13 October, 2009 — Climate and Capitalism
‘Our duty is to demand the truth. The populations of all countries have the right to know the factors that are giving rise to climate change and what current possibilities science possesses for reversing the trend’
by Fidel Castro
(September 21, 2009)
I would have liked to talk today about the exceptional Peace without Borders concert that took place in the José Martí Plaza de la Revolución 24 hours ago, but brutal reality obliges me to write about a danger that is threatening not only peace but also the survival of our species.
The United Nations Organization, whose task is to protect the peace, security and rights of close to 200 states representing more than 6.5 billion of the planet’s inhabitants, is to initiate its General Assembly debates with the participation of heads of state on Wednesday. This time, given the exceptional importance of the issue, it is to devote Tuesday, September 22 to a high-level session on climate change, in preparation for the Copenhagen Conference in Denmark, scheduled for December 7-18 this year.
At the International Conference on Environment [and Development] convened by the UN in Rio de Janeiro, I affirmed as head of the Cuban state at that time: ‘one species is in danger of extinction: humanity.’ When I stated and supported those words, received and applauded by the heads of state present there – including the president of the United States, a Bush less shady than his son George W. – they believed that they still had a few centuries to confront the problem. I myself did not see it as a date as close to 60 or 80 years.
Today it is about a really imminent danger and its effects are already visible. I shall confine myself to just a few details, which will be widely covered by our minister of foreign affairs, who is to speak there in New York on behalf of Cuba.
Average temperatures have increased by 0.8 degrees centigrade since 1980, according to NASA’s Institute for Space Studies. The last two decades of the 20th century were the hottest in hundreds of years. Temperatures in Alaska, the Canadian West and Eastern Russia have risen at a rate that is double the world average. The Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing and the region could experience its first summer completely free of ice as soon as in 2040. The effects are visible in the masses of ice of more than two kilometers in height that are melting in Greenland, the glaciers of South America, from Ecuador to Cape Horn, fundamental sources of water, and the gigantic ice cap that covers the extensive Antarctic region.
Current carbon dioxide concentrations have reached the equivalent of 390 parts per million, a figure in excess of the natural range of the last 650,000 years. Global warming is already affecting natural systems all over the world. If this should occur, it would be devastating for all nations.
Scientists have discovered that the first forms of elemental life on planet Earth emerged no less than three billion years ago. Since then, those same forms have continuously evolved toward superior and complex forms in virtue of inexorable biological laws. Our actual species, Homo sapiens, has been in existence for barely 150,000 years, an insignificant fraction of time since life emerged.
Although the Greeks, hundreds of years before our era, already possessed astronomical knowledge, it was only somewhat more than 500 years ago – after a long period of medieval obscurity – that humans discovered that that Earth was round and not flat. A daring admiral of Genoese origin and solid knowledge decided to navigate toward the east in search of India, instead of skirting around the south of Africa. The European colonization of this hemisphere and the rest of the planet was beginning.
The human species was able to measure with substantial precision the Earth’s turning every 24 hours and its movement around the enormous incandescent mass of the sun approximately every 365 days. These and other singular circumstances were associated with the existence and life of all the species existing at that time.
From ancient times, the most advanced philosophers and thinkers have sought social justice. In spite of that, physical slavery legally lasted up until 129 years ago, when the abolition of slavery in the Spanish colony of Cuba was decreed.
From my point of view, the theory of evolution expounded by Darwin in his book The Origin of Species is one of the most significant scientific discoveries. Some saw in it an antagonism with religious beliefs; however, no scientist today denies it, and many of them who profess sincere religious beliefs, see in evolution the expression of the divine will.
The other decisive contribution was Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, expounded in 1915, the source of many investigations subsequent to the author’s death in April 1955. Few people have had so great an influence on the destiny of the world as he did. Einstein persuaded Roosevelt to initiate research into producing the atom bomb, out of a fear of it being developed by the Nazis.
When Truman ordered them to be dropped on the defenseless civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that deed had such an impact on Einstein that he became a convinced pacifist.
Today, the United States possesses thousands of nuclear weapons more powerful than those, which could exterminate the population of the world a number of times over. In its turn, it is the largest producer and exporter of all kinds of arms.
The accelerated rate of scientific research in all fields of material and services production under the economic order imposed on the world after World War II has led humanity to an unsustainable situation.
Our duty is to demand the truth. The populations of all countries have the right to know the factors that are giving rise to climate change and what current possibilities science possesses for reversing the trend, if they really are available.
The Cuban people, and especially its magnificent youth, demonstrated yesterday that even in the midst of a brutal economic blockade it is possible to overcome unimaginable obstacles.”