Film: “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”

Friday, March 13, 2020 - 19:00

March 13, 7pm. Parramatta Activist Centre, 3/29 Macquarie Street, Parramatta

Late last year, Cuba was ranked 1st out of 163 countries in the Sustainable Development Index (SDI). Australia, by contrast, ranked 160th. [https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/cuba-found-be-most-sustainably-developed-country-world] Cuba is a poor country that has been under a siege-like blockade imposed by the US since 1959. However, the socialist revolution that created the ongoing US hostility also created a development model that allowed “First world” levels of health and education for the population.

Cuba’s status as an environmental world-leader derives from its “special period” in the 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Bloc” socialist states that were Cuba’s allies and trading partners, left the country facing a massive contraction of available imports. Fossil fuels and fossil fuel-derived agricultural chemicals became scarce or unavailable and food imports fell. The US tightened the blockade, hoping that Cuba would abandon its socialist experiment and reintegrate into the global neoliberal economy.

Cuba took a different path. As this film documents, Cuba maintained its socialist model and maintained its high standards of public health and nutrition through a revolution in transport, energy and, in particular, agriculture. Drawing on worldwide expertise in organic agriculture and permaculture, Cuba’s sustainable urban agriculture provides a model for increasing food security while reducing carbon emissions and other toxic pollution. The film shows how democratic community organising and mobilisation and the absence of corporate profit-based economics was key to Cuba’s ecological revolution.

The film’s subtitle “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” is a reminder of how slow the world has been to react since the United Nations recognised the existential threat of carbon emissions in the 1990s. As recently as 2006 the concept of “peak oil” (the imagined danger of the world running out of oil, rather than the much more real danger of not leaving it in the ground) was still being used by environmentalists as an argument for transitioning away from fossil fuels. This is because from the 1990s, the UN-driven international mechanisms for combating emissions established the orthodoxy that reducing emissions must be balanced with the “needs of the economy”, meaning maintenance of corporate profits. As a result, since then there have been more carbon emissions than previously throughout history. Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s speech to the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, shows that the terrifying reality confronting Greta Thunberg’s generation could have been avoided. Urging humanity to turn away from fossil fuels by turning away from the profit-driven, consumerist world economy based on their use, he warned: “Tomorrow is Too Late”. [Text: https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/fidel-castro-earth-summit Video: https://youtu.be/bNW-76xCxuo]