Discovery News Frets: 'Will the US Ruin Cuba's Nature?'

Eric Niiler boosted environmentalists' concerns about Cuba in a Monday item for Discovery News. The journalist pointed out how "the time-warp nature of Cuba's Cold War-era embargo with the United States (sic) has....kept developers from exploiting the island's natural resources." He also spotlighted how "many conservationists worry the political thaw between Washington and Havana could bring a flood or tourists and builders while ruining Cuba's remarkably intact environment."

Niiler first noted President Obama's ongoing visit in his article, "Will the US Ruin Cuba's Nature?" Niiler, who also freelances for the Washington Post, quickly cited Daniel Whittle of the Environmental Defense Fund: "There are concerns that somehow there will be a rush to development." Whittle added that "Cuba has been lost in time....I can imagine the specter of Florida's million recreational boats coming to Cuba."

The correspondent continued with a quote from the Ocean Foundation's Fernando Bretos: "I don't agree with the embargo, but the good thing is the tidal wave of people haven't come yet." He underlined that Bretos's "biggest fear is when Cuba's rinky-dink fishing fleet, which currently operates wooden boats with hand-drawn nets, becomes a souped-up commercial fishing operation with more powerful nets, electronic gear and other harvesting technology. That could mean more pressure on local fish populations."

Niiler did provide some balance near the end of his story from a scientist who has studied animals on the island:

Others note that better relations also means a better flow of environmental science technology to the island nation....At least one researcher who has worked in Cuba believes normalization could mean a good thing, at least for scientists who are studying the island's diversity.

"Changes are good for everybody," said Miriam Vanega-Anaya, a biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute who has studied the rare Cuban crocodile as well as the island's unusual frogs and toads.

"For them, this is a good opportunity to join the rest of the world," Vanega-Anaya said from her office in Panama. "They are behind everybody. And science is a good way to start."

Discovery News is just the latest outlet to lament how the U.S. might change Cuba in the wake of President Obama's policy shift. Fox News's Shepard Smith won the MRC's "Ruining the Revolution Award" in 2015, after giving an on-air lament about the possible opening of commercial chains in the communist country: "You know the fear among anybody who's ever been there, or cares at all about the Cuban people, as so many of us do — the last thing they need is a Taco Bell and a Lowe's."

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