I travelled to Cuba to join the CERES Global 2 week tour (ably lead by Ben), prior to attending the International Permaculture Conference, Convergence and a week of tours to selected permaculture sites.
It was significant that the conference was held in Cuba, as Cuba is said to be the best example of permaculture in the world because it is the highest producer of local, organically grown food in a low-energy economy. So what better way to learn how to survive with less energy than to travel in a country that has been doing it since the 1990s, when Russia stopped buying their sugar in exchange for oil? In fact, Cubans on average lost 20kg in weight because of this “special period”. But luckily even the poorest person did not starve because of the ration stores which still exist today.
To go into the history of Cuba is it beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice to say that Youtube is a good place to get an idea. See ‘Power of Community’ and the BBC documentary, ‘The last chance to see Castro’s Cuba’.
I was reminded of my own up bringing in rural Victoria in the 1950s. We were poor but self-sufficient subsistence farmers, with pigs in the paddock adjoining the house, large vege garden and milking cows by hand prior to electricity being connected.
While oil refineries still operate in Cuba to fuel the 1950s vehicles, life is at a much slower pace. No internet to speak of, long queues controlled by security officers at the bank, teleprunter and the even bakery café and reminders everywhere of who is in charge of this socialist state. Farmers ride horses to work their farms and horse and buggies transport people and farm-produce not only in the country but also in the towns and cities. There are relatively few buses, tractors and trucks and old Russian military trucks transport tourists into the mountains.
Ancient buildings while still intact are crumbling, but theCubans enjoy free health care and education. The education system is turning out more doctors and engineers than they need and they either find non professional work locally or are sent overseas to earn export dollars for the state. Either way they deal in local pesos which is about a tenth of the value of the CUCs (convertible currency) available for tourists.
Because of our interest in permaculture we toured several ‘community / market permaculture gardens, often in the shadow of high rise flats and we also saw some amazing reforested mountains and eco villages designed to managed the impact of increasingly more frequent and severe cyclones and hurricanes in the Carribean Sea. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides are not available and are replaced by organic practices.
I certainly recommend this tour to anyone concerned about where the world is headed as we progressively begin to realise that we can no long deny peak oil and the inevitability of energy decent.
As a Senior Aide to prime minister Tony Blair from The Energy of Nations said, “The problem …… is that there is nothing in it for politicians. If the early peak argument is right and the peak and its shock hit while you’re in office, your dead. The opposition lie machine will pin the oil crash on you, and there will be nothing you can do to persuade the tabloid-reading public otherwise.
On the other hand, if you believe in the early peak while in opposition, and try to warn about it, then you will be accused of irresponsible scaremongering……. The tabloid press will crucify you. Oh, and the voters will hate you for telling them an unhappy story about the future”