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The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

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The Community Solution is an organization exploring the peak oil crisis. Its focus is on local community-based solutions that reflect the values of cooperation,conservation and curtailment. The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil The break up of the Soviet Union in the early '90s created a major economic crisis in Cuba known as the Special Period. So we have from 1989 to 1993 a free fall of the economic tool of 34% of GDP. When I tell you, free fall of the economy try to imagine an airplane suddenly loosing its was really a crash. Cuba lost 80% of it's export and import markets oil imports dropped by more then half buses stopped running factories closed, electricity blackouts were common, and food was scarce. People almost starved. In reality when this all began it was a necessity. People had to start cultivating vegetables where ever they could. Over the next decade, Cuba took drastic steps to find solutions. It is the first country to face the crisis that we will all face. The Peak Oil Crisis. Two years ago we learned about a concept called Peak Oil in which we will find that oil production will be reaching its peak sometime in the next few years and be going down, and that implies a basically a major change in our way of life. And what we've discovered is that Cuba, because their own artificial Peak Oil was imposed on them when the Soviet Union collapsed, is actually a model for what’s going to take place in the rest of the world. So we wanted to see if we can capture what is it in the Cuban people and the Cuban culture that allowed them to go through this very difficult time without competing over the scarce resources. We think Cuba has a lot to show the world about how to deal with energy adversity which I think we'll all be facing. A Short History of Peak Oil In 1949 Oil Geologist Dr. M. King Hubbert developed the theory of oil depletion making the prediction that the fossil fuel era would be very short. In 1956 he forecasted that American Oil production in the contental 48 States would reach Peak production in 1970. Production did Peak that year as he predicted. In 1974 Hubbert testified to a senate subcommittee warning of the dangers of the climbing fossil fuels and an exponential growth culture. The US oil peak in 1970 combined with the crisis in the Middle East led to severe Oil shortages and an economic crisis in the Country. Americans experienced record high interest rates, long gass lines, the highest gasoline prices in history, recession and the declining stock market. Government films were produced explaining the problem: We were caught by surprise with the crisis that could recur and recur unless the entire Country recognized the dangers of a quite real energy shortage. Our industrial progress and economic growth was fired by what many seem to look on as endless energy. But warning signs were there. I think it's going to end with everybody changing their habits. During this time gas purchases were restricted to every other day, long gas lines appeared and the speed limit was lowered. President Carter formed a task force which in 1980 published "The Global 2000 Report to the President". The report pointed out that by the year of the 2000, half of all the Oil available in the world would have been consumed. Carter had began a new energy policy. Tax credits were offered for alternative energy and wind turbines began to appear on the landscape. But then Alaska's Prudhoe Bay and the oil fields on the North Sea came on line. The oil crisis eased and prices dropped. Carter's call for frugality and care was rejected. Ronald Reagan moved into the White House and dramatically cut research and development for alternative energy. It was morning in America again, and the Country went to sleep for a generation. But the problem didn't go away as oil consumption continued to increase year after year. In 1997 petroleum geologist Dr. Colin Campbell wrote "The Coming Oil Crisis". Three years later he founded the association for the study of Peak Oil known as ASPO, and held the first meeting on Peak Oil in Sweden in 2002. Dr. Ken Deffeye, a Princeton oil geologist published "Hubbert's Peak" in 2001, followed two years later by Richard Heinberg's seminal work "The Party's Over". In 2005 Matt Simmons book "Twilight in the desert" challenged the stated oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. A flood of books and magazines began to appear on the market. 25 books were published in 2004 and 2005 and hundreds of articles in newspapers and magazines. The long sleep of the 80's and 90's is coming to an end and with no more preparation then in 1970 global Peak Oil is arriving. Peak Oil is the point in time when oil production reaches it's maximum and it doesn't mean that we are running out, what it means is that we are going to have a continuous declining production from that point. Peak of Oil occurs when a reservoir is about half empty. Reservoir pressure drops at a half way point so less and less oil would be extracted each year. World Oil Production grew slowly until the 1950's, then exhilarated until the late 1970's, dipped for a few years because of the mid-east crisis, and then began increasing again. In a few years we'll hit The ultimate peak, and half the world's oil will be gone. Oil Production will begin to decline, at the same time world oil demand will continue to grow, and world population is increasing along with it. What peaks is not total oil, it's the easy oil to produce. What's left is the less desirable oil you couldn't get out in the first place, very fast. It takes more energy to produce, and a far smaller quantity comes from each well. Oil is finite, national gas is finite, coal, uranium, all these are finite fuels. So there's going to be a peak for all of these, and Peak Oil is just the beginning. The effect on our culture could be extreme. Our economy and our way of life are based on consuming oil and other fossil fuels. Each person in the U.S. consumes the yearly per capita equivalent of ten barrels of oil for food, nine barrels of oil for automobiles and 7 barrels of oil for their homes. The major use of fossil fuels is for food production. What Peak Oil means is essentially a limited supply. World oil discovery peaked in the mid 1960's and has been declining ever since. Right now we're consuming about 5 barrels of oil for every one that we discover. That is an unsustainable amount and can't be continued much longer. But at the same time we have increasing demands throughout the world, especially in developing countries like China. Now, in 1993 China has 730.000 cars on the road and by the start of 2004 they had 6.000.000 cars. By the end of 2004 they had 8.000.000 cars. They've convinced people that it's nice to drive. The whole vision for these developing countries is that they're going to be like America someday and that the people are going to be able to consume the way that the Americans have consumed. But that's not going to be able to happen and that's not even possible for America. Americans won't be able to consume like Americans today. Peak Oil is unprecedented. We've never become dependent on fossil fuels before in human history, and we’ve never experience a peak in fossil fuel production, so, we're flying blind, as a global community. And so we need examples, we need a some sort of laboratory experiment where we can run this and see what's the best way to do it, what's not so good and so on. And Cuba provides us with that because Cuba has already undergone a kind of energy famine. Cuba's Economic Crisis - The Special Period After the Soviet Union oil import dropped from 14.000.000 tons a year to only 4. Cuba in 80's had 90.000 Russian tractors. Factories of pesticides, of chemical fertilizers, we received from the Soviet Union. In 1990 everything changed. There was nothing. When the deep economic crisis began, in the early 1990's, it was a change in our lifestyle. We, all-of-a sudden, saw abruptly in a matter of a week’s time, a huge change. We saw symptoms of malnutrition in children of five years of age, we saw pregnant women with anemia, we had underweight babies at birth. The impact of food scarcity was disastrous. The average Cuban lost 20 pounds by 1994. We were desperate for everything. We didn't care about first world quality standards on any commodity. We just needed food. It doesn't matter what you bring. We will buy. Without imported fuel oil it was impossible for Cuba to generate the electricity it needed resulting in blackouts throughout the country. We had, at that time, power cuts that lasted for many, many hours, maybe up to 14, 16 hours a day. And this, in a climate such as ours, is very difficult. Because you do need fridges so the food won't spoil. You had to cook on a daily basis, what you had to eat at that moment, because you just couldn't put things away, and it was a very difficult moment. Power cuts were particularly hard in Cuba's large housing complexes. In a tropical climate, with it's heat and humidity, it was difficult to be without the use of air conditioners and fans. Without elevators people used the stairs. Water was carried up or hauled up the outside of the building using a pulley and rope. When taking a bus, people had to wait 3 to 4 hours. When the bus arrived at work, often there was no power. Even if there was power, sometimes there were no spare parts or raw materials. So even if they got to work and had electricity, there was nothing to do. After work they had to wait other 3 to 4 hours for a bus, and often, when the bus arrived it was full, and they'd have to wait for another one. The government imported 1,2 million bicycles from China, and manufactured half a million more. We had to then learn how to use bicycles, and bicycles were distributed all around the country to try to get to get to our work places. Doctors went to the hospital on bikes, without any culture of using bikes. It was just political will, that was it. There was no other way. In 1992 the U.S. tightened it's embargo on Cuba. Any ship that docked in the Cuban port was denied access to the U.S. for 6 months afterwards. Almost over nights 750 million dollars worth of food and medical supplies to Cuba were halted. A few years later the embargo was intensified and foreign businesses working in Cuba were barged from entering the U.S. Cuba's access to foreign capital was crippled. In the case of Cuba you try to suffocate a country. You deprive the country of access to financial sources, so Cuba cannot have access to the World Bank or to the IMF for good. American dollar reached a 150 (Cuban) pesos and the average salary was 2 pesos, so there were people making 2 bucks a month. So money was not useful to get stuff. So we end up being like an experiment, no? Like with controlled conditions. Like nothing or very little things can get from the outside so everything had to happen from the inside. During the first five years of the special period government food rations kept the crisis at bay. These food distributions guarantied a minimum level of food to each of Cuban citizens. And it was invented when we lost diplomatic relations with US, no more economic relations with US, and in order to prevent hoarding. Ok? so the people who had more money couldn’t just swipe, go away with everything on the counters, and others would go hungry, so they invented this ration food distribution system. With food imports reduced by 80%, the government supplied food distributions had to be cut drastically. You have the official state market trough subsidies, ration card, which has been shrink to perhaps one fifth of consumption, from almost 100%. Now lets go to this board I want to show you so you could understand. This is on a monthly basis. Anyone of the Cuban population has granted trough this system, 3 of 4 weeks of basic consumption according to UN minimum level of calories ingestion in a month. To complete the four weeks basic level, it could come in the form of subsidized food in your work place,lower prices. So you pay meals at subsidized prices. So that allows you to pay on the weekends or nights for meals. So there might be a week, where you might have to buy extra. It depends also on your consuming habits. Agriculture Every aspect of Cuban life was affected by the Special Period. But no change was as far reaching as agriculture. Cuba had committed to the Green Revolution a system which required the massive use of fossil fuels in the form of natural gas based fertilizers oil based pesticides, and diesel fuel for tractors and other farm machinery. The country's agriculture was more industrialized than any other latin america country and exceeded the US in it's use of fertilizer. Cuban agricultural "green revolution" system never was able to feed the people. We had high yields but was a lot oriented to the plantation agriculture of an economy, we export citrus, tobacco, sugar cane, and we import the basics 55% of the rice, more then about 50% of the vegetable oil and lard that we consumed. So the system, even in the good times how people here remember never fulfilled the basic needs. Cuba's agriculture began to falter, as one problem after another halted the production. Fuel and parts for tractors were almost impossible to find. Seeds, tools, animal feed and vaccines were scarce. (The fall of the Soviet Union) forced us to have a survival agriculture. Chemical (fertilizers) were no longer available. So without all the corn flour, fertilizers, grains, and cooking oil - it was a big blow. Many thought that this situation would only last three to six months. In really it was a very difficult stage, to adapt the economy to these conditions. The lack of fuel drove us to have a very big shortage of food. So people end up squatting places in the city and growing food there without knowing how because they were engineers, they were doctors they were not farmers. A drastic effort to convert every piece of arable land to organic agriculture was begun. Urban Gardens During the special period, Cuba was able to help prevent famine through an Urban Agricultural Movement. Every vacant lot in the city was turned into an orchard. At first, Urban Gardening was an ad-hoc local survival response to the crisis. And when they needed food, but didn't know how, they just did it trial and error. And there wasn't space they had problems with garbage dumping, rats. So they fixed all of those problems, got rid of the garbage and started growing things there. Another thing during this special period was the identification of idle plots of land. They were cleaned up by the community and turned into agricultural gardens. Hearing of the crisis Australian permaculture experts came to Cuba to assist in developing new ways to garden and raise food. So in October 1993 the first two Australians came and so we started to design the rooftop gardening in that place. And after that we got this small project. For us it was a lot of money. 26.000 American dollars and we started to do the "train the trainer course". They're one of the largest capacity centers for permaculture in Havana and they themselves have trained over 400 people. Not only has through these workshops and courses, has the community learned about permaculture, but they here in the center have learned a lot about the community. For example if someone comes here and they have a health problem, they do whatever they can to help with that, but also they service kind of a reference point. They will go and look for the specialists and bring them here, so it's a mutual relationship. The people cooperating with, and caring about each other are the main factors that we need to encourage. We can all plant fruit trees, we can all have water catchment devices on our roofs. It's not the technology, it's the human relationships. The neighbors are starting to see the possibilities of what they can do in their spaces and they're starting to create natural gardens on their roofs and also on their patios. Cubans who formerly lived on the equivalent of just 2 $ a month found new ways to supplement their income. This grapevines have a lot of uses, they provide shade for the patio area, you also can make wine out of the grapes and it's very good for the family economy because if you do it well you could get about 10 pesos for about one. Cubans view of agriculture has changed dramatically. Farmers are now among the highest paid workers and people from all fields are attracted to the profession. I'm a musician, I can mechanics, automobile mechanics, a designer of electronics, and nothing of this I am doing. only this, just animals and these plants. So he is an urban farmer on the top of his house. The farmers in Cuba are not the poorest people of the society. On the contrary, they have food, so they don't have to spend their money on food and they sell food, so they make good living. So it is important to take that in account. that it's an only way to dignify the people that grow food. With the very low cost we were producing food and now we have more then 1.000 kiosks allocated in the city that provide you with fresh fruit and vegetables produced in the neighborhood. More than 50% of the total vegetable needs of Havana's population, 2,2 million inhabitants are supplied by urban agriculture. In small cities and towns urban gardens are even more productive, providing 80 to 100% percent of the fruits and vegetables they need. Urban agriculture supplies food locally eliminating much of the need for transporting food over long distances. The country have 169 municipalities, so 5 km around the municipal towns also are considered urban agriculture. So it's a national system that is employing more than 140 thousand people actually, is creating jobs, is a growing sector of the economy and it is very important. And we are very proud to say that. Sustainable Practices Cuba eliminated the need for natural gas based fertilizers and oil based pesticides by developing organic farming methods. Fortunately, research centers have begun studying sustainable agriculture before the crisis. Because of this preparation, a transition to an approach to farming that didn't depend on fossil fuels was implemented nationally in just a few years. Without fossil fuels more manual labor was needed making smaller farms necessary and increasing the number of farmers. One of the peak oil challenges is to reclaim land from the large scale conventional agriculture. The soil takes millions of years to form, and to destroy - it takes very little time. One of the problems that chemicals bring to the land is de-mineralization and the disappearance of the micro-flora and micro-fauna - the life of the soil. The soil is a living being and in the top soil in the first 3 inches of soil, is the key. You add chemicals, you damage all of that, so then the soils became almost like sand. So we're going to be having interesting challenges to rehabilitate the soil. Cuba found that it took from 3 to 5 years to make the land fertile and productive again. Organic needs a transition, no? Needs some time. And needs some money to establish the system because when you get the soil, the soil is so damaged and dead that you need to rebuild the soil, you need to bring back the soil to life. You have to follow the natural cycles so you hire nature to work for you, not work against nature. To work against nature you have to use huge amounts of energy. Conventional people use this heavy machinery that compacts the soil huge tractors, huge combines, trucks and things like that. So you have to open the soil again, add more nutrients. The first ethic, to take care of the land, of the earth, this is very important. If we don't take care of the Earth, Earth will take care of us, and get rid of us. So the researchers began to quickly focus on organic agriculture as much from the point of view of pesticides as nutrition. For me is more important how the things that I'm eating are growing or are produced that what I'm eating. So if a vegan eats this heavily pesticide polluted vegetables he is not doing much. The fact that we now use organic materials, microorganisms have begun to reappear and slowly the levels of organic material increase through the systematic application of organic compost. Cuba's new agriculture uses a variety of soil enhancing alternatives to rebuild and maintain the soil. Crop rotation, composting, and green manure which is a process of plowing young vegetation into the soil. Many tons of organic compost are produced using kitchen scraps, rice hulls, and other organic mater. Warm humus is made in long troughs, where worms are fed organic waste products. This makes a richer fertilizer than regular compost. One ton of worm humus is equal to six tons of organic compost. Today 80% of Cuba's agricultural production is organic. The lack of fuel drove us to use less machinery, to go to smaller farms to combine different crops in one small piece of land. Preventing pests spreading. If you have one million plants of corn you will have one million bugs that eats only corn. And you have a pest. We developed many bio-pesticides and many bio-fertilizers. Today we are even exporting to Central American countries and other Latin American countries we're exporting bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers. Remember, Cuba has one advantage. If the key population of Cuba is 2% of the population in Latin America, Cuba has 11% of all the scientists in Latin America. It's difficult to grow certain crops in Cuba's heat so farmers use a variety of mesh covers to cut the sun's rays. We can extend the season and just using something as simple as putting a fabric. A porous fabric over a simple structure that you can remove when a hurricane is coming and you can build again. It's very simple, and this fabric also allows you to control the pests. Because, you not only reduce the radiation and the heat but you also reduce the number of bugs entering into the area. In the 80's in Cuba we used 21.000 tons of pesticides, chemical pesticides, now it's 1.000. We are using 21 times less pesticides. This is good for the environment, this is good for the health, and this is also good for the soil. Cuba uses crop inter-planting to reduce the need for pesticides and make their agriculture more sustainable. Nobody fertilizes a forest, nobody irrigates the forest, the forests do by itself. So if you are able to create something like a food forest, your main effort is to pick the fruits and pick the produce, and so in that way the effort is less. You work hard in the very beginning, but once the system is established you work a lot less. It's what we call lazy people agriculture, but it's because you are working with nature not against nature. These people in the conventional system work against the nature. One of the good sides of the crisis was to go back to oxen. To use animals, not only that they save fuel, they do not compact the soil the way that tractor does. they exert less pressure and even the legs of the oxen remove the earth. Older farmers who still remember how to grow and train oxen were set up in training schools. In a little over a year most cooperatives had someone trained and the process of raising thousands of oxen had begun. A pair of oxen is not the same as a tractor. A man can work 8 hours in a tractor and have conditioned air, and a CD player, but you can not work for those hours because oxen will just go on the floor and say “That’s it.” But you need also to train those people and train the oxen as well. So it was necessary a result of a change of mind a change of scale. And it was a big effort but, how much money have they saved in fuel how much money they saved in parts, how much money they saved in tractors. I just say how much money is the pollution of these tractors? You have to analyze from several approaches. They did it because they had to. But from a few years point of view there are many benefits. Land Distribution To increase food production, the government worked with farmers to find local solutions. The result was smaller farms and cooperatives with high degree of privatization and autonomy. 40% of the large state farms were divided into privately owned cooperatives. Tens of thousands of acres of land were leased rent free to a smaller farmers. Decision making was localized with fewer state regulations. Two requirements, you grow things there. If you don't grow things there we take the place away from you and give it to somebody else. And second, that the land is delivered to you in Usufruct, Usufruct is an old Roman word that means that you can use the land, without paying taxes, without paying for it. But if this land is needed for another purpose, you have to give it back to the government. These smaller farms and cooperatives were better able to use the new sustainable practices vital for growing food organically. 12% - 50% of the total arable land is in private hands in Cuba. So these are the private farmers. They are by far the highest production per acre and per person. In second places it's like co-ops, cooperatives, and they are the second one, and third is like the huge government state farms. These new private farms and co-ops also began to function in new ways. But we have credit and services co-ops, what does that mean? You don't wanna join your land with me - we don't. but we are together in a co-op for credits, to buy the seed together, to hire the machinery, for this stuff, but we don't have to join our lands. So it's a way of decentralizing but centralizing at the same time. Thousands of families moved to rural land. With land rights guarantied a sense of ownership led to greater productivity. Private farmers markets and new export markets led to greater production. The communities have changed. It's a local economy. People were exchanging things. Many of these gardens,they supply for free, food to elder people circles, day-care centers, schools, working centers, pregnant women. And they do it for free. They don't do it because it is compulsory, they do it because they wanted. They want do their needed part to the society while in other places people don't know their neighbours. They don't know their names, they don't say hello to each other. Here no, they would knock on the door and say: I need some salt, I need some sugar, whatever, I brought you an avocado. Recovering this sense of neighbor for me is not going backwards. Education and Health Without oil for transportation Cuba's educational system was threatened. Decentralizing universities provided people with access to nearby schools tor higher education and lessen the impact of fuel shortages. The example of the universities now is to put one in every municipality also. Because in my opinion, transportation and housing is right now the biggest problem in Cuba because this depends more on oil. This large building was a most exclusive school in Cuba, the Sococur, but today is a university of medical sciences. For your information Cuba had 3 universities, but today has about 50. Seven of them in Havana. Medical clinics and schools are available throughout Cuba. During the crisis the Cuban government continued supplying it's citizens with free health care and education. Very different from what happens world wide, when there is an economic crisis, the first thing they do is cut down on social services. This was not the case. Doctors, nurses and social workers lived within the neighbourhoods where they worked. Part of the social fabric of the community. Cuba's free medical care helped them in the crisis. In spite of the hardships they maintained a life span and infant mortality rate roughly equal to that in the U.S. Even though the average Cuban consumes less then 1/8 the energy of the average American. Overall the economic crisis improved Cuban's health. Increased walking and biking reduced diabetes and the number of heart attacks and strokes. The Cuban diet changed. Fat consumption was reduced. While more vegetables and a wider variety of vegetables were eaten. Before, Cubans didn't need that much vegetables because they ate more tubers for example, cassava, taro, potato, but rice and beans and pork meat was the basic diet, the national food. And they say that the rest of the things with the exception of maybe tomato and lettuce and a little bit of cabbage were weeds. So at some point the necessity teach them. Now they demand it, they look for it. Cuba actually trains more doctors then they need and sends them to developing countries around the world. They also exchange doctors and medical expertise with Venezuela in return for oil. Transportation When I look at other countries, developed countries, everything goes around making the automobile more efficient. How much energy do you need to produce a car? You have to spend energy on producing the car and later you have to find the fuel to make the car move. So think about reducing the number of cars. During the worst of the crisis there was very little fuel for cars. The freeway and country roads were almost empty. Cuba needed to develop a mass transit system overnight. With few resources, they had to be innovative. Old trucks were made into buses with canopies to keep off the rain and steps welded on the back. Another solution was the “Camel,” a trailer pulled by a semi-tractor that can carry up to 300 people. In Havana and other provinces, car pooling and hitchhiking are common. Government cars are required to pick up anyone who needs a ride. The loss of fuel for transportation also affected small towns and cities. There people turned to horses and mules for transportation. During the first years of the Special Period, bicycles were a necessity. This was not easy for Cubans who had been used to cars and buses. It requires more consciousness and more awareness about the use of the bicycle, that the bicycle is not something that we have to use because we don’t have fuel or we don’t have buses in the city. The question is that the bicycle never contaminates it’s more healthy, and for short distances it’s very practical. But if you have to move 20 kilometers a day, back and forth 40 kilometers a day on a Chinese bicycle with no gears all steel, after 5 years you hate it. And that is what happened in Cuba. Like at some point, when there are more camels and buses, people just quit, because they were sick of it. One day people will start thinking about the end of the car, what would be an era, a moment in the life. So one day the car appeared and one day the car will disappear. The car will be something that we will remember as a moment in the development of mankind. Housing Since the special period began, it’s been difficult to build new housing because of a scarcity of tools and materials. Cement production requires a lot of fuel and that’s why cement production has been reduced. Everyone in Cuba has a place to live and 85% of the people own their own home. But most houses are small and simple with few amenities. In the countryside that means a small house, with a living room, kitchen and two or three bedrooms. Rural housing has the advantage of more open space, where people can grow vegetables and fruit and raise livestock. This whole meal comes from our garden, except for the rice. The beans, pork and lettuce, all of it we planted and raised it all in our garden. In Havana, if you don’t live in one of the old single-family homes, it may mean living in a dilapidated building or with your relatives in a crowded apartment. Even so, the city is a place many people want to live. Havana already has the values that many urban planners and architects in the world would like to recover. Many people have come and said “you should preserve the city we want to recover.” After the big sprawl, many people are looking back to the traditional city and looking at the ways to live in the traditional city, in a more human way. But living in a city, without adequate transportation, causes major difficulties. They have to come and go, they have to commute and they have to spend time looking for transportation between the city and their neighborhood. To reduce the long commutes, new mixed use developments include schools, places to work and places for recreation within walking and biking distance of people’s homes. Everybody must use the same space. So design provides a common space for everybody. This is a way to keep your community alive. Energy Alternatives At the start of the special period 95% of Cuban’s were connected to the national electric grid. The other 5% lived in remote areas. Photovoltaic and wind energy are too expensive to meet much of Cuba’s energy needs. But for areas not connected to the grid, small-scale wind and hydro systems as well as solar panels are used. Priority is given to schools and clinics. Recently, more than 2000 rural schools were supplied with solar panels to have electricity. It was less costly to give them the solar panels rather than to connect them to the grid. In Los Tumbos solar panels power the school, clinic, community center, even people’s homes. They have their panels up on their roof and they are recharging the light battery right now. A compact florescent. They can put this radio on. And this is another panel, it’s her son’s, who lives right there. Small solutions have been developed throughout Cuba such as using the sun to pre heat hot water. People in Cuba, used to shower with hot water. So they used the traditional oil or energy, whatever they had, to heat the water. So if we can have solar heaters, it’s better. When you obtain the water from the solar heater, it is 60 degrees. You can save half of the fuel you use to heat the water to boil. Before the crisis, Cuba relied on imported fuel oil to generate electricity. Without this, they had to modify their power plants to burn their poor quality domestic crude oil. Our crude oil is a very bad thing for the environment. But we had no choice; it’s a mater of live or die. They also began using crop waste to generate electricity. Sugar mills have been turned into power plants, because you mill the sugar and then you have the bagasse, you burn the fibers, you produce heat and then you produce electricity. So you can turn the sugar mill, during the season or after the season, into an additional power plant. Right now in Cuba, during the time of harvest, which is about three or four months during the year, 30% of the energy that’s generated in Cuba comes from this renewable source of biomass. This is what we call the energetic sovereignty. We do not depend on oil imports to produce electricity. Cuban Perspectives The problem is, what people say about Cuba in the States, is not what we are doing here. Many people there think, “How can they survive, if they don’t have anything.” OK, come here and you can see how we can survive. In this way we can begin to understand each other and to know how we think. Mankind is burning, in one century, all the oil accumulated by nature during millions of years. And that is absurd, completely absurd. I don’t see that countries who depend largely on imported oil are thinking about alternative sources of energy. They are just planning for the next week. If I’m in Cuba, I say, “People, we have problems we must turn off all the lights that we are not using.” And everybody says, “OK, we are going to turn off.” But if I say in the United States, “People we must turn off all the lights.” Everybody says, “Why, if I pay?” The problem is we must change how we think. The idea of Peak Oil is that things are going to change and that there is going to be less. I think Cuban’s understand that on an international global level because island people have that innate sense of a limited resource. And also they realize, in terms of energy, if they want to be politically independent, they had to be economically independent, and to be economically independent, you have to be energy independent. Is oil going to last, in the next 10 to 15 years? Who knows, maybe not. Maybe in Cuba we find an enormous oil tank underground for 50 years more. Oh, wonderful, we have 50 years more. But the security of supply is getting more risky, day by day. There is this hope to find in the deep waters of the Mexican Gulf, good petrol. But people don’t think about that as an asset, “We’re going to improve the life here.” We’re going to sell it, you know? Because people know that we don’t need that to live. We need money to develop, but it is something to sell, not something to use or to waste. The sun was able to maintain life on earth during millions of years. Only the problem is now when we arrive and we changed the way we use the energy. The problem is, if the sun has been enough to sustain life, and now we cannot sustain the kind of society we have on our planet. The problem is with our society not with the energy, not with the world of energy. There are infinite small solutions. You fix one little problem here one little problem there and life is better. You think globally, you act locally. This is very important, because otherwise you give the impression to people that this is the United Nations, presidents, scientists and they don’t have to do anything, that they will fix the problem. But people have to start from scratch and start to do small things, baby steps. Crisis or changes or problems can trigger many of these things. that these are sustainable, alternative, whatever it’s called, but it’s basically adapting. We are adapting to changes. And that is the success of human beings. What we must know, is that the world is changing and we must change the way we see the world. One of the things we need is more friendship, more love, because we have only one world The world is only one and it is for all of us. I think we could learn a lot from each other. And reflect more on how to be happy with less. and how you really don’t need that much to be happy. I think that that is a challenge, a world challenge. Cuba has modest experience that maybe some other people could learn from. And I think it will be a time for sharing, a time for cooperation and a time for more solidarity, for working together. I think maybe we’ll have a better world. .

Video Details

Duration: 53 minutes and 5 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Community Solutions
Director: Faith Morgan
Views: 2,570
Posted by: plasterius on Jul 29, 2010

This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope.

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