The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba
Since 1970, the Caribbean has lost half its coral reefs, an ominous and accelerating phenomenon reflected around the world. Beyond the heartbreak of the loss of such exquisite beauty, losing coral reefs means the annual loss of billions of dollars from the global economy and the end of a way of life for the billions who depend on these ecosystems.
Marine scientist and conservation leader Dr. David E. Guggenheim has had a front-row seat to this disaster. But when he began a new chapter of his career in Cuba, he found something completely unexpected: hope. After years of watching reefs deteriorate, Guggenheim was astonished to come face-to-face with Cuba’s remarkably healthy coral reefs overflowing with marine life. The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba reveals the hidden lessons of Cuba’s reefs that could help rescue coral reefs around the world.
While the past 60 years have seen the worst decline in ocean health in human history, Cuba’s oceans and coral reefs remain remarkably healthy, a living laboratory little seen by this generation of scientists. Which begs the question—Why are Cuba’s ocean waters so healthy? The answer is deeply entwined with the country’s extraordinary and singularly unique history, from its dramatic political past to its world-class environmental protections influenced by an unlikely partner, Jacques Cousteau.
“The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba” tells the story of the demise of the world’s ocean ecosystems, the hard work of those trying desperately to save it, and an unexpected beacon of hope from an island full of mystery and surprise.
About the Author
David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D., is a marine scientist, conservation policy specialist, ocean explorer, submarine pilot, and educator. He is the founder and president of the Washington, DC–based nonprofit organization Ocean Doctor, dedicated to advancing the conservation of the world’s oceans through research, education, and community engagement.
He is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches ocean sustainability, and was inducted into the Explorers Club as a national fellow in 2008. He makes frequent speaking, television, and radio appearances and has appeared on 60 Minutes, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC, PBS Newshour, and NPR. Guggenheim has been the vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, cochair of the Everglades Coalition, president of the Friends of Channel Islands National Park and board chair of the Great Whale Conservancy.
“Guggenheim’s deeply personal journey into Cuba’s past and present leads him to see the inextricable links between humans and nature, and reasons for hope in an enduring future for both.”
“Cuba’s political difficulties created a silver lining of virtually untouched reefs. They are a reminder of what God intended coral reefs to be and of how badly coral reefs have been massacred by human pollution, overfishing, and climate change. These Cuban reefs offer a beacon of hope as well as a warning of danger, and The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba gives them voice.”
“In telling this important story, Guggenheim shares the little-known account of how my grandfather helped shape Cuba’s environmental future and its strong laws protecting the coastal waters. I am grateful that his legacy continues and endures in Cuba and that his message of love and hope for our oceans continues to resonate.”
“The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba is a truly inspirational story about our corals, how they live, and what we can do to protect them. Thanks, David, for showing us that there is still hope!”
“While filming Chasing Coral, we witnessed climate change’s devastating impact on the beloved Great Barrier Reef. Guggenheim’s 20-year account brings hope as he shares the lessons of Cuba’s remarkable coral reefs and how their secrets can help us rescue the planet’s remaining reefs before it’s too late.”
“Guggenheim is a first-rate scientist and story-teller. Eloquently weaving scientific knowledge with the history of Cuba’s amazing corals, The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba is a must-read for anyone wishing to learn about the science and the story of coral reefs and the amazing humans who dedicated their lives to defend the beauty of coral reefs and their pivotal role in securing the promise of a living and thriving nature.”
“As an oceanographer, Guggenheim writes engrossingly on the imminent collapse of the world’s reefs. But he holds a special hope that Cuba will be different, and explains what lessons of global application can be learned there. His story is one of good-humored perseverance in an inestimably good cause. It’s our good luck that he has shared that story.”
From the Author
This book is far from a textbook on coral reef science and conservation. Nor is it anywhere near a comprehensive history of Cuba or a treatise on Cuba-U.S. relations and regulations. In the end, it is an account not only about science and history, but a collection of stories of real people, real challenges and real collaborative work. It is a journey through what I consider simultaneously the most rewarding work of my career, and the most frustrating.
It’s impossible to tell this story without the context of the history of how we have managed to lose half of our coral reefs in the Caribbean. It’s impossible to tell this story without telling the story of Cuba — its history, its culture, its people and its struggles. It’s impossible to tell this story without telling the inspirational story of collaboration of dedicated scientists from Cuba and the U.S., working against a relentless tide of politics to learn from the sea and work to protect it. And it’s impossible to tell this story without sharing my personal experiences, victories and failures, from the perspective of an American with no Latin heritage, groping his way through unfamiliar territory for more than two decades, and the unanticipated reward of the profound warmth, welcoming and friendship of the Cuban people.
Early Reviews & Media Coverage: “The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba”
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Why a Book Signing of “The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba” is a Strong Event for Your Venue
The Remarkable Reefs of Cuba: Hopeful Stories from the Ocean Doctor appeals to a broad and diverse audience, penned by a prominent figure in ocean conservation and policy:
- The author, Dr. David E. Guggenheim, also known as the “Ocean Doctor,” is a well-known conservation leader, accomplished public speaker, a frequent international keynote speaker, and has appeared in many TV and print media, including 60 Minutes, PBS Newshour, NPR, Good Morning America, PBS Nature Series, the NY Times and many others.
- While the primary target audience is oriented toward sustainability and nature (who would obviously have interest in Cuba’s coral reefs), it is far from a dry textbook-style treatise. Rather, Remarkable Reefs is written in an accessible storytelling fashion, appealing to a broad, lay audience with a range of interests. The book is a collection of stories about real people and the challenges of collaboration between Cubans and Americans and the unlikely success of their joint conservation and research efforts in unknown waters.
- The book also appeals to those interested in Cuba and its mysteries, an island largely unknown to American and other foreign audiences, focused not only on Cuba’s singularly unique history and the politics of Cuba-U.S. relations to those with an interest in Cuba’s mysteries, but also the personal stories of its people, their personal stories and challenges. It vividly illustrates how Cuban and American scientists have succeeded where diplomats have failed in improving relations between the two countries.
- To tell the stories of Cuba’s “remarkable reefs,” the book necessarily explores why the rest of us have failed to protect our reefs, resulting in a 50 percent loss of corals worldwide. The book is therefore as much about our history and failures as it is about Cuba’s history, its challenges and its successes.
- Finally, the book appeals to armchair travelers, especially those fond of a “fish out of water” genre as the author shares more than twenty years of his personal experiences — triumphant, tragic, bizarre and comical — all from the perspective of an American with no Latin heritage, groping his way through utterly unfamiliar culture, politics and natural beauty, and the unanticipated warmth, welcoming, and friendship of the Cuban people.