How Cuba Survived Peak Oil


Normally, when we talk about change, we're talking about personal change. Personal change is very worthwhile, because we truly only can change things outside of ourselves once we ourselves have changed.

At the same time, personal change can only go so far before you run into conflict with the structures of society, one example being capitalism.

So in looking at the Cuba movie, one thing I want to explore is, what happens when society as a whole is forced to change?

Another question I had, watching this movie is, "How do Cuba's base values influence the decisions they made when confronted with a crisis of this magnitude. For example: Cuba's education systems and medical systems are completely free. During the crisis, this was not changed. What I want to know is, how does that come about? How many people have to participate in this decision for it to hold up? How many people have to oppose an idea like this for it to fall apart?

The whole movie is about an hour long. We won't look at all of it, just these segments:

Basic Background
10:05 It explains the basic story of what Cuba went through, called 'The Special Period'.

Food Production
16:37 "We had high yields but it was all oriented to the plantation agriculture-open economy. We export citrus, tobacco, sugar cane, and we import the basic things, 55% of the rice, more than 50% of the vegetable oil and lard that we consume, so the system, even in the good times, how people here remember, never fulfill the basic needs."

21:07 "Cubans' view of agriculture has changed dramatically. Farmers are now among the highest paid workers. People from all fields are attracted to the profession.

21:42 "The farmers in cuba are not the poorest people in 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 a good living. So it's important to take that into account, that it's another way to dignify, the people that grow food."

27:45 'We developed many bio-pesticides and many bio-fertilizers. Today we are even exporting to central american countries, bio pesticides and bio fertilizers. Remember Cuba has one advantage. If Cuba is 2% of the population of Latin America, we have 11% of the scientists in Latin America."

31:32 "To increase food production, the government worked with farmers to find local solutions. The result was smaller farms, and cooperatives with a high degree of privatization and autonomy. 40% of the large state farms were divided in to private cooperatives. Tens of thousands of acres of land were leased, rent-free, to small farmers. Decision making was localized, with fewer state regulations."
"Two requirements. One is that you grow things there. If you don't grow things there, we take the land away and give it to somebody else. And second, that the land is delivered to you in usufruct. That is an old Roman word that means that you can use the land without paying taxes or without paying for it. But if this land is needed for another purpose, it can be like, you have to give it back to the government."

33:30 Thousands of families moved to rural land. ... Private farmers markets and new export markets led to greater production."
"Communities have changed. It's a local economy. People were exchanging things. Many of these gardens, they supplied food for free to elder people's circles, day care centers, schools, working centers, pregnant women, and they do it for free. And the don't do it because it's compulsory. They do it because they want to. They want to do their little part for society."

Education and Medical Care
34:38 "Without oil for transportation, Cuba's education system was threatened. Decentralizing universities provided people with access to nearby schools for education, and lessened the impact of fuel shortages."
"Transportation and housing are right now the biggest problems in Cuba, because these depend more on oil."

35:32 Medical clinics and schools are available throughout Cuba. During the crisis, the government continued supplying its citizens with free healthcare and an education."
"Very different than what happens worldwide, when there's an economic crisis, the first thing you do is cut down the social services, this was not the case."
"Doctors, nurses and social workers live within the neighborhood where they work, part of the social fabric of the community."

38:50 "But if you have to move 20 kilometers a day, 40 kilometers back and forth, on a Chinese bicycle with no gears, all steel, after five years, you hate it. (stares at camera) And that's what happened in Cuba. At some point when there were more busses and 'camels', people just quit! Because they were sick of it!"
"One day the car appeared, and one day the car will disappear, and we will remember it as a moment in the development of mankind."

44:37 "Sugar mills were turned into power plants. Because you mill the sugars, and then you have the bagasse, you burn the fibers, you produce heat, and then you produce electricity. so you can turn the sugar mills, during the season, or after the season, into an additional power plant. "
"So at the end of the sugar cane season, 30% of the energy in Cuba is produced from this biomass."
"So this is what we call the energetic sovereignity. We do not depend on imports to produce electricity."