Have All The Bees Gone?
By Fidel Castro
10 April, 2007
The Camp David meeting has just
come to an end. All of us followed the press conference offered by the
presidents of the United States and Brazil attentively, as we did the
news surrounding the meeting and the opinions voiced in this connection.
Faced with demands related
to customs duties and subsidies which protect and support US ethanol
production, Bush did not make the slightest concession to his Brazilian
guest at Camp David.
President Lula attributed
to this the rise in corn prices, which, according to his own statements,
had gone up more than 85 percent.
Before these statements were
made, the Washington Post had published an article by the Brazilian
leader which expounded on the idea of transforming food into fuel.
It is not my intention to
hurt Brazil or to meddle in the internal affairs of this great country.
It was in effect in Rio de Janeiro, host of the United Nations Conference
on Environment and Development, exactly 15 years ago, where I delivered
a 7-minute speech vehemently denouncing the environmental dangers that
menaced our species' survival. Bush Sr., then President of the United
States, was present at that meeting and applauded my words out of courtesy;
all other presidents there applauded, too.
No one at Camp David answered
the fundamental question. Where are the more than 500 million tons of
corn and other cereals which the United States, Europe and wealthy nations
require to produce the gallons of ethanol that big companies in the
United States and other countries demand in exchange for their voluminous
investments going to be produced and who is going to supply them? Where
are the soy, sunflower and rape seeds, whose essential oils these same,
wealthy nations are to turn into fuel, going to be produced and who
will produce them?
Some countries are food producers
which export their surpluses. The balance of exporters and consumers
had already become precarious before this and food prices had skyrocketed.
In the interests of brevity, I shall limit myself to pointing out the
According to recent data,
the five chief producers of corn, barley, sorghum, rye, millet and oats
which Bush wants to transform into the raw material of ethanol production,
supply the world market with 679 million tons of these products. Similarly,
the five chief consumers, some of which also produce these grains, currently
require 604 million annual tons of these products. The available surplus
is less than 80 million tons of grain.
This colossal squandering
of cereals destined to fuel production -and these estimates do not include
data on oily seeds-shall serve to save rich countries less than 15 percent
of the total annual consumption of their voracious automobiles.
At Camp David, Bush declared
his intention of applying this formula around the world. This spells
nothing other than the internationalization of genocide.
In his statements, published
by the Washington Post on the eve of the Camp David meeting, the Brazilian
president affirmed that less than one percent of Brazil's arable land
was used to grow cane destined to ethanol production. This is nearly
three times the land surface Cuba used when it produced nearly 10 million
tons of sugar a year, before the crisis that befell the Soviet Union
and the advent of climate changes.
Our country has been producing
and exporting sugar for a longer time. First, on the basis of the work
of slaves, whose numbers swelled to over 300 thousand in the first years
of the 19th century and who turned the Spanish colony into the world's
number one exporter. Nearly one hundred years later, at the beginning
of the 20th century, when Cuba was a pseudo-republic which had been
denied full independence by US interventionism, it was immigrants from
the West Indies and illiterate Cubans alone who bore the burden of growing
and harvesting sugarcane on the island. The scourge of our people was
the off-season, inherent to the cyclical nature of the harvest. Sugarcane
plantations were the property of US companies or powerful Cuban-born
landowners. Cuba, thus, has more experience than anyone as regards the
social impact of this crop.
This past Sunday, April 1,
CNN televised the opinions of Brazilian experts who affirm that many
lands destined to sugarcane have been purchased by wealthy Americans
As part of my reflections
on the subject, published on March 29, I expounded on the impact climate
change has had on Cuba and on other basic characteristics of our country's
climate which contribute to this.
On our poor and anything
but consumerist island, one would be unable to find enough workers to
endure the rigors of the harvest and to care for the sugarcane plantations
in the ever more intense heat, rains or droughts. When hurricanes lash
the island, not even the best machines can harvest the bent-over and
twisted canes. For centuries, the practice of burning sugarcane was
unknown and no soil was compacted under the weight of complex machines
and enormous trucks. Nitrogen, potassium and phosphate fertilizers,
today extremely expensive, did not yet even exist, and the dry and wet
months succeeded each other regularly. In modern agriculture, no high
yields are possible without crop rotation methods.
On Sunday, April 1, the French
Press Agency (AFP) published disquieting reports on the subject of climate
change, which experts gathered by the United Nations already consider
an inevitable phenomenon that will spell serious repercussions for the
world in the coming decades.
According to a UN report
to be approved next week in Brussels, climate change will have a significant
impact on the American continent, generating more violent storms and
heat waves and causing droughts, the extinction of some species and
even hunger in Latin America.
The AFP report indicates
that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forewarned
that at the end of this century, every hemisphere will endure water-related
problems and, if governments take no measures in this connection, rising
temperatures could increase the risks of mortality, contamination, natural
catastrophes and infectious diseases.
In Latin America, global
warming is already melting glaciers in the Andes and threatening the
Amazon forest, whose perimeter may slowly be turned into a savannah,
the cable goes on to report.
Because a great part of its
population lives near the coast, the United States is also vulnerable
to extreme natural phenomena, as hurricane Katrina demonstrated in 2005.
According to AFP, this is the second of three IPCC reports which began
to be published last February, following an initial scientific forecast
which established the certainty of climate change.
This second 1400-page report
which analyzes climate change in different sectors and regions, of which
AFP has obtained a copy, considers that, even if radical measures to
reduce carbon dioxide emissions that pollute the atmosphere are taken,
the rise in temperatures around the planet in the coming decades is
already unavoidable, concludes the French Press Agency.
As was to be expected, at
the Camp David meeting, Dan Fisk, National Security advisor for the
region, declared that "in the discussion on regional issues, [I
expect] Cuba to come up () if there's anyone that knows how to create
starvation, it's Fidel Castro. He also knows how not to do ethanol".
As I find myself obliged
to respond to this gentleman, it is my duty to remind him that Cuba's
infant mortality rate is lower than the United States'. All citizens
-- this is beyond question -- enjoy free medical services. Everyone
has access to education and no one is denied employment, in spite of
nearly half a century of economic blockade and the attempts of US governments
to starve and economically asphyxiate the people of Cuba.
China would never devote
a single ton of cereals or leguminous plants to the production of ethanol,
and it is an economically prosperous nation which is breaking growth
records, where all citizens earn the income they need to purchase essential
consumer items, despite the fact that 48 percent of its population,
which exceeds 1.3 billion, works in agriculture. On the contrary, it
has set out to reduce energy consumption considerably by shutting down
thousands of factories which consume unacceptable amounts of electricity
and hydrocarbons. It imports many of the food products mentioned above
from far-off corners of the world, transporting these over thousands
Scores of countries do not
produce hydrocarbons and are unable to produce corn and other grains
or oily seeds, for they do not even have enough water to meet their
most basic needs.
At a meeting on ethanol production
held in Buenos Aires by the Argentine Oil Industry Chamber and Cereals
Exporters Association, Loek Boonekamp, the Dutch head of the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)'s commercial and marketing
division, told the press that governments are very much enthused about
this process but that they should objectively consider whether ethanol
ought to be given such resolute support.
According to Boonekamp, the
United States is the only country where ethanol can be profitable and,
without subsidies, no other country can make it viable.
According to the report,
Boonekamp insists that ethanol is not manna from Heaven and that we
should not blindly commit to developing this process.
Today, developed countries
are pushing to have fossil fuels mixed with biofuels at around five
percent and this is already affecting agricultural prices. If this figure
went up to 10 percent, 30 percent of the United States' cultivated surface
and 50 percent of Europe's would be required. That is the reason Boonekamp
asks himself whether the process is sustainable, as an increase in the
demand for crops destined to ethanol production would generate higher
and less stable prices.
Protectionist measures are
today at 54 cents per gallon and real subsidies reach far higher figures.
Applying the simple arithmetic
we learned in high school, we could show how, by simply replacing incandescent
bulbs with fluorescent ones, as I explained in my previous reflections,
millions and millions of dollars in investment and energy could be saved,
without the need to use a single acre of farming land.
In the meantime, we are receiving
news from Washington, through the AP, reporting that the mysterious
disappearance of millions of bees throughout the United States has edged
beekeepers to the brink of a nervous breakdown and is even cause for
concern in Congress, which will discuss this Thursday the critical situation
facing this insect, essential to the agricultural sector. According
to the report, the first disquieting signs of this enigma became evident
shortly after Christmas in the state of Florida, when beekeepers discovered
that their bees had vanished without a trace. Since then, the syndrome
which experts have christened as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has
reduced the country's swarms by 25 percent.
Daniel Weaver, president
of the US Beekeepers Association, stated that more than half a million
colonies, each with a population of nearly 50 thousand bees, had been
lost. He added that the syndrome has struck 30 of the country's 50 states.
What is curious about the phenomenon is that, in many cases, the mortal
remains of the bees are not found.
According to a study conducted
by Cornell University, these industrious insects pollinate crops valued
at anywhere from 12 to 14 billion dollars.
Scientists are entertaining
all kinds of hypotheses, including the theory that a pesticide may have
caused the bees' neurological damage and altered their sense of orientation.
Others lay the blame on the drought and even mobile phone waves, but,
what's certain is that no one knows exactly what has unleashed this
The worst may be yet to come:
a new war aimed at securing gas and oil supplies that can take humanity
to the brink of total annihilation.
Invoking intelligence sources,
Russian newspapers have reported that a war on Iran has been in the
works for over three years now, since the day the government of the
United States resolved to occupy Iraq completely, unleashing a seemingly
endless and despicable civil war.
All the while, the government
of the United States devotes hundreds of billions to the development
of highly sophisticated technologies, as those which employ micro-electronic
systems or new nuclear weapons which can strike their targets an hour
following the order to attack.
The United States brazenly
turns a deaf ear to world public opinion, which is against all kinds
of nuclear weapons.
Razing all of Iran's factories
to the ground is a relatively easy task, from the technical point of
view, for a powerful country like the United States. The difficult task
may come later, if a new war were to be unleashed against another Muslim
faith which deserves our utmost respect, as do all other religions of
the Near, Middle or Far East, predating or postdating Christianity.
The arrest of English soldiers
at Iran's territorial waters recalls the nearly identical act of provocation
of the so-called "Brothers to the Rescue" who, ignoring President
Clinton's orders advanced over our country's territorial waters. Cuba's
absolutely legitimate and defensive action gave the United States a
pretext to promulgate the well-known Helms-Burton Act, which encroaches
upon the sovereignty of other nations besides Cuba. The powerful media
have consigned that episode to oblivion. No few people attribute the
price of oil, at nearly 70 dollars a gallon as of Monday, to fears of
a possible invasion of Iran.
Where shall poor Third World
countries find the basic resources needed to survive?
I am not exaggerating or
using overblown language. I am confining myself to the facts.
As can be seen, the polyhedron
has many dark faces.
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