Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Following Cuba's Example

As we saw in the video, when Cuba reached peak oil, they were faced with dire circumstances. Considering the United States will one day soon be faced with the same problem, I think we should take note of their situation and response. For just about the first time since the class began however, today I felt like there might actually be a way for us to cope with peak oil. Rather than repeating the mistake of the Cubans and waiting for catastrophe to strike before responding, I think we should start considering solutions now.

The Cubans made many impressive changes in everyday life after they reached peak oil. To me, however, the most impressive was how they shifted the emphasis of their agriculture. With the help of their government, who allowed citizens to use available land to farm, free of tax, Cubans transitioned from energy-intensive,conventional farming to smaller scale farming, which requires very few non-renewable resources. With the use of fossil fuels to create fertilizer becoming an impossibility, Cubans had to be very creative. They abandoned the use of tractors to turn the soil of huge acres of farmland, and instead reverted back to using animal-pulled plows. The focus shifted from machinery to manual labor. In addition, they started using biopesticides and biofertilizers instead of conventional pesticides and fertilizers. The result? A Cuba that is much healthier now than before peak oil. Cuba now uses less than 5% of the conventional fertilizer than they did prior to peak oil, and 85% of Cuba's agricultural production is organic. With the implementation of crop rotation, compost, manure, and worm humus, Cuba was able to break free of their dependency on fossil fuels for agriculture.

That begs the question: will the US be able to respond and recover like Cuba? There is no way to know for sure. Our country is different from Cuba in several aspects. Its much larger and more populous, for one. Also, we do not have quite as favorable a climate for farming throughout the country as Cuba, and we are not ruled by a dictator. These difficulties aside, I think we stand a chance of surviving peak oil, as the Cubans did, if we don't delay too long. It took Cuba nearly four years to recover from the strains imposed by peak oil. The thought that the world's superpower, the envy of the planet, could spend four years in peril is a tough pill to swallow for Americans. This is why we need to begin making provisions soon, if not now. The government should assemble some kind of team of analysts with the intent to prepare the country. We need to explore the possibilities of small scale farming like that used in Cuba. Any realistic alternative to fossil fuels that can be used in agriculture needs to be looked into. We should leave no stone unturned as we prepare for the coming crisis.


  1. Agreed. And as changes begin to happen a lot of people will not be ready to change their current lifestyles. It's going to be a real smack in the face for most and people will have to deal. The government should really step in and start to implement some new ideas because local efforts will only go so far. The current mind set is conservation but what happens when there's nothing left to conserve.

  2. I also agree with this. We are deffenitly not ready right now for any big changes in our life style. I also think that that we can not do exactly what cuba has done to we just have to many poeple for local growing to feed everyone. Are cities are to big in population and plus in our big cities there really is no place to grow crops. We would have to find another solution along with local growing in order to produce enough food.