Geopolitics has divided the U.S. and Cuba for half a century, but nature knows no such boundaries. We share the deep waters of the Florida Straits and iconic wildlife such as manatee, sea turtles and bonefish. We have in common a similar, yet changing climate – prone to the extremes of back-to-back hurricanes one year, drought the next. Florida and Cuba have both preserved the largest wetland ecosystems of their kind in our hemisphere, the Everglades and Zapata swamp on Cuba’s southern coast.
- Yet, as much as we can celebrate these connections and the scientists who’ve overcome significant barriers to study them, it’s also crucial to understand that Cuba’s environmental challenges are different from ours.
In Cuba, freshwater scarcity does not mean lawn-watering restrictions, but rationing by the bucket and boiling every drop you’ll drink. Protection of endangered species takes on a whole new meaning when some people still poach manatees to feed their families.
- Cuba’s environment is also influenced considerably by wealthier nations and travelers: Illegal tortoiseshell goods are still sold in some markets, endangered crocodile in some restaurants, because some international tourists still demand them.
Most profoundly, while Cuba contributes little to the causes of climate change, its coastline and people are among the most vulnerable anywhere to a warming world.
As we share a sea, wild creatures and the atmosphere that surrounds us, so we can find common solutions to protect them and ultimately, ourselves. Here are our stories from that intersection of nature and people: