People in Need…of an argument

Habana Bay Oil Refinery

In 2015 the organization People in Need published a report about the environmental situation in Cuba. I want to put such report into consideration of our readers. But first, I will identify some of the limitations and weaknesses found in the research carried out by this organization.  It is not my aim to overwhelm the readers with an extensive explanation of the difference between academic papers and reports made by organizations.  Nor I am going to discuss detail by detail the reasons why I consider the report lacks of sufficient depth and scientific rigor. I encourage readers to compare the report with one made by OXFAM in 2013 on the same issue. In addition, I attached the latest statistical yearbook on the environmental situation of Cuba, published by the National Statistics and Information Office.

I’ll start with the positive aspects found in the publication. One of the merits, is that describe in depth issues such as open-pit mining and recycling in Cuba. Some of the findings presented in the article are based on international and national studies. The report also mentions some mechanisms for measuring the ecological footprint ( and compares Cuba with other countries. Another positive element is the description of the Cuban legislative framework on environmental issues and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in the agricultural system in Cuba.

However, the report lacks of a research methodology that compromises the overall robustness of the study. For example:

The report lacks a strong scientific or research relevance

Is difficult to identify the research problem or purpose of the study. In the introduction the report gives a very limited characterization of the environmental situation in Cuba, specifically about the environmental awareness of the population. Additionally the authors reach conclusions without demonstrating effectively where data was taken. There is no mention of theories, concepts or methods employed. Moreover the study generalizes findings in detrimental of the investigation itself.

The report lacks scientific credibility

In this sense we can mention that the report contradicts itself on several occasions, beginning in the same introduction and conclusions. In the 4th paragraph of the introduction the report mentions that the strategies of Environmental Education of the Ministry of Environment in Cuba are “… ineffective”.  However in the conclusions the report states that “… Cuba has an institutional framework that has generated a real base of knowledge” about environment.  It is also mentioned in the introduction that students run through 15 years of formal education but do not know the main environmental problems of the country, this conclusion is not supported by available data. That is only one example of a trend that we could find in the report.  In fact, conclusions based on empiricism abound in the report which makes questioning its credibility. More alarming is the lack of logic. The report uses a lot of data provided by state institutions, however argues that the data is not reliable because of the corruption and lack of transparency of the governmental institutions. I noted that the scientific literature is not abundant. The report establishes some conclusions based on interviews of Cuban experts. Unfortunately there is no mention of the roster of experts interviewed in detriment the scientific rigor of the report.

The report lacks appropriate language

In order to write a relevant scientific paper or a report it is important to use a coherent language with the investigation. Unfortunately in this case the words and phrases used give an absolutist aspect of the finding. However there is no evidence or data to support the conclusions reached. The article uses phrases like:

  • “… the leaflets cannot be acquired anywhere, people do not know and therefore do not read”;
  • “is almost no application in practice”
  • “almost never translates into activities …”
  • “true environmentalism”

All of the above makes us wonder what is the purpose of the investigation and report. In addition it brings serious questions about the depth of research and level of experience of the authors. Lastly, the concern goes beyond the article and falls on the impact on the reader, which can get a blurred image of the reality in Cuba.


Oxfam report – A look at the Cuban experience of protection against climate change

02 Medio Ambiente


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