Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Cuba's peak oil crisis

Last week we had a family outing to Permaculture North, a group of which Fifi is a part (if you click through on that link and look carefully, you will see that in the top photo Fifi is there! Back row, third from left, dark blue t-shirt).

We trooped into the council chambers at Ryde Civic Centre, a six story modernist block built in the year of my birth, and watched a fascinating documentary called The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil. After the collapse of the former Soviet Union and during the early 90s they lost more than 50% of their oil supply virtually overnight, rendering most of their cars obsolete and having massive effects on agriculture and trade. They lost 80% of their export market, imports fell by 80% and Gross Domestic Product by 30%. The average Cuban lost 30 pounds in weight, due to food shortages.

To cut a long story short the place is a permaculturalist's dream— permaculture being a system that emphasizes sustainable organic agriculture at a local level. This is what they've done in Cuba, among many other things.

The most impressive statistic I saw in the film is that the life expectancy of the average Cuban has not gone down, despite the crisis, and remains on a level with the life expectancy of the average US citizen. Their infant mortality rate is actually slightly lower than that of the US.

The girls made it through about 2/3 of the movie before I had to take them outside for pizza!


Michael K said...

I understand they also got on bikes which Castro imported from China
So Gordon, will we see you cycling down Victoria Rd with your permaculture lunch in your backpack, kids in tow?

Gordon Cheng said...

Actually I covet one of these electric bicycles. There's a Chinese guy who picks up his kids from school with one of them, a girl perched on the front, another on the back.

Andrew M said...

Gordo I think permaculture is a great idea but I would be pretty suspicious of any figures coming out of a communist dictatorship...