Guantánamo 2.0: Transforming Gitmo into a Peace Park and Ecological Research Center

  • Joe Roman
Part of the Landscape Series book series (LAEC, volume 25)


Cuba has a long history of environmental protection, with a network of more than 250 national parks and protected areas, and relatively high levels of fish biomass and marine biodiversity in marine parks that are unparalleled in the Caribbean. There is concern that the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba might reverse the country’s advances in ecological conservation. In this chapter, I propose an approach to protect Cuba’s coastal ecosystems and enhance conservation and ecological research throughout the Caribbean. After helping Cuba fight for independence from Spain, the United States occupied the island in 1898. As part of the Cuban-American Treaty, which granted Cuba independence in 1902, the new country was required to rent Guantánamo Bay to the United States as a coaling and naval station, a perpetual lease that could be broken only by mutual consent. The present U.S. policy is that withdrawal from the base is not an option. Cuba insists on an unconditional return of the land as part of normalization. There is a third path that would benefit Cuba, the United States, and the rest of the world. Once the military prison at U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay is closed, the entire base should be repurposed into a state-of-the-art research institution and peace park, a conservation zone to help resolve conflicts between the two countries. A first step in returning the land to Cuba, this model could unite both nations in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them. By bringing together Cuban, U.S., and international scientists, artists, and scholars, Guantánamo could help all countries meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction, and declining coral reefs.



I thank Todd R. Lookingbill and Peter D. Smallwood for encouraging me to submit this chapter. Many of the ideas were developed with James Kraska for our 2016 article, “Reboot Gitmo for U.S. Cuba research diplomacy,” in Science. Influential early reviewers include Dan Whittle, Paul Kramer, and my steadfast editor, Debora Greger. Dave Hampton created images and helped envision the transition from base to park. David Birkin, Gillian Galford, Gillian Pirolli, and Sam Grubinger helped with figures, and David Evans provided background information. The Gund Institute for Environment, Paul Lattanzio, and Allison and Winthrop Pescosolido provided financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joe Roman
    • 1
  1. 1.Gund Institute for Environment, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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