How Cuba Went Green

March 3, 2015 180fusion

Our newest journey, How Cuba Went Green (May 28-June 6), is a collaboration between Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation, marine biologist Dr. David E. Guggenheim of Ocean Doctor and The Baum Foundation. This trip is the first of its kind, exploring Cuba’s ecological sustainability and the contributing factors that have made the island a laboratory and possible model of ecological sustainability and resilience for the rest of the world now facing similar resource and ecological challenges. It will include the exploration of Cuban society – history, culture, agriculture, art, science, music and marine life. In light of climate change and depletion of the world’s natural resources, what lessons can we learn from how Cuba’s environment has thrived?

For over five decades, the Cuban economy remained stagnant under the US embargo. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, when the most important imports to the island stopped overnight, the Cuban economy and the most basic infrastructure went into a rapid decline. The nation’s economy shrank 30 percent in one year, the average Cuban lost 20 pounds from food shortages, and the country’s roads and buildings slipped into decay.

The Castro government declared this the “Special Period” and imposed a set of austerity policies designed to turn the economy around. Without cheap Soviet oil to produce chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the country adopted organic agriculture nationwide, and taught people to grow their own vegetables on balconies. rooftops and small urban plots. To keep Cubans moving, the government devised novel forms of mass transit, including requiring trucks to pick up hitchhikers, and distributed 1 million bicycles imported from China.

An unexpected positive consequence of this economic crisis was that one area of the country began to thrive without the use of agrochemicals – its nature and wildlife!

The crown jewel of the Caribbean, Cuba’s wildlife is vast and varied, from painted snails with thick royal blue and purple bodies to tiny hummingbirds no bigger than your thumb. Twenty years after the Special Period, the island now celebrates a dramatic increase in species diversity, both on land and underwater, found nowhere else on earth.

The film Cuba: Accidental Eden, featuring Dr. David Guggenheim, the leader of this trip, was released in 2010, almost 5 years prior to the announcement that the island would be opened to more American tourists. It is the first documentary of its kind, raising questions about how Cuba’s ecology and wildlife can remain resilient in the face of the substantial increase in economic activity that is about to occur, including the onslaught of American tourism.

Now, more than ever these questions must be addressed and action taken.

Cross Cultural Journeys Foundation brings to the partnership its long-standing relationship with the Cuban people and access to VIP organizations developed over the past 17 years, while Ocean Doctor’s David Guggenheim offers his expertise and 15 years worth of research on Cuba’s sustainability and conservation issues.

David-E-Guggenheim-Photo-credit-Shari-Sant-Plummer
Dr. David E Guggenheim of Ocean Doctor

Over 10 days, Dr. Guggenheim will discuss and contribute his research gathered from over 80 trips to Cuba in the past 15 years to those curious not only about the heart and soul of the Cuban people, but the very island on which these individuals thrive.

Joining Dr. Guggenheim will be a Cuban-born, English-speaking guide with particular interest in sustainability and the environment. The group will also meet with a number of Cuban specialists who will address how Cuba has become organic, resilient in the face of loss of Soviet support and the US embargo.

Because the United States and Cuba are neighbors and are strongly connected ecologically by the waters they share, collaboration on marine research and conservation issues are essential. This is simply not a Cuban issue, it is a global issue that insights from the Cuban experience can shed light on.

The question remains, with restrictions being lifted, will Cuba be able to maintain its pristine condition?

It is said that 5 million US Americans are interested in visiting the country after the travel embargo is completely lifted, an action that still requires a change in policy by the US congress. Today, US Americans still need to travel under one of the 12 special categories and will find it difficult to book a flight or hotels on their own.

See the day-to-day itinerary and pricing for How Cuba Went Green here, and reserve your spot on this exciting journey today!