Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Cuba's Future as a Sustainable Society: Real Option or Impossible Utopia?

Academic journal article The International Journal of Cuban Studies

Cuba's Future as a Sustainable Society: Real Option or Impossible Utopia?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article examines how Cuba might become a Sustainable Society. Three questions are posed: What is a sustainable society? Why would Cuba want to be one? And how could Cuba become fully sustainable? First, the goal of a sustainable society is to ensure a vibrant and meaningful culture, a robust green economy and a protected environment with ecosystem integrity and a rich biodiversity. Only when all three objectives can be reached simultaneously over the long term can a society be considered fully sustainable. Second, three basic elements contribute to a sustainability rationale for Cuba: the country has several conditions and attributes conducive to achieving sustainability and few constraints; Cuba has already made considerable progress in achieving sustainability; and finally, the alternative of unsustainability does not constitute a good future. Third, ten components are suggested to enhance Cuban sustainability including: red-green ideology, green economy, sustainable state and party, sustainable agriculture and energy policies among others.

Keywords: Cuba, sustainable society, green economy, red-green ideology, environmental management, sustainable development

Introduction

Every country has a set of possible futures and Cuba is no exception. These unknown futures constitute a bundle of potential trajectories. Which particular strand will become the present at some future time is a composite of many forces: human will, past history, current circumstances, external influences, and chance. For the last several decades, Cuba has moved along a unique development trajectory in human history. There has never been a model like the Cuban Model (Lane 1999).1 There may not even be time for another. Time is not conspicuously on the side of the human species, which faces a number of serious existential risks in the twenty-first century. By the year 2050, approximately 9 billion humans will inhabit the Earth. Despite declining fertility rates in several countries, most population growth will occur in developing countries. The majority will live in urban settlements - essentially ghettos with capricious services. How can the planet accommodate this many people in a sustainable way over such a short time period? There are already many who are not well-accommodated, and of course, overpopulation is only one of our planetary problems.

Over-consumption is even more serious. Northern countries produce about 80 per cent of all pollution, use 77 per cent of all resources and 72 per cent of all energy (Shanahan and Carlsson-Kanyama 2005). The ecological footprints of the North are significantly larger than those of the South, 0.5 hectares per capita in Bangladesh versus 8.1 in the US. The planet has been in overshoot since 1987, using more of its resources than can be annually replaced. In 2007, overshoot was an unsustainable 30 per cent. Overshoot is only possible because we are living on an 'ecological overdraft' of fossil fuels. The opportunity to be in overshoot is time-limited; when fossil fuels are exhausted, overdraftwill not be possible. Even using the remaining fossil fuels may prove untenable in terms of unacceptable levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Since the global economic model is posited upon growth not sharing, over-consumption is difficult to address.

This article explores how Cuba might become a Sustainable Society in the twenty-first century. Three questions are posed: What is a sustainable society? Why would Cuba want to be one? And how could Cuba become fully sustainable? The argument for Cuban sustainability begins with three assumptions. First, sustainability offers the most secure way for a country to flourish with its sovereignty intact. Second, a return to the past is not tenable. Would Cuba be a Spanish colony with a slavery system? Should Cuba relish the lack of sovereignty of a new Platt Amendment as a US neo-neo colony? Would Cuba adopt a Soviet-style ecocide with severe economic dependency on a superpower? …

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