Environmental crisis — sustainable solutions


The Climate Emergency – No More Business as Usual conference, held in Adelaide on October 10-11, included 18 workshops canvassing many issues around the politics of the environment: from food production and peak oil, to theories of political change and educational programming.

The following article is based on discussion arising from one of these workshops titled "Sustainable solutions". The presenters in the workshop were Bev Hall from the Australia Cuba Friendship Society, Andrew Hall from the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network and Margaret Rhode, a member of Urban Ecology and resident of the Christie Walk EcoCity development in Adelaide.

During Cuba's "Special Period", which began after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the island nation faced a massive crisis. Cuba had relied on the Soviet Union for most of its oil importation. At the time, oil was essential for Cuba's electricity generation and farming practices.

The Cuban government and its people successfully averted social collapse through instigating a range of technical and political measures. The result is that Cuba is today recognised as the only country with a sustainable economy in the world.

Cuban achievements include the rapid transition from traditional diesel-fuelled electricity generators to biomass plants and the expansion of ethanol production using waste products from the sugarcane industry. Cuba has also invested in solar and hydroelectric power generation.

Cuban agriculture is no longer dependent on the use of fossil fuel-derived fertilisers. Permaculture has expanded across the island with government support.

While, as an oil-dependent economy, Venezuela still has a long way to go, it has adopted a number of Cuban measures including the provision of energy-efficient light bulbs free of charge and the free replacement of energy-inefficient household goods.

Preservation of the environment is also enshrined in Venezuela's constitution, committing the government to protect biological diversity, ecological processes and genetic resources.

Building truly sustainable cities is a major challenge for humanity if we are to avert a climate disaster. Christie Walk, a medium density co-housing development located in central Adelaide, is one example of the kind of sustainable urban design our cities need. The complex combines many ecologically sustainable and community-enhancing features.

Stormwater is stored onsite for use on gardens and to flush toilets. The complex has an onsite community garden, and was built using recycled, non-toxic materials with low embodied energy.

The 44 residents benefit from shared laundry facilities, photovoltaic power, and a rooftop native garden with a genuine soil base that assists in cooling the building during warmer months.

The average two person home in Adelaide produces 11.17 kg of CO2 emissions per person per day whereas Christie Walk two person residences produce just 5.6 kg of CO2 per person per day.

[For more information on talks and workshops from the Climate Emergency - No More Business as Usual conference visit ]