A Cuban university student and a journalist will form part of the international group that is traveling from Latin America to Europe on a sailboat to take part in the UN Climate Change Conference.
HAVANA TIMES – Twenty-five activists from different countries will travel across the Atlantic ocean for two months, towards Europe, to take part in the United Nations Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB52). Two Cubans will sail as part of the crew.
Ruben Dario Herrera, 22, and the founder of the Juventudes por el Clima (FridaysForFuture) movement in the Cuban capital, and Ismario Rodriguez, journalist from the independent media platform Periodismo de Barrio, were selected to take part in the “Sail for Climate Change” journey, from among nearly 300 applicants.
The initiative seeks to take civilians’ voices to spaces of power and to demand immediate and concrete action in the face of today’s climate emergency. The Regina Maris sailboat set sail in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on February 20th.
Cuban representatives were to join the crew onboard on February 26th, when the sailboat made a stop in Jamaica.
Herrera wants to make the most of this experience to get to know other young Latin Americans who are working to help fight climate change and learn about their experiences overcoming conflict and climatic problems, so he can perhaps replicate these initiatives in Cuba.
“I hope to learn about climate policy linked to young people’s actions and to use this to push projects here and… who knows?… work alongside the government in designing its environmental strategy,” the English language student at Havana University said.
According to Rodriguez, the greatest benefit of this trip will be to watch the negotiations in Bonn firsthand and see what happens, although he also sees other advantages for activism on the Caribbean island.
“After the Cuban branch of FFF’s work was suspended last September, I hope that this allows us to pick back up again and give visibility to a movement that is stirring unease and fear within the government, at a time when it is so important that we protest and demand immediate change,” the young man weighed in.
In September 2019, members of the Cuban branch of this international movement also known as Juventudes por el Clima, canceled a march that had been announced to support global protests, because they didn’t receive the authorization they needed from the corresponding authorities.
Why does Cuba need environmental activism?
Cuban representatives taking part in projects such as Sail for Climate Change is extremely important in Dario Herrera’s eyes, as the island has already suffered the devastating effects of climate change (rising sea levels, erosion, biodiversity risk, to name a few).
“We need more young people who are committed to this struggle: we are possibly the last generation who can take real and concrete climate action. Cuba is a developing country so moving a national infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels to 100% green energy is going to be a great challenge,” he said.
The program also seeks to be a platform where people who are affected the most by climate change can share their experiences and discuss solutions.
In Cuba’s case, Herrera hopes to socialize the information of communities that have been displaced as a result of rising sea levels, of people who have lost their homes in recent hurricanes, of endemic species and biodiversity that is at risk because of increasing global average surface temperatures.
“There is a project currently underway, Tarea Vida or Task Life (the State’s plan to tackle climate change), which I believe has contributed a great deal of good but has also created new problems. I would like to share these experiences and find solutions together,” the journalist said.
Herrera doesn’t see taking part in this trip as a holiday. “I’m doing this because I believe 2019 was the most ambitious year when it comes to the climate emergency we face (leaving out the disaster that was the COP25). I am giving up a semester at university because I truly believe that we the people have the power to bring about change.”
And he added that he feels “lucky and grateful to represent a country where there is still a lot left to do when it comes to the environment, but that we do a lot more than many others in the tough times we are experiencing.”
According to Rodriguez, taking part in this trip also has its expenses. “It really was a complicated process especially because the place I was given was self-financed in the beginning. It’s hard for a young Cuban to have an income and the bank accounts needed to be able to apply and take part in a project like this one,” he tells us.
Later, he was given the opportunity to take part in the project without having to pay for the trip on the sailboat which cut expenses.
“It’s an amazing learning opportunity, especially to understand what other young people like myself are worried about,” he said about why he wanted to take part. He is also the audiovisual director for Periodismo de Barrio, a platform that specializes in environmental issues.
The journalist believes that having “the opportunity to document and record such a sui generis project like this one, with a lot of potential to give the voice of climate activists around the world” is an extra benefit.