Pollution in Havana

Regina Cano

Garbage piling up. Photo: Irina Echar

In our country it’s uncommon to hear of about industrial accidents resulting in the release of waste products into the environment. Likewise, rarely do we learn about the impacts we might be suffering from acid rain, radiation, oil slicks, air pollution or smog.

We may not be informed about any of this, but perhaps it’s real. One seldom hears about people protesting the discharge of liquid wastes in rivers, though this is still carried out.

People protest — among themselves — about noise pollution (loud telephones, music blasting into the street; the horns of bicycle-taxis, trucks or conventional taxis, and of course those insufferable car alarms), but very few folks raise their complaints beyond fellow bus passengers or other shoppers at their corner bodega (store).

This being the case, more serious than what most people believe, this type of pollution can lead to deafness, impacts on sleep, fatigue, poor job performance, and effects on behavior and even memory.

Similarly, the existence of garbage-strewn streets — which the great majority of people contribute to while carrying out their daily activities — is the product of an indolent and irresponsible attitude toward our environment. If it weren’t for the existence of street sweepers there would be mounds of debris on every corner to welcome all of us the next day, since it’s not only a question of putting trash containers along streets.

Our citizens need environmental education because of the fact that their own mouths, eyes and ears (and all of their other unseen organs) are being compromised with each apathetic action in this regard: Clean homes, dirty streets.

Everyone responsible for carrying out a public work, initiative or project — and when I say this I’m referring to those in positions to actually do this: those in government institutions — should act in consideration of and with respect to the environmental impact in each specific case.

The aim should be to educate people with regard to how to deal with garbage and its indirect damage, not merely hire workers to clean up after the disasters produced by public festivities, farmers market, food fairs, and at the beach.

What’s certain is that you can easily find someone who — stumbling on a beached dolphin about to die — will think more about carting it off to give their family something to eat instead of trying to save it.

But it’s also irrefutable that we have enough with a dirty city, and not only because of the garbage.

Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

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