Environmental Activism Rising in Central Cuba

LA HABANA, Nov. 2th (IPS Cuba) Beyond the scene in Havana, environmental activism is also gaining ground in Cuban provinces such as Sancti Spiritus in the center of the country, where a group of young people clean beaches with an appeal to raise public awareness.

On August 31st, Dennis Valdes, an independent marketing employee for Airbnb, carried out a beach cleanup with other people at Ancon beach, near the world heritage city of Trinidad, in south Sancti Spiritus.

Ever since then, new followers have joined these efforts in the south of this province, and their project’s visibility has grown thanks to social media.

On October 26th, the fourth trash collection and beach cleanup took place at La Boca beach, just outside the world heritage city of Trinidad.

But this time, new members and friends from Havana, Villa Clara, and Cienfuegos also took part, in addition to the regular activists from Sancti Spiritus.

This time, a donation box was also made available “for people who wanted to collaborate out of goodwill, guaranteeing that their contribution and our own go towards purchasing materials and equipment to clean the beaches and coastline,” the organizing team said.Environmental Activism Rising in Central Cuba

 

IPS spoke to Valdes, who as well as an environmental and animal welfare activist, is also an advocate for LGBTI rights.

He explained that over the past decade, different actions have been taken to clean up beaches and natural parks, “with help from friends visiting coastal towns on both coastlines.”

He said that he, and his colleagues, “would really like to share and expand our activism across the country. Many people have asked us if our project has a national scope because they want to join our efforts. Right now, our cleanups are only limited to Trinidad.”

IPS: What motivated you to undertake this kind of action?

DENNIS VALDES: It’s always been a part of my DNA. I have shared loads of experiences with people who are interested in this issue. Also, learning about the project in Trinidad has been a pleasant surprise. I’m going, to be honest: I didn’t think that such a healthy and pure project like this one could exist around here where I live.

IPS: What other civil groups or government agencies take part in these actions?

DV: There aren’t any government agencies involved, for now. We are an independent environmental group; although we don’t refuse any aid authorities could give us to clean up and collect trash and waste on our beaches. We are receiving support from many people all over Cuba and the world. The project is constantly growing. Cuba needs it.

IPS: Do you know of any similar projects that propose environmental awareness among the population in the central region of the country, or in Sancti Spiritus at least?

DV: I know of different environmental and animal welfare projects in the province, as well as efforts to conserve reserves and natural parks, but they haven’t made their activities public yet.

 

IPS Cuba: How would you assess the level of environmental activism in the province? Do you believe it is a movement that is growing or is it more limited to individuals and isolated groups?

DV: Environmental activism is poor in the province. We are all aware of the fact that our natural environment is being spoilt. Unfortunately, there isn’t any motivation or a concrete project that encourages the population to commit to cleanups or trash and waste collections on the street, at beaches or natural parks. Our movement or group is growing every day; we receive messages of support and many of them want to take part… that’s our motivation.Environmental Activism Rising in Central Cuba

IPS: What are your thoughts about environmental awareness in Sancti Spiritus and Cuba (if possible), given your experience in the field?

DV: In my opinion, it’s chaos. Cubans are the main polluters. Unfortunately, we don’t have the means, pertinent bodies or laws to put an end to so much social disorder. I have visited 433 different places in Cuba, really beautiful places, and many of them are strewn with garbage and have been marked by people’s selfish hands. Our country needs to do away with human irresponsibility, corruption, and bureaucracy when it comes to environmental damage.

IPS: What needs to be done to reverse this situation?

DV: We need tough and efficient laws, to apply fines so that we can educate and force Cubans to be cleaner and more aware of the damage they cause every day. We also need the government to make a bigger commitment.

Photo: Courtesy of Dennis Valdes.