Mar 042010

If it’s hard to get your mind around the idea of Peak Oil or the concept of resiliency then you should devote an hour to the study of Cuba since the fall of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union crashed down, Cuba was left holding an empty energy bag. Oil imports were cut by more than half overnight. Food imports dropped by 80%. It was a desperate situation like something from an apocalyptic novel.

The Cubans showed a great deal of resilience in this emergency. They thought it might be short-term, lasting a few months. However, it turned out to be a permanent condition. Food was the first problem.  Farming and gardening became a necessity for nearly everyone. There were no more chemical fertilizers. Cubans had to learn organic farming. They did have the advantage of a wonderful climate. Within a few years virtually all available land was turned into farms and garden plots enabling the people of this island to feed themselves. Living in a warm climate is also an advantage when it comes to serving energy needs. But it’s still nice to be able to have some electricity once in awhile. Cubans have developed alternative energy sources using a permaculture model.

Transportation is a problem when your fuel supplies are cut off. The Cubans dealt with this in imaginative ways. With their economy turned upside down they also re-skilled. One of the interesting things they did was produce way more doctors than they required on a per capita basis and traded the skills of these doctors to other countries for things they needed (like Venezuela for some oil).

The Cubans aren’t worried about Peak Oil. They’ve been there and done that already. Understanding and appreciating what they’ve done can help us to develop resilience.

I encourage you to watch The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, a 52 minute video, which is educational, interesting and inspiring.


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