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.



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