An important biological species is endangered due to the rapid and progressive liquidation of its natural living conditions: the human being.
Now we become aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it.
It is necessary to mention that consumerist societies are fundamentally responsible for the atrocious destruction of the environment. They were born out of ancient colonial metropolis and imperial policies that also engendered backwardness and poverty suffered by the majority of humanity. With only 20 percent of the world population, they consume two thirds of the metals and three fourths of all energy produced in the world. They have poisoned seas and rivers, have contaminated the air, have debilitated and perforated the ozone layer, have saturated the atmosphere with gases that alter climatic conditions with catastrophic effects that we have already started to perceive.
Forests disappear, deserts extend, thousands of millions of tons of fertile land is washed down to the ocean every year. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Demographic pressure and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive even to the expense of nature. It is not possible to blame Third World countries for this, as yesterday they were colonies, and today exploited and robbed nations by an unjust economic world order.
The solution cannot be to prevent those most in need to develop. Everything that may contribute today to underdevelopment and poverty constitutes a flagrant violation of ecology. Tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in the Third World due to this, which is more than in any of the two World Wars. Unequal interchange, protectionism and foreign debt harm ecology and promote the destruction of the environment.
If we wish to save humanity from this self-destruction, we must distribute better the wealth and technologies available in the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would allow less poverty and less hunger in most of the Earth. No more transfers to the Third World of lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin our environment. Let’s make human life more rational. Let’s apply a just international economic order. Let’s use all necessary science for a sustainable development free of pollution. Let’s pay the ecologic debt and not the foreign debt. Let’s make hunger disappear, not the human species.
When the alleged threats of Communism have vanished and there is no further pretext for cold wars, arms races and military expenditure, what will impede us from dedicating immediately those resources to promote the development of the Third World and combat the threat of the planet’s ecological destruction?
Let’s cease egotism, let’s cease hegemony, let’s cease insensitivity, irresponsibility and fraud. Tomorrow it will be too late to do what we should have done a very long time ago.
(Speech pronounced by Commander Fidel Castro at the United Nations Conference about environment and development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 12, 1992)