Figuring out how to characterize Cuba: The Accidental Eden is one of those quandaries that can reduce a TV critic to tears. Truly, defining this episode of the PBS show Nature is an epic question over which reasonable men can differ.
• Is it hilarious? That's what I thought when one of the U.S. environmentalists featured in the show criticized Cuba's government for supposedly allowing ``some of that Florida-style development from the '60s that we would prefer never to see again anywhere in the world.'' Yes, professor, the residents of the dank, stifling hellholes of Havana Vieja surely share your horror of Kendall and Coral Gables.
• Is it befuddling? I was certainly mystified when Accidental Eden's narrator said that public outrage over a new highway through a wetland area had forced the Cuban government to enact tough new environmental laws. Or else the angry public would have . . . done what? Voted out the Castro brothers? In the staggeringly unlikely event that the Castros ever permit elections, I somehow doubt the key issue will be environmental law.
• Is it grotesque? That was the first word that came to mind when another U.S. environmentalist approvingly noted that Cuba's comparatively sparse population -- the island is the size of Florida but has 8 million fewer residents -- has kept its swamps pristine. Good point: Torture and jail and starve your citizens until millions of them jump into the ocean on inner tubes and the rest sustain some of the highest abortion and suicide rates in the world, and the result will probably be a zero-population-growth eugenicist's dream. Read my full review in Sunday's Miami Herald.