Cuba excels at environmentalism, but the wind might be about to change

Posted: 07-Nov-16 10:29

Government policy and trade embargoes have combined to protect large swathes of the Caribbean nation's landscape and ecosystem, but time waits for no island when tourist bucks are involved. Can an increase in tourism and Cuba's strong links to environmentalism go hand in hand?

Cuba excels at environmentalism, but the wind might be about to change

There can be no denying just how forward thinking the government in Havana has been over the last half century when it comes to green credentials. The result is one of the last genuinely un-spoilt spots in the Caribbean region.

Cuba is one of the last genuinely un-spoilt spots in the Caribbean region

Cuban school children are taught a mandatory environmental education at both primary and secondary level. Poaching and hunting can carry significant fines (up to 4,000 Cuban pesos for killing a sea turtle, for instance). Animals are celebrated and paid respects to at a number of annual festivals.

Twenty five per cent of marine waters are designated protected

Twenty five per cent of marine waters are designated protected. Eighty per cent of national parks are reserved for conservation only, and while the remaining 20% are accessible more often than not that comes with some serious pre-requisites, such as always having a guide present when tourists are exploring the wilderness.

Cuba boast some 3,500 miles of coastline

The result is visible in the waters offshore, where coral reefs are thriving in comparison to their dead neighbours in nearby Mexico, Jamaica and Florida; and the wealth of flora and fauna that call this stunning landscape home. Boasting some 3,500 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that many travel experts consider Cuba to be one of the ultimate beach holiday destinations.

Things could begin to change

If, of course, you can actually gain entry into this notoriously bureaucratic country, with travel and trade embargoes enforced by the U.S. putting some would-be holiday makers off attempting to visit the nation. Things are beginning to change, though. As Sasha Ingber notes in her recent article for The Smithsonian, relations between Washington and Havana are starting to “thaw”, with the number of tourists heading for these shores expected to increase exponentially in the next few years.

Cuba will have some difficult decisions to make

As the feature quotes David Guggenheim, of marine scientific research firm Ocean Doctor, as saying, Cuba will have some difficult decisions to make – open up to mass tourism, or maintain that stellar green record, in turn restricting tourism and attracting only those who can afford a relatively bespoke and authentic experience. Travel on a micro, as oppose to macro, scale.

It would certainly be sad to see all the hard work put in by figures like Fidel Castro, himself a major advocate of strong environmental policy, go to waste. Not least when you consider the increasing pressure humans are placing on both animals and plant life on a global scale. There are not enough sanctuaries left on Earth as it is, and so to lose one of the richest and most diverse would be a truly tragic incident, and one that should be avoided at all costs.  


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