Skip to main content

In recent years, hurricanes have increased in number and strength, temperatures have risen by one degree, swings between highs and lows have flattened, and rainfall has decreased. EFE/Video Capture

As an island in the Caribbean, Cuba is especially exposed to global warming impacts, but it has a 100-year plan to deal with it, explains the documentary "Cuba's Life Task: Fighting Climate Change."

This audiovisual review of Cuba's efforts in the face of the great global challenge of the 21st century premiered at the last climate summit, COP26, and reaching the Los Angeles public screenings here and on different continents and openly on the Internet.

"The Life Task” (name of the Cuban plan against climate change) is not just another law, it is a new development paradigm," Helen Yaffe, producer of the documentary and professor of economic and social history at the University of Glasgow, told this reporter in an interview during her virtual speaking tour to 15 US cities and speaking engagements at the City of STEM science fair, in LA’s Black community, San Diego, and UCLA between April 2-4. Scheduled to appear in person she was denied a VISA waiver by the US government.

{In this reporter’s opinion it is clearly because of the nature of this tour, the importance of the climate change conversations leading up to Earth Day, her support for Cuba’s climate change efforts and ending the US blockade of Cuba. The visa denial was politically motivated; she has easily obtained visas to the US previously. It reflects the increasing isolation of Washington on a world scale, with Biden maintaining all 243 sanctions imposed by Trump against travel and trade with Cuba.}

Yaffe, specialized in Cuban economic development, explains that Cuba is responsible for barely 0.08% of global polluting emissions, but that -due to its location and geography- its inhabitants are especially exposed to climate change.

“In recent years, hurricanes have increased in number and strength, temperatures have risen by one degree, swings between highs and lows have flattened, and rainfall has decreased.

A "complete transition" from a humid tropical climate to a sub-humid tropical climate is taking place, summarized in the documentary the adviser to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma) Orlando Rey Santos.

Then there is the problem of deforestation: the colonial system and the bet on sugar cane reduced the forested area from the pre-colonial 95% to 14% in 1959, according to the book From rainforest to cane field. ) by Cuban historian Reinaldo Funes. Currently, according to Citma figures, it is around 30%.

Helen Yaffe

Helen Yaffe

In addition, the sea level is rising, which affects the environment, the economy and the settlements on the coast. The Cuban government estimates that it will be necessary to relocate more than a million people, 9% of the country's population.”

The documentary, in which representatives of the Cuban government appear, offers positive view of the Task Life program thru scores of interviews with small farmers, unionists, women and youth activists.

A "UNIQUE" PROGRAM

Faced with the risks of climate change, Cuba has launched a hundred-year program "unique" in the world, emphasizes Yaffe, author of the book "We Are Cuba!" about the survival of the country's socialist system after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its resurgence as a world capitalist power.

"Cuba has a long-term state response that combines the assumption of science in laws, natural and national solutions, and community participation," he explains.

It highlights, first of all, that the government has "absolute confidence" in science, which is reflected in its legislation and that the country has "incredible scientific capacity", as it has also shown by developing three vaccines against covid-19.

Second, she points out that, since Cuba "practically cannot access" international financing, it has resorted to "national solutions" instead of waiting for external funds, either from the UN green fund or from multilateral banks.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

"The Cuban approach can be relevant for the rest of the Caribbean and other countries, especially now that many are in debt,"

The third point is community participation and the decentralization of the initiative, which Yaffe contrasts with plans in the West, “proposed from above and guided by profit, while young people protest in the streets and demand more ambition.”

After the "disappointment" that COP26 has meant, there is expectation of "an alternative response to an existential threat," says the producer. In fact, she adds, the documentary is having an "incredible reception", from Australia to Latin America.

Yaffe warns against those who initially disdain the Cuban government's response to climate change "for political reasons" and asks that the plan be judged by its effectiveness. She points out that this does not happen with other countries also questioned for their performance in the area of ​​human rights.

“We cannot solve the environmental crisis under the capitalist system. Certainly not by using capitalist mechanisms, using the drive for profit, which runs the system. Exploiting the environment is at the heart of the profit system.”

For years Cuba did not take the environment issue seriously—that changed in the 1990’s, in part forced by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and loss of 85% of it’s trade. Farming became organic using natural means since no fertilizer could be imported.

Cuba’s Battle Against Covid

“Syringe production is dominated by about 6 companies world-wide, and they have connections to US companies. So, the US blockade severely impacted Cuba’s fight against covid.

Yet they mobilized their health care system, 28,000 medical students went door to door with Family Doctors to visit everyone, and then tested and isolated them if necessary.

The scientists, their massive BioPharma, despite limited resources, developed two effective vaccines for their population—Abdala and Soberana. In all of 2020 they only had 146 people die (compare to population of LA county with deaths in the thousands).

In November 2020, they opened the borders for returning Cubans and tourists, (vital source of income for the island) but with high incidences of infected Cubans returning home, their surge began.

There was a delay in rolling out the vaccine for two months because of an ingredient that is controlled by only a few companies. This would have prevented the surge. By contrast, their deaths from Omicron have been minimal.

We Are Cuba! by Helen Yaffe

Yaffe continued, “In the context of rationing shortages, health care facilities were prioritized for food and electricity. There were some electricity blackouts for 4-5 hours...alarming the Cuban population. This always goes back to US blockade. San Antonio de Los Banos—couldn’t get specific fuel from Venezuela (also facing US sanctions, Trump told shipping companies they would be fined if they delivered oil to Cuba- creating a unique energy crisis imposed by blockade.). Food was hit hard, transportation to get food from the countryside to the cities challenging. Lining up for goods because the government distribute goods fairly…some for all, with no hoarding.”

In July, Cubans—but never seen their public health system strained, lack of medicines and with combined impact of shortages—people protested, some violently, never before known in Cuba.

“That protest, called by people who wanted to exacerbate the situation, was retweeted by the US Embassy in Mexico (#SOSCuba) …blowing it way out of proportion. This is what the US has tried to do for 6 decades…and $20 million annually from congress to promote regime change. The goal, to create suffering and generate a domestic opposition.”

Videos of the pro-revolutionary demonstrations of tens of thousands were photo-shopped to appear as anti-government protestors. Images of the Arab Spring were circulated, as were photos of the pro-revolution May Day marches asserting, they too were anti-government protests.