The American presence at the Guantanamo Prison Camp has been deeply contentious since even before terrorism suspects began to be housed there beginning in 2002. Now as President Obama prepares to make the first presidential visit to Cuba in almost 90 years, ecologists Joe Roman and James Kraska have published their case in the influential journal Science for creating a Guantanamo-based research center to study biodiversity in the Caribbean
[vox.com]. The primary benefit of a Guantanamo Bay research station is symbolic. "The main goal is trying to take Guantanamo and make it an inspiring place, and redeem it,"
[sciencemag.org] says Roman. But the case for Guantanamo Bay as a science lab goes beyond political optics. According to Roman and Kraska the land and the sea offer an ecosystem uniquely worthy of study. The research hub of Roman's dreams would be a state-of-the art facility to help understand how biodiversity loss can be prevented across the Caribbean. "A parcel of the land, perhaps on the developed southeastern side of the base, could become a 'Woods Hole of the Caribbean,'
[wikipedia.org] housing research and educational facilities dedicated to addressing climate change, ocean conservation, and biodiversity loss. With genetics laboratories, geographic information systems laboratories, videoconference rooms — even art, music, and design studios — scientists, scholars, and artists from Cuba, the United States, and around the world could gather and study. The new facilities could strive to be carbon neutral, with four 80-meter wind turbines having been installed on the base in 2005, and designed to minimize ecological damage to the surrounding marine and terrestrial ecosystems"
According to Roman the main idea is that science can be healing: a way to bring diverse nations together, a way to rectify a complicated history, and a way to help better the lives of all people through research. The biggest roadblock won't be the Obama administration but Congress. Republican lawmakers have derided Obama's preliminary framework for closing the prison
[cnn.com] so for the foreseeable future, the status quo will remain. But Roman can still dream. "At a certain point, I don’t know when, that base is going to close. It’s going to return to Cuba at some point. This is a great use of that property. You don’t have many places in the world like that."