, December 25, 2007) writes: “Through accidents of geography and history, Cuba is a priceless ecological resource. That is why many scientists are so worried about what will become of it after Fidel Castro and his associates leave power and, as is widely anticipated, the American government relaxes or ends its trade embargo."

The story dances around the key issue: the record of mismanagement of natural resources in South Florida, where the ascent to power by Cuban American developers depended, in large part, on exploiting the environment.

Cuba “has an abundance of landscapes that elsewhere in the region have been ripped up, paved over, poisoned or otherwise destroyed in the decades since the Cuban revolution.”

The New York Times doesn't say so, but it's clear as day: Miami and its environs are Exhibit A. In Cuba, "a stagnant economy helped to guard the environment." In South Florida, the economics of suburban sprawl chewed up the environment as easily as a wood chipper turns a gumbo limbo to sawdust.

David Guggenheim, former co-chair of the Everglades Coalition and now an executive with a Washington-based conservation organization, is quoted in the Times article, “the best lessons for Cubans to ponder as they contemplate a more prosperous future can been seen 90 miles to the north, in the Florida Keys. There, he said, too many people have poured into an ecosystem too fragile to support them… ‘We don’t want to see and they don’t want see the same mistakes, where you literally love something to death.’”

Loving something to death is a flimsy euphemism for Florida that has outlived its purpose (in magazines and newspaper articles ad nauseam), as applied to what happened outside Miami. In South Florida, what remains of fantastic and extravagant biodiversity exist mostly as skeletal reminders or accidental survivors.

Cuban scientists and policy makers have good reason to fear what may happen when the current regime fades and Miami-style investment guns its engines to build in Cuba and to excavate, dredge fill and build wherever possible, as fast as possible.

The political elite in Florida wrestled long and hard to tame the growing power and influence accumulated by Cuban American developers. The intersection of interests, paving over divisions between old Florida crackers from the north and Miami's Cuban American elite from the south, is around the policies and laws and incentives surrounding growth, primarily of suburban sprawl. Would it be any different in post-Castro Cuba, once the lid pops off?

To the extent that the environment has been protected in Florida, it is through a flimsy patchwork of regulations unable to withstand the pressure of successive generations of political pressure. Take, as just a small example, how under the Jeb Bush regime, the Florida Wildlife Commission stripped the word “conservation” from its title, or, how the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation embraced its motto, “less process, more protection” while dodging numeric pollution standards that would hold polluters accountable.

Cubans have every reason to be worried about what happens to the environment after the embargo and beyond Castro. In Miami, when the prospect of environmental regulation hindering growth has ever raised its head, it has always been accompanied by accusations and intimations flowing from the socialist experiment on the other side of the Florida Straits.

In South Florida, Cuban American developers wait with bated breath, for the next big deal.


Anonymous said...

The Cuba Story is a sad one. Many tragedies have happened to this once lovely county and to hundreds of thousands of its population that where forced to abandon it.
But there may eventually be one good thing to come out of this mess. Cuba has become a time capsule for a great deal of nature, many buildings and a fleet of automobiles. Cuba may emerge as a 20th century equivalent of Pompeii or as a Machu Picchu.
Let’s hope that sanity also arrives with the eventual Democracy that may be there someday soon.
Let’s hope that the county is not overwhelmed with Starbucks, Subways, Wal-marts, McDonalds, auto dealerships, condo projects and shopping centers on almost every corner.
Let’s hope that the rivers and lakes will not be come polluted with agricultural insecticide and animal waist run-off.
Let’s hope that adequate land is set aside for the sanctuary of animals in the wild.
Let’s hope that some of the 16th - 20th Century architecture will be respected and brought back to its glory days.
Let’s hope that Cuba will be as honored, respected and cherished as is Pompeii and Machu Picchu.
May some good come out of this 50 year old tragedy.
Harry Emilio Gottlieb

Anonymous said...

It makes my heart glad that others understand why I do not want Cuba to loose its Dictatorship. They may be nasty but they have not allowed the Country to go to hell as we have here. My wife and I left the Harbor in Havana as Fidel was arriving in town. Sure we would like to visit and complete our long ago trip but for the world things are better because the Cuba is now.

Anonymous said...

mensa, you truely are stupid.

"They may be nasty but they have not allowed the Country to go to hell as we have here."

So they can shoot and imprison people for speaking their mind, but as long as they haven't paved over every square inch, they are better off with Castro?

I have to say it again, you are an idiot.

Why didn't you stay there?

As for them not having let it go to hell. You have no idea what their sewage treatment and water purification standards are. You have no idea what their lack of infrastructure is concealing. You have no clue whether, or not, every underground petroleum storage site is leaking into the surrounding soil or not.

You are obviously not intelligent enough to be in mensa.

I know the standards have been lowered to accept anyone with a 130 or higher and a quack who will verify a WEIST score, but you obviously don't even meet that lower standard.

By the way, I am not Cuban. But I do know better than to believe evrything that comes out of Michael Moore's trap.

as for gimleteye, way to throw it all on the feet of the Cuban's, I don't suppose Ed Easton and any of the Lennar folks who built Countrywalk ever did any harm to the environment.

For that matter, that frickin' prick George Merrick must not have had to fill in any wetlands either.

Anonymous said...

can someone please block the wikipedia annoyance?

Anonymous said...

look who is the head of the FWC.

Geniusofdespair said...

Not a moderate, apparently you are angry? Picking on George Merrick, what next? Mary Brickell? I am too tired to argue about anything today. However:

Mensa is Mensa worthy. For those of you who don't know what Mensa is google it.

out of sight said...

Not a moderate?

You saying that you ARE mensa material?

No one has to throw anything on the feet of the Cuban developers, they remind us that Miami is Miami because of them. And by golly, Miami IS Miami because of them!

Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood") said...

I just knew somebody would read that story and credit Castro as a responsible environmentalist. As inevitable as it is pathetic misreading.

Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood") said...

P.S. John Farago of Eye On Miami is quoted in today's NY Times story on the Carnival Center.

out of sight said...

??? and the point is ?????

I don't think anyone said that Castro was an environmentalist. I think what Castro did was accidentally preserve some things by not being solvent enough to destroy them.

Anonymous said...

out of sight

A card carrying member, as a matter of fact.

Geniusofdespair said...

So Not a Moderate you must know our reader Mensa who also carries a weapon, I mean card.

out of sight said...

Well. I have 2 kids that have Mensa level IQ s and trust me, in the end, they are still kids. I don't treat them any differently than the one that isn't.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-- and a lot of courage--to move in the opposite direction.
Author: E. F.Schumacker

Anonymous said...

Not to debate the Cuba thing because really it is just so irrelevant but I wonder what country has the longest life span, lowest child mortality, and best hurricane prep in the otherwise poor Caribbean basin? Honestly, how would one compair the infrastructure of other Caribbean basin nations outside of the tourist areas with Cuba? You are compared in your context and the totalitarian government in Cuba does enjoy some popular support, and some legitimacy because it has been managed to deliver some public goods. The sooner all the blinded ideologue here admit that the sooner we can all move on.

The unfortunate past tactic of the mostly white Cuban-American elite in Miami has been to push ethnic pride to manipulate both its own population and ethnic chauvinism towards others in Miami. That has mostly stopped after the Elian fiasco. Its time for all of us to move on. Just because you are brilliant doen't mean that you are not wrong.