November 29, 2006

Learning from Cuba – Part One

Good examples are where you find them. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and the immediate hardening of the US economic embargo that followed, Cubans had to, again, think quickly on their feet. (Students of Cuban history will testify that this is nothing new.)

A recent documentary film from The Community Solution, an environmental non-profit organization based in Ohio, addresses how Cubans dealt with the energy shortages and how they evolved a model we can all learn from. (Note: I still haven’t seen the film, but I am looking forward to it.)

In a talk by Pat Murphy, The Community Solution’s Executive Director (What Can We Learn From Cuba?) given in New York City this past April, he points out that Cubans consume 1/8 the fossil fuel energy per capita of the U.S. (The ration also applies to Florida, only a couple of hundred miles away from Havana, with the same climate.)

“Cubans did what we will all do,” says Murphy. “They figured out how to get by with less energy. And they made quick changes because they had to.” The point being that, eventually, the world’s oil reserves will run out, and oil consumers will have to think on their feet when the time comes. (But why wait? Why not start thinking and planning right now?)

“Cuba’s agricultural model,” he adds, “is a very intensive version of the rapidly growing organic farming movement in this country.”

According to Murphy, the average person in Cuba uses 7 barrels of energy (BOE) per year. In the US that number is 57. Cuba’s strategy, he points out, has been to simply “conserve, cutback, curtail, innovate and change.”

If only we could learn to do that.

In a couple of days I’ll tell you about my very unofficial OIL survey.


November 10, 2006

What Would Martí Say?

If we could take a spaceship at high speed towards the sun, applying the brakes at a precise moment that would create a sling-shot around the sun that would hurl us 115 years into the past… and we could, somehow, mange to land in New York City of 1890… What would Martí say to us?

Would he support the economic embargo against his beloved Cuba?

Would he hate Castro enough to support the cuddling of terrorists and assassins?

Would he support U.S. control of Latin America and a right-wing theocracy?

Would he rubber stamp a 45-plus-year dictatorship?

Lucky for us, Martí left his word in the form of articles, letters, poems and journal entries, and it’s safe to say that he would not be happy with events in Cuba since his death in 1895. And its probably with Cubans that he would be most disappointed… The Cubans that supported American-style racism after the war… the Cubans that made the island’s experience with Democracy such a shameful one… The Cubans that pretended that terrorism against innocents can be called a “war” and the Cubans who fund and defend them…

It’s also very likely that Martí’s views on Americans would not change much from what it was, as we seem to be just as easily riled up for war now as we were in his time… all it takes is a rich son with dreams of glory… and an economic system in bad need of expansion... the promise of new markets… and the opportunity to showcase new deadly weapons.