European Environmentalism and Third World Precariousness

Yenisel Rodríguez

HAVANA TIMES — Many European environmentalists come to in Cuba with the hope of finding a lifestyle representing an alternative to the chronic consumerism that has marred the natural environment in their countries.

Their search is so desperate that they begin by ignoring the specifics of environmental damage generated by the Cuban public. They confuse our limited consumption with the environmental awareness they profess.

The illusory similarity that’s produced between such limited consumption and the alternatives of consumer regulation that they advocate, end up a playing a trick on them.

An example is the way of packaging everything using highly polluting products.

I remember an Italian social scientist who marveled at bulk sales at Cuban agricultural markets. She thought he had discovered a natural environmental consciousness among those vendors here.

She always received warnings from Cubans researchers about the difference in context and the particularities of consumerism in our country, but she was never convinced. She believed in some supposed mystical sensitivity of the Third World towards nature.

I never found out the conclusions of her research, though I expect she reaffirmed her initial thesis, despite the warnings she received.

Some time ago, Cuban agricultural markets started adopting First World approaches to packaging everything: beans, fresh spices, fruits, meats and so on.

The generalization of this was due to the increased availability of plastic packaging wrap in the domestic market, not to any deterioration of our Third World ecological consciousness.

This demonstrates the fierce struggle waged by our domestic market to incorporate the logic of the international market, seeking to captivate the Cuban consumer demand with desires for First World consumption.

Another issue ignored by European ecologists is that “sophisticated” consumption in Cuba acquires the additional attraction of functioning like a ground wire that relaxes the high degree of state authoritarianism that prevails.

As this happens, First World humanists continue clinging to the desire to build their ecological and social utopias in the exotic landscapes of the Third World.

Such obstinacy.


Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

3 thoughts on “The Ecological Cuba of Europeans

  • I am a Canadian who has been to Cuba once, for a week, recently. I went there as the manager of a youth choir, and we spent the week on a tour, visiting other choirs and collaborating with them. In other words, my experience of Cuba was wonderful and too limited for me to profess knowledge of anything about Cuba. One of the things I noticed immediately, and which I loved, was the lack of traffic and outdoor advertising. I know that the lack of traffic is the result of hardship on the part of the Cuban people, and not because of some romantic ecological consciousness. If they could afford cars they would probably have them, like the rest of the world. But as one who has been around the world and seen how the automobile has destroyed so many previously beautiful old cities in so many places, I thought: it would be great if the Cuban people could become more prosperous without destroying their country with traffic jams. Countries that are already destroyed by the automobile would have a hard time getting rid of them, but a country like Cuba has the potential to build a modern, non-car-based transportation system, and it would be so much more human. These are the thoughts of a person similar to the one you describe in your article.

  • Eco-conscious Americans and Canadians can be just as oblivious to Cuban realities as Europeans.

    Here is a link to a website from an American group that organizes so-called food sovereignty tours to Cuba: http://www.foodsovereigntytours.org/international-tours/cuba/

    Here they are travelling to a country that doesn’t even come close to meeting its own food needs, yet it is held up as an example for other countries to emulate.

  • Thought-provoking post and very well said!

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