Thursday, December 10, 2009

Environmental protection should be on the agenda

You can chalk it up to an accident of history, the dead weight of socialism, or a triumph of environmental preservation, but the fact is that the marine environment off the southern coasts of Camaguey and Ciego de Avila provinces – the site of the Jardines de la Reina archipelago and preserve – is preserved like none other in the Caribbean because it simply hasn’t been touched by economic activity.

Here’s author Peter Benchley’s description of a dive in a 2002 article from National Geographic:

I had flopped overboard from a dinghy on a glassy Caribbean sea in the summer of the year 2000 and in an instant, apparently, slipped backward nearly half a century into an underwater realm that had not existed, so far as I knew, since the 1950s.

Residents swarmed over me, welcoming me to the neighborhood, animals in numbers and diversity I hadn’t seen in decades, not since Lyndon Johnson was President and man had yet to set foot on the moon. Groupers of all descriptions and sizes lumbered around me: Nassau groupers, black groupers, even the patriarch of the grouper clan, the gigantic jewfish (aka the goliath grouper), creatures widely assumed to have almost disappeared from the Caribbean long ago – speared, hooked, netted, poisoned by men driven by poverty, hunger, and need.

American Scientist David Guggenheim repeated Benchley’s experience, saying it’s like being transported in a “time machine:”

It’s amazing. It’s sort of like “Jurassic Park.” Scientists are seeing these species they never expected to see in their life, because they’re extinct. Well, these fish aren’t extinct, but they might as well be for most of us. So I feel very lucky to see them.

That’s from an NPR report on the efforts of Guggenheim and other American scientists and conservationists to create a series of research and environmental protection projects in conjunction with their Cuban and Mexican counterparts.

It’s good that the Obama Administration gave Cuban officials and scientists visas to meet American counterparts in Washington in September and allowed the Americans to travel to Cuba in October. These are clear signs of support for these Americans’ private sector work.

But President Obama could do more. At the Trinidad summit last April, the President said, “The United States is a friend of every nation and person who seeks a future of security and dignity.” He also said, “I’m prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues – from drugs, migration, and economic issues, to human rights, free speech, and democratic reform.”

Why not add environmental cooperation to that list? Why not send U.S. government experts – EPA, NOAA, Coast Guard – to see if they and Cuban counterparts come up with ideas for research or collaboration that could serve both countries’ interests?

If research and the protection of fisheries and biodiversity in shared waters aren’t enough, I’ll note again that there’s the issue of emergency preparedness.

If you look at a map of the areas where Cuba is hoping to do additional deep-water oil exploration, and if you look at the prevailing currents and their speed, the situation is pretty clear: an oil spill in the waters off Cuba’s northwest coast becomes a Florida problem in a matter of days.

Should such a disaster happen, the moral satisfaction of not talking to communist officials won’t count for much, even in Florida.

[National Geographic photo; more here.]


Anonymous said...

On Planet Phil Peters, the treatment of Cuban groupers is more important than the treatment of the Cuban people.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Phil, consideration of any subject, no matter how minor, is preferable to wasting our time on trivial issues such as alleged "human rights" violations (as if any existed in Cuba!)

Anonymous said...

There go those teabaggers again. They are the ones who are isolated in the world. Put any teabagger in asia, Latin America o europe (or even canada), and they will see how far right their view (particularly on environment) are.

Anonymous said...

on in america, such right wingers get air time.

Phil was just making solid point, that doesn't mean he doesn't care about human rights in cuba, for which he cares much more than any of the cuban Tea partiers in miami

Anonymous said...

Yes, there are NO "teabaggers" in Cuba (coz there's no tea there, and they're running out of cafecitos, too.)

And moving on to more important subjects, the Wisconsin kazoo band is overdue in Guanahacabibes. Phil, do *whatever* it takes to get them there. Heaven forbid what harm their non-appearance would do to the vital task of "improving U.S.-Cuban relations."

Anonymous said...

Felipe, what about "protecting" human rights? shouldn't that be on the agenda with Cuban groupers?

Anonymous said...

You, maybe, were mistaken?

Anonymous said...

Great post. We need to work towards protecting this area if (when) cuba changes. Protection woudl not only be good for the lovely sea creatures (the most important) but also the national economy. - tourism.

but hopefully the new cuba if/when it comes, won't delve into chaos like russia. if so, those lovely creatures off the coast will soon die to the hands of unscrupulous fishing operations.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Phil for continuing to beat this drum. Cooperating with Cuba on the environment makes good sense and good policy. People and communities in the US greatly benefit when Cuba does a good job in managing common resources (like fisheries and coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico). And vice-versa. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

cuba has many protected reef areas, not just there but in isle of pines area. good for them, and piss on those right wing CANF losers who just can't admit anything positive. you can't even feel sorry for those gusanos, the only hope is that they are all the old useless fools that won't be with us much longer. and the greater hope is for the end of the restrictions and the embargo, so once and for all their influence on cuba foreign policy will end as well. the sooner the better.

Anonymous said...

How ironic. Human Rights Day and the idiots are worried about Cuban groupers.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

and those starving in america, those who have lost their homes, who can't afford post secondary education, who are dying because there is no universal health care -- human rights, what america has and what cuba has not. yeah keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

"and those starving in america, those who have lost their homes..."

And worst of all, the Empire FORBIDS poor Americans the right to voice their complaints. Luckily, there is ONE free nation in our benighted hemisphere, Cuba, where the Masses are free to express their opinions without fear!