Cuba: Environmentally sustainable development is possible
Capitalism talks, socialism achieves
Published May 31, 2013
Urban agriculture in Cuba.
Several years ago, the World Wildlife Fund called Cuba the only country in the world to have achieved sustainable development, which it measures as the improvement of the quality of human life within the carrying capacity of a country’s ecosystem.
The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 marked a dramatic break with 400 years of Spanish colonization and half a century of neocolonial intervention led by the United States. The agrarian structure had severe deformations, including immense holdings of foreign capital (U.S. companies owned nearly 2.5 million acres of land), extensive sugar cane plantations and cattle fields, and an agricultural economy based on the production and export of one crop, sugar.
All these factors had a negative impact on the environment, leading to deforestation, deterioration of sanitation and environmental conditions, pollution of land and sea waters, and loss of biodiversity, among other things. The peasantry and agricultural workers were extremely impoverished.
Because of these factors, five months after the triumph of the revolution, the First Agrarian Reform Law was enacted. The state became owner of 40 percent of the land, state enterprise arose and 120,000 farmer — previously tenants, sharecroppers and squatters — became owners of land.
In 1963, the revolution enacted the Second Agrarian Reform Law. Individual ownership of land was limited to 165 acres. Peasants and agricultural workers became owners of 70 percent of the land, and the state consolidated its enterprises. These two factors were the major feature of Cuban agriculture and land ownership at the time. The reform was the first step of the revolutionary government to create optimal conditions for the development of a comprehensive sustainable economy, which includes, among other things, protection of the environment.
Cuban environmental policy is based on the principles of sustainable social and economic development, whose primary objective is to generate healthy food supplies for the entire population while protecting the environment. Cuba already has eliminated extreme poverty in its cities as well in the countryside.
Cuba’s 1976 Constitution established national sovereignty over the environment and the natural resources of the country. The National Commission for the Protection of the Environment was created that same year and protections for the environment have only grown.
The economic crisis of the 1990s, caused by the destruction of the socialist camp and the tightening of the economic blockade imposed by the United States, led the government to search for new forms of land use and natural resources, the incorporation of environmentally friendly technology in rural agriculture and urban agricultural gardens, and better organization of agricultural cooperatives and land tenure. The use of many chemical pesticides was eliminated.
All countries, including the United States, engage in environmental discourse, but economies based on capitalism cannot achieve sustainable development. Economies based on socialism can.
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