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According to conventional Marxist-Leninist dogma, environmental deterioration was precipitated by the logic of capitalism and its relentless pursuit of profits.

Conquering Nature: The Environmental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba (Pitt Latin American Series)

In reality the socialist environment record proved to be. Far different indeed. According to the authors, Fidel Castro and misguided Cuban policymakers, both driven by a mania for maximizing production, often implemented shortsighted or destructive ecological programs.

US takes aim at socialist governments in Latin America

In the agricultural sector, Cuban soils were damaged as a result of extensive irrigation, which was unaccompanied by proper drainage. There was widespread use of heavy agricultural equipment, leading to soil compaction. Finally, Cuban agriculture relied excessively upon chemical inputs, which contributed to soil acidification and contamination of potable water supplies.

Hispanic American Historical Review

This environmental deterioration did not occur not in a country with an inequitable land tenure system but in Cuba where during the first 30 years of the revolution most of the land fell under state control. Despite some rather modest success with its reforestation program, the Cuban government has not performed well in other environmental policy areas.


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Cuba pursued misguided water policies associated with overpumping of underground waters and an extensive dam construction program, which lead to salinization of aquifiers and degradation of coastal areas. During more than three decades [End Page ] of socialist industrial development, industrial pollution has been systematically discharged into the soil, the atmosphere, and the water.

On the more local level, the government has failed to deal with air, water, and industrial pollution in Havana. Sadly, though Cuba has laws on the books to protect the environment, these laws are rarely enforced.

Conquering Nature : Sergio Diaz-Briquets :

Though the authorities share some blame for environmental mistakes, the authors also show that Cuba inherited many ecological problems from before the revolution. Cuba has had to reconcile economic improvement with environmental concerns, and "it would have been surprising if Cuba.

In recent years, Cuba has not been able to pay for agricultural inputs, which has benefited the environment but has not led to increased food production. A transition to a capitalist economy, the authors conclude, is unlikely to improve on socialism's poor environmental track record, unless a proper regulatory framework is put in place. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.


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  7. Built on the Johns Hopkins University Campus. This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Conquering Nature provides the only book-length analysis of the environmental situation in Cuba after four decades of socialist rule, based on extensive examination of secondary sources, informed by the study of development and environmental trends in former socialist countries as well as in the developing world. It approaches the issue comprehensively and from interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical perspectives.

    In reality, the socialist environmental record proved to be far different from the utopian view. Between the early s and the late s the environmental situation worsened despite Cuba's achieving one of the lowest population growth rates in the world and having eliminated extreme living standard differentials in rural areas, two of the primary reasons often blamed for environmental deterioration in developing countries.

    This disregard for the environmental consequences of development projects continues to this day despite official allegations to the contrary—as the country pursues an economic survival strategy based on the crash development of the tourist sector and exploitation of natural resources. An underlying conclusion of the book is that the environmental legacy of socialism will present serious challenges to future Cuban generations. Conquering Nature provides, for the first time, a relevant analysis of socialist environmental policies of a developing country.