Saying goodbye to a friend recently reminded me how it is in Florida’s interest to build a scientific bridge to Cuba, regardless of politics.
Manatees don’t use passports to go back and forth between Florida and Cuba. Nor do bugs with an appetite for crops wait for relations to thaw before they hitchhike across the straits.
To share the knowledge we need to protect manatees or prevent the arrival of an invasive species, we need trust in each other. Whom do you trust? Your friends? Or people you don’t know?
Olegario Muñiz, whom I trust and consider a friend, headed back to Havana after a year in our soil and water sciences department.
Olegario is a world leader in the field. While here, he translated IFAS Professor Pedro Sanchez’s seminal textbook, Properties and Management of Soils in the Tropics, into Suelos del Trópico: Características y Manejo.
Pedro knew he could trust Olegario because they’ve known each other since high school – nearly 60 years ago. In fact, Olegario stayed in Pedro’s home for the entire year he was in Gainesville.
And I am in debt to Olegario for his tireless work in connecting me to Cuban agriculture’s political and scientific leaders. Those introductions have been the basis for discussions on possible collaborations.
My travels across the globe have given me a deeper appreciation that people are people are people. Despite political differences between countries, the human connection of friendship, good will, shared science, and respect can and will change the world for the better.
Olegario is home now, but his relationship with UF/IFAS is key to future scientific collaborations. He’s an honorary Gator. He, too, wants to make the world a better place, from the soil up.
No matter what part of IFAS we work in, we’re in the business of making the world a better place. Gators make greater impact – they Go Greater – when we earn the trust of the world.