The March 18 edition of Science contains a very interesting article that addresses President Obama’s visit to Cuba and his now nearly forgotten call to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The article details some history of the naval base, US-Cuban relations, and offers a suggestion that may please all parties.
As Cuba hopes to be seen as environmentally aware and take action in conservation and many in the United States want to distance themselves from the reports of torture and international law violations in Guantanamo, the article calls for the base to transition into a marine research facility. It could serve as an international Peace Park like those on the border of the United States and Canada, marking a new era of cooperation between the US and Cuba and a new endeavor in valuing ecology.
The ecology of the Cuban coastline is threatened, as coral reefs and mangrove forests are particularly vulnerable ecosystems. The naval base offers a facility and infrastructure that could be used to study climate change, biodiversity, and marine ecology buildings, roads, wind turbines, and more have already been constructed there. The area surrounding Guantanamo is home to endangered and endemic species like the West Indian manatee and multiple turtle species. Also, the base has been spoken of as a tool in normalizing US-Cuban relations for decades and Cuba has demanded its return for even longer, so it is not outrageous to think that the United States would part ways with it. The article also mentions that Pope Francis has heralded the return of international dialogue between the two countries, and frequently speaks on behalf of environmental protection. It concludes with a hope that a more peaceful world could convert multiple military bases to institutions of different purposes, and cites the European Green Belt initiative that has worked towards similar goals along the former Iron Curtain of the Cold War.
Roman, J., & Kraska, J. (2016). Reboot Gitmo for US-Cuba research diplomacy. Science, 351(6279), 1258-1260.