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Bruce Sterling's Viridian Design Movement


Viridian Note 00496: Al Gore Wins Nobel
by Bruce Sterling
Key concepts:
Al Gore, Cuba, emergencies
Attention Conservation Notice:
great news for greenies all spoilt by glum Viridian futurism.

(((I'm now living in Torino, where the locals are vigorously rebuilding their former fossil-fuel car capital into an artsy creative-class design metropolis.)))

(((Amazingly, even Fiat, whose decline nearly wrecked this city, has a design hit in their new small urban car. What luck! Or was it design skill?)))

(((It's fabulous to be on the ground where Europeans are visibly re-creating their infrastructure in such a design-centric, immediate fashion. There's something exhilarating about it... because it's not a Viridian Pope-Emperor theoretical design engagement; I mean, they're literally ripping up the street outside here and installing light urban rail. I wouldn't call it Oz; it's just an Italian industrial burg; but their previous situation was just so grim, glum, unbearable, palpably doomed and clearly unsustainable that they pretty much had to swallow the blue pill and leap for the unknown. So they suffered == but changed. Now one sees eerie stuff like THIS == a smokestack turned into a steeple dedicated to the Shroud of Turin.)))



(((I'm trying to figure out what I can do to help. I hope to learn something useful about real-world, hands-on, down-and-dirty, urban sociotechnical transitions. Practically every city in the world has got Torino's former problems, because they're all unsustainable. Changing that is the work of the world. It's happening.)))

(((In the meanwhile, just look at the Viridian issue coverage over here on "Wired Science." I wouldn't precisely call that mainstream science-news == it's WIRED, and also, uh, a new TV show == but they've got something like 50 times my audience, and that's on their bad viewership day. Why would I bother to cover such things when they do it all the time?)))


Entire Yucatan is a feral Maya garden, not a "wilderness."

Albedo yachts.

Particle spews.

Turning ocean inside out.

Vatican goes green.

(((Great stuff, eh? I used to do two or three of those a month! Et cetera et cetera.)))

((( And then, of course, Al Gore just won the Nobel. I could let this event pass without a missive to longsuffering Viridian readers.

((( This is the ultimate imprimatur of the intelligentsia chattering-classes. At this point, the climate crisis pretty much wins the global culture war. But only, of course, culturally, and never within the dark terrified den of the American flat-earth contingent, who hate and fear Al and all his works on principle, and always will.)))

(((The good news is there's at least one American statesman left whom the world considers of Nobel class caliber. Gore's a kind of climate Solzhenitsyn in the midst of a dark regime. People from outside the Soviet Union used to look at Nobelist Solzhenitsyn and think: "Well, we can't give up on 'em; here's this heroic guy endlessly scraping up and archiving true data about gulags and torture and prisons, even when the regime denies such things exist." In the continental superpower biz, what goes around comes around.)))

(((I'd like to engage in some brisk triumphalism here... yeah, like I won the goddamn prize by sending a lot of emails... but I prefer to take a lead from Al's own sobering response. Al's not making any big deal of this. I suspect that's because Al has sincerely and actually come to realize, on some bone-deep, post-cynical, wolves-at-the-door level, that there really is a global climate crisis. That's not a vehicle for generating Al Gore worship. It's an emergency. A deep, terrible, lasting emergency whose permanent scars for society all lie ahead of us. The Turinese are certainly changing their local piece of the world == but they got scourged into changing. The bright spots here now are an inverse reflection of their sorrow and mayhem fifteen years ago.)))

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize == the Bright Green response.

Washington Post:

"Gore: Award Puts Focus on Global Warming

"By SETH BORENSTEIN and LISA LEFF "The Associated Press
"Saturday, October 13, 2007; 7:48 AM

"PALO ALTO, Calif. == He spent decades trying to get the world to listen and believe as he did that global warming would destroy the planet unless people changed their behavior, and fast. But after former Vice President Al Gore and a host of climate scientists were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their warnings, Gore took only the briefest of bows on a live world stage. He avoided the issue of a U.S. presidential run to 'get back to business' on 'a planetary emergency.'

"'For my part, I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and the recognition from this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency,' Gore said at the offices of the Alliance For Climate Protection, a nonprofit he founded last year to engage citizens in solving the problem.


"If he felt any sense of triumph over the political and scientific critics who belittled or ignored his message, Gore did not betray it during his only public appearance Friday. He learned of his award at 2 a.m. while watching the live TV announcement _ hearing his name amid the Norwegian (((aren't those guys Swedes?))) at his apartment in San Francisco.

"Nine hours later, his tone was somber and his remarks brief. With his wife, Tipper, and four Stanford University climate scientists who were co-authors of the international climate report at his side, he referenced a recent report that concluded the ice caps at the North Pole are melting faster than previously thought and could be gone in 23 years without dramatic action.

"Gore said he planned to donate his share of the $1.5 million prize to the nonprofit alliance he chairs.

"This is a chance to elevate global consciousness about the challenges that we face now," he said...

(((I see Al's not living in San Francisco for nothing. Global consciousness, rock concerts, yeah, thanks a lot, sir. You deserve the prize. Congrats.)))

(((In the meantime, I wanted to share this long and remarkable document, which details a grueling transition undergone by a society which, unlike Torino, isn't all glossy, Eurocentric and designery.)))

(((Nobody imagines that life changes much in Cuba, because the same dictator's been running things for half a century. I just saw a local presentation by an exiled Cuban author == (periodically, Cuban agents try to push her under a Parisian bus) == and she said that the worst thing about being an exiled Cuban dissident in Europe is that Europeans somehow imagine that Cuba is a socialist paradise with free healthcare and cool mambo music. Also, Che had such a cool haircut and beret.)))

(((Just because US Republicans don't like them doesn't mean they're great, okay? They're authoritarian Reds on a scrawny island whose lives are pitifully delimited in all kinds of bleak, hairshirt-Marxist, soul-crushing ways. This article is by an American leftie Cuban sympathizer who's all perky about how the Cubans transcended their energy emergency. It's all about emergency living. Except you'd never guess it by the way it's phrased. It's a long, long article, but it serves pretty well as an unintentionally sinister portrait of an oppressed, hapless, stricken society in a no-kidding, tear-the-walls down Greenhouse emergency.)))

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article appeared in the special Peak Oil issue of Permaculture Activist, Spring 2006, ( The author, Megan Quinn, is the outreach director for The Community Solution, (, a program of Community Service Inc., a nonprofit organization in Yellow Springs, Ohio. For information about its soon-to-be-released documentary, "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" visit its website, e-mail her at, or call +1 937-767-2161.

"The power of community: How Cuba survived peak oil

By Megan Quinn, Permaculture Activist

First published on Sunday, February 26, 2006

Havana, Cuba == At the Organipónico de Alamar, a neighborhood agriculture project, a workers' collective runs a large urban farm, a produce market and a restaurant.

"Hand tools and human labor replace oil-driven machinery. Worm cultivation and composting create productive soil. Drip irrigation conserves water, and the diverse, multi-hued produce provides the community with a rainbow of healthy foods.

(((I want you to stop here and try to imagine the stark reality of a Communist restaurant run by a workers' collective. In former Communist countries like Russia, there aren't any left. Because those are not "restaurants." The chef hates you. There aren't any "waiters." You have no reason to be there and they do not want to feed you.)))

In other Havana neighborhoods, lacking enough land for such large projects, residents have installed raised garden beds on parking lots and planted vegetable gardens on their patios and rooftops.

(((Did you ever wonder why people stopped planting "Victory Gardens" after World War II ended? Because farming parking-lots is hard work. All farming is hard work. That's why subsistence farmers flee farms and go to urban slums.)))

Since the early 1990s, an urban agriculture movement has swept through Cuba, putting this capital city of 2.2 million on a path toward sustainability. (((Fidel Castro == a prince of sustainability. Hasta La Sustainability Siempre. "Thank you Comrade, my vegetable hash from that parking lot was very sustainable.")))

A small group of Australians assisted in this grass-roots effort, coming to this Caribbean island nation in 1993 to teach permaculture, a system based on sustainable agriculture which uses far less energy. (((I don't have a problem with Australians going to assist the Revolution == I think everybody oughta go to Cuba, and Eastern Europe is even more eye-opening == but is it "grass roots" when Australian politicals are doing it? In the old unashamed days, that used to be "Communist International Solidarity," not sustainable grass roots.)))

This need to bring agriculture into the city began with the fall of the Soviet Union and the loss of more than 50 percent of Cuba's oil imports, much of its food and 85 percent of its trade economy. (((This is a risk one takes when one gets all chummy with petrocratic states. They turn the fuel tap off? Man, you're toast == just like a Californian in the Enron glory days.)))

Transportation halted, people went hungry and the average Cuban lost 30 pounds. (((I didn't believe this assertion at first. I mean, try to imagine the law-and-order problems in an American suburb where the average American == the average! == lost thirty pounds of body weight from lack of groceries. And average Americans have got thirty pounds to lose, easy.)))

"In reality, when this all began, it was a necessity. People had to start cultivating vegetables wherever they could," a tour guide told a documentary crew filming in Cuba in 2004 to record how Cuba survived on far less oil than usual. (((These "tour guide" Potemkin figures are kind of a vanishing breed, but you run into 'em sometimes... I hate to say that they make Fox News look accurate. Nobody can do that.)))

The crew included the staff of The Community Solution, a non-profit organization in Yellow Springs, Ohio which teaches about peak oil == the time when oil production world-wide will reach an all-time high and head into an irreversible decline. Some oil analysts believe this may happen within this decade, making Cuba a role model to follow. (((Activists of every stripe always imagine that they're "teaching" stuff.)))

((("Teaching" peak oil... or, you could just be in an oil-dependent power that loses an oil war. Or petrocrats could just charge whatever they please for the stuff. Oil doesn't have to actually run out for the lights to go off, as Californians should remember keenly. Cuba didn't have a "peak," they just had no fuel.)))

"We wanted to see if we could capture what it is in the Cuban people and the Cuban culture that allowed them to go through this very difficult time," said Pat Murphy, The Community Solution's executive director. (((Amazing how they gazed raptly at "people" and "culture" rather than the Cuban secret police, party apparatus and army.)))

"Cuba has a lot to show the world in how to deal with energy adversity." (((That part, I'm buying. Cuba shows all kinds of stuff, most of it about as attractive as watching your grandma drop thirty pounds from hunger.)))

Scarce petroleum supplies have not only transformed Cuba's agriculture. The nation has also moved toward small-scale renewable energy and developed an energy- saving mass transit system, while maintaining its government-provided health care system whose preventive, locally-based approach to medicine conserves scarce resources.
(((Closely study how this paragraph of perky eco-geek-speak paraphrases the stark reality that Cuba went broke and the people went desperately hungry. If an eco-calamity makes you lose thirty pounds, you'll be hearing a lot of this.)))

The era in Cuba following the Soviet collapse is known to Cubans as the Special Period. (((Oh brother.)))

Cuba lost 80 percent of its export market and its imports fell by 80 percent. The Gross Domestic Product dropped by more than one third.

"Try to image an airplane suddenly losing its engines. It was really a crash," Jorge Mario, a Cuban economist, told the documentary crew.

A crash that put Cuba into a state of shock.

There were frequent blackouts in its oil-fed electric power grid, up to 16 hours per day. The average daily caloric intake in Cuba dropped by a third.

(((Now try to imagine yourself being Al Gore and watching this happen on a planetary scale. You think Al is gonna clutch his prize certificate and think, "Wow, I got the Nobel for warning about this sort of thing?" That's why he's got that glum look. He's paying attention.)))

According to a report on Cuba from Oxfam, an international development and relief agency: "In the cities, buses stopped running, generators stopped producing electricity, factories became silent as graveyards. Obtaining enough food for the day became the primary activity for many, if not most, Cubans." (((Note that Oxfam doesn't chime in about how Cubans got all sustainable and carbon-neutral due to imitating graveyards.)))

In part due to the continuing US embargo, but also because of the loss of a foreign market, Cuba couldn't obtain enough imported food. Furthermore, without a substitute for fossil-fuel based large-scale farming, agricultural production dropped drastically.

So Cubans started to grow local organic produce out of necessity, developed bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers as petrochemical substitutes, and incorporated more fruits and vegetables into their diets.

Since they couldn't fuel their aging cars, they walked, biked, rode buses, and carpooled.

"There are infinite small solutions," said Roberto Sanchez from the Cuban-based Foundation for Nature and Humanity. (((You gotta love an entity with a soft, mushy title like that one.)))

"Crises or changes or problems can trigger many of these things which are basically adaptive. We are adapting." (((In the climate crisis, we're gonna hear a lot of this kind of glum ideological lacquer. "The lawn is on fire! There's a flood in the basement!" "Stop whining, for such problems trigger a basically adaptive behavior." You wouldn't want to rebel against Nature and Humanity, I hope.)))

A New Agricultural Revolution

Cubans are also replacing petroleum-fed machinery with oxen, (((boy, there's a step forward == ask any Indian))) and their urban agriculture reduces food transportation distances. Today an estimated 50 percent of Havana's vegetables come from inside the city, (((outdoing the siege of Stalingrad))) while in other Cuban towns and cities urban gardens produce from 80 percent to more than 100 percent of what they need. (((You've got too many squash and green beans in that dirtpile where you used to own a car. "Wow, I have more than 100 percent of what I need!")))

In turning to gardening, individuals and neighborhood organizations (((read: party apparatus))) took the initiative by identifying idle land in the city, cleaning it up, and planting. (((At least, being a dictatorship of the proletariat, they don't have much trouble with NIMBYism and eminent domain issues.)))

When the Australian permaculturists came to Cuba they set up the first permaculture demonstration project with a $26,000 grant from the Cuban government.

Out of this grew the Foundation for Nature and Humanity's urban permaculture demonstration project and center in Havana.

"With this demonstration, neighbors began to see the possibilities of what they can do on their rooftops and their patios," said Carmen López, director of the urban permaculture center, as she stood on the center's rooftop amongst grape vines, potted plants, and compost bins made from tires.

(((It's kind of touching to see these "permaculture activists" interviewing their own cadres to confirm the glowing success of their "demonstration projects.")))

Since then the movement has been spreading rapidly across Havana's barrios. So far López' urban permaculture center has trained more than 400 people in the neighborhood in permaculture and distributes a monthly publication, "El Permacultor." (((That sounds pretty great until you realize we've got two thousand people in Viridian List and we never even got a Cuban state grant.)))

"Not only has the community learned about permaculture," according to López, "we have also learned about the community, helping people wherever there is need." (((Given that Marxism is all about that issue, you have to wonder what they've been learning since Fidel took power in the early 1960s.)))

One permaculture student, Nelson Aguila, an engineer-turned-farmer, (((and this represents a major civilizational advance, presumably))) raises food for the neighborhood on his integrated rooftop farm. On just a few hundred square feet he has rabbits and hens and many large pots of plants.

Running free on the floor are gerbils, which eat the waste from the rabbits, and become an important protein source themselves. ((("Mom! Mom, the former engineer has brought us gerbils!" I hope they've got this post-slaughter waste-consumption thing cleared with the spongiform encephalopathy. What do they feed the gerbil waste to?)))

"Things are changing," Sanchez said. "It's a local economy. In other places people don't know their neighbors. They don't know their names. People don't say 'hello' to each other. Not here." (((Yeah == because if you don't have a steady source for fried gerbils, you're gonna lose thirty pounds.)))

Since going from petrochemical intensive agricultural production to organic farming and gardening, Cuba now uses 21 times less pesticide than before the Special Period.

(((That phrase "Before the Special Period" sure has a chilly tang, doesn't it? "Did you know Al Gore once won the Nobel?" "Oh, that was Before the Special Period." "Both my grandparents were alive Before the Special Period." "Before the Special Period, these tires were on my car instead of serving as compost heaps.")))

They have accomplished this with their large-scale production of bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers, exporting some of it to other Latin American countries. (((Until Chavez started shipping them subsidized oil, and then, whew! Thank God!)))

Though the transition to organic production and animal traction was necessary, the Cubans are now seeing the advantages.

"One of the good parts of the crisis was to go back to the oxen," said Miguel Coyula, a community development specialist. "Not only do they save fuel, they do not compact the soil the way the tractor does, and the legs of the oxen churn the earth."

(((I hate to think of a place where farmers hide their tractors from the "community development specialists." When you think how many bad Socialist Realist novels were written about the heroic effort to get tractors... In the peasants and workers states, Communism and tractors were practically synonymous. But no, now those dainty little oxen hooves have become organic plows somehow... yeah, a political rhetoric is a multipurpose tool.)))

"The Cuban agricultural, conventional, 'Green Revolution' system never was able to feed the people," Sanchez said. "It had high yields, but was oriented to plantation agriculture. We exported citrus, tobacco, sugar cane and we imported the basic things. So the system, even in the good times, never fulfilled people's basic needs."

(((Yeah, and once the Russians, who bought those exports, shut off the taps, trade withered and the island could suddenly aspire to the autonomous status of glorious North Korea.)))

Drawing on his permaculture knowledge, Sanchez said, "You have to follow the natural cycles, so you hire nature to work for you, not work against nature. To work against nature, you have to waste huge amounts of energy." (((Isn't "hiring" nature just a tad exploitative? Where's nature's union and free health system?)))

Energy Solutions
Because most of Cuba's electricity had been generated from imported oil, the shortages affected nearly everyone on the island. (((One wonders who the unaffected were. Security services, I'd be guessing.)))

Scheduled rolling blackouts several days per week lasted for many years.

Without refrigerators, food would spoil.

Without electric fans, the heat was almost unbearable in a country that regularly has temperatures in the 80s and 90s. (((Or higher. Most every summer.)))

The solutions to Cuba's energy problems were not easy. (((Though I don't doubt there was some hairshirt ideologue eager to make all that sound progressive.)))

Without money, it couldn't invest in nuclear power and new conventional fossil fuel plants or even large-scale wind and solar energy systems. Instead, the country focused on reducing energy consumption and implementing small-scale renewable energy projects. (((Yeah, that sounds all grass-rootsy and romantic till you get to those years of rolling blackouts and the spoilt food.)))

Ecosol Solar and Cuba Solar are two renewable energy organizations leading the way. They help develop markets for renewable energy, sell and install systems, perform research, publish newsletters, and do energy efficiency studies for large users. (((Reading stuff like this can be a useful corrective. Like: somewhere in this world is the world's most evil, backward and exploitative solar energy company. I'm not saying they're in Cuba == maybe they're a merciless voodoo warlord solar-energy company somewhere in the war-torn Congo. But they're somewhere, and they've got solar panels and they're awful.)))

Ecosol Solar has installed 1.2 megawatts of solar photovoltaic in both small household systems (200 watt capacity) and large systems (15-50 kilowatt capacity). In the United States 1.2 megawatts would provide electricity to about 1000 homes, but can supply power to significantly more houses in Cuba where appliances are few, conservation is the custom, and the homes are much smaller. (((And the homes smell of solar-fried gerbils.)))

About 60 percent of Ecosol Solar's installations go to social programs to power homes, schools, medicals facilities, and community centers in rural Cuba. (((Look, the entire island is a "social program" and "community center." It's a Communist society. If you don't count hard-currency hotels packed with guys spending euros.)))

It recently installed solar photovoltaic panels to electrify 2,364 primary schools throughout rural Cuba where it was not cost effective to take the grid. In addition, it is developing compact model solar water heaters that can be assembled in the field, water pumps powered by PV panels, and solar dryers. (((This is teaching an entire generation of rural Cuban kids to hate solar power as the very symbol of their backwardness, but what the heck; there's no power in their grid anyway, and maybe they'll at least learn to read.)))

A visit to "Los Tumbos," a solar-powered community in the rural hills southwest of Havana demonstrates the positive impact that these strategies can have. Once without electricity, each household now has a small solar panel that powers a radio and a lamp.

Larger systems provide electricity to the school, hospital, and community room, where residents gather to watch the evening news program called the "Round Table." (((Yeah, I bet that program's real newsy.)))

Besides keeping the residents informed, the television room has the added benefit of bringing the community together. (((Has Jerry Mander been informed of this?)))

"The sun was enough to maintain life on earth for millions of years," said Bruno Beres, a director of Cuba Solar. "Only when we [humans] arrived and changed the way we use energy was the sun not enough. So the problem is with our society, not with the world of energy." (((The invention of fire was also clearly a problem.)))

Transportation - A System of Ride Sharing (((It just trundles right along, bearing its bundles of red-green ideological joy.)))

Cubans also faced the problem of providing transportation on a reduced energy diet.

Solutions came from ingenious Cubans, who often quote the phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

With little money or fuel, Cuba now moves masses of people during rush hour in Havana. In an inventive approach, virtually every form of vehicle, large and small, was used to build this mass transit system. Commuters ride in hand-made wheelbarrows, buses, other motorized transport and animal-powered vehicles. (((Even if Cubans are "the masses," a heterogenous crawl of hand-made wheelbarrows is not a "mass transit system.")))

One special Havana transit vehicle, nicknamed a "camel," is a very large metal semi-trailer, pulled by a standard semi-truck tractor, which holds 300 passengers.

(((The "Transportation of Cuba Pool." Man, FlickR is awesome.)))

(((A "Havana Camel.")))

Bicycles and motorized two-passenger rickshaws are also prevalent in Havana, while horse drawn carts and large old panel trucks are used in the smaller towns. (((Large old heavily polluting panel trucks, but let's gloss over that.)))

Government officials in yellow garb pull over nearly empty government vehicles and trucks on Havana's streets and fill them with people needing a ride. Chevys from the 1950s cruise along with four people in front and four more in back. (((Imagine the joy of being brusquely waved to the curb by one of these "government officials in yellow garb.")))

A donkey cart with a taxi license nailed to the frame also travels Cuba's streets. Many trucks were converted to passenger transport by welding steps to the back so riders could get on and off with ease. (((Scientific socialist production buries inefficient capital, making the exploitation of man by man a thing of the past.)))

Health Care and Education - National Priorities

Even though Cuba is a poor country, with a per capita Gross Domestic Product of only $3,000 per year (putting them in the bottom third of all nations), life expectancy is the same as in the U.S., and infant mortality is below that in the U.S.

The literacy rate in Cuba is 97 percent, the same as in the U.S. Cuba's education system, as well as its medical system is free. (((I'm all for free health care, but not really nuts about the prospect of being in the bottom third of all nations. You'd think that a society with so much savoir faire and unleashed ingenuity would rank in a little above, say, fascist-plagued Chile.)))

When Cubans suffered through their version of a peak oil crisis, they maintained their free medical system, one of the major factors that helped them to survive. Cubans repeatedly emphasize how proud they are of their system. (((Cue agitprop.)))

Before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, there was one doctor for every 2000 people. Now there is a doctor for every 167 people. Cuba also has an international medical school and trains doctors to work in other poor countries. Each year there are 20,000 Cuban doctors abroad doing this kind of work. (((With the obligatory nationalist bragging taken care of, we can now return to the topic of permaculture.)))

With meat scarce and fresh local vegetables in abundance since 1995, Cubans now eat a healthy, low-fat, nearly vegetarian, diet. They also have a healthier outdoor lifestyle and walking and bicycling have become much more common.

"Before, Cubans didn't eat that many vegetables. Rice and beans and pork meat was the basic diet," Sanchez from the Foundation for Nature and Humanity said. "At some point necessity taught them, and now they demand [vegetables]." (((I wonder what they really demand. I bet they wouldn't turn up their noses at a 14-ounce T-bone steak with all the trimmings.)))

Doctors and nurses live in the community where they work and usually above the clinic itself. In remote rural areas, three-story buildings are constructed with the doctor's office on the bottom floor and two apartments on the second and third floors, one for the doctor and one for the nurse. (((In other words, the Cuban medical profession is a rural mom-and-pop shop.)))

In the cities, the doctors and nurses always live in the neighborhoods they serve. They know the families of their patients and try to treat people in their homes.

"Medicine is a vocation, not a job," exclaimed a Havana doctor, demonstrating the motivation for her work. In Cuba 60 percent of the doctors are women. (((One wonders why pink-collar jobs are ritually demeaned and disenfranchised == likely its this time-honored willingness of women to go out and labor for social-capital rather than actual pay.)))

Education is considered the most important social activity in Cuba. Before the revolution, there was one teacher for every 3,000 people. Today the ratio is one for every 42 people, with a teacher-student ratio of 1 to 16. Cuba has a higher percentage of professionals than most developing countries, and with 2 percent of the population of Latin America, Cuba has 11 percent of all the scientists. (((Another state poster glued here... how come all these teachers and scientists can't boost the economy out of the bottom ranks? China is Communist, everybody hates and fears them much more than they do Cubans, and yet they're rockin' it.)))

In an effort to halt migration from the countryside to the city during the Special Period, (((try to imagine the scenes of woe and mayhem there))) higher education was spread out into the provinces, expanding learning opportunities and strengthening rural communities. (((Kind of a "send those weak intelligentsia to the countryside" Red Guard innovation. Bet those scientists got a lot of labwork done in those quiet, scholastic retreats.)))

Before the Special Period there were only three institutions of higher learning in Cuba. Now there are 50 colleges and universities throughout the country, seven in Havana. (((Why?)))

The Power of Community

Throughout its travels, the documentary crew saw and experienced the resourcefulness, determination, and optimism of the Cuban people, often hearing the phrase "Sí, se puede" or "Yes it can be done." (((They're also a handsome people who can dance like angels and their ice cream is really tasty.)))

People spoke of the value of "resistir" or "resistance," showing their determination to overcome obstacles. And they have lived under a U.S. economic blockade since the early 1960s, viewed as the ultimate test of the Cuban ability to resist. (((The US has lived under a Cuban economic blockade since the early 1960s, leading American food producers to put fructose corn syrup into prepared foods instead of Cuban sugarcane sucrose sugar, causing hapless Americans to bloat as drastically as overfed Cuban gerbils. Also, no decent cigars.)))

There is much to learn from Cuba's response to the loss of cheap and abundant oil. (((Yeah. It shows that a repellent regime deprived of oil fails to collapse, becoming even more repellent, while disguising the sufferings of the population with wads of predigested green rhetoric. And: no matter how bad things get in the climate crisis, there's gonna be some moron wandering around claiming that all the mayhem is great and should be construed as a civilizational advance. Pray that this guy doesn't have a gun, a uniform and the power of arrest.)))

The staff of The Community Solution sees these lessons as especially important for people in developing countries, who make up 82 percent of the world's population and live more on life's edge. (((Yeah: "Third World" people, always be leary of white guys with "appropriate" "solutions" that they would never dream of imposing on themselves.)))

But developed countries are also vulnerable to shortages in energy. And with the coming onset of peak oil, all countries will have to adapt to the reality of a lower energy world.

With this new reality, the Cuban government changed its 30-year motto from "Socialism or Death" to "A Better World is Possible." (((Did Cuba really do that? That's like changing the motto "Of the People, By the People, For the People" to "How about some extra fries with that?")))

Government officials allowed private entrepreneurial farmers ((("kulak class enemies"))) and neighborhood organizations ((("Marxist party cadres"))) to use public land to grow and sell their produce.

They pushed decision-making down to the grassroots level and encouraged initiatives in their neighborhoods. ((("You're on your own, sucker.")))

They created more provinces. (((Don't blame Castro, blame the provincial flak-catchers.)))

They encouraged migration back to the farms and rural areas and reorganized their provinces to be in-line with agricultural needs. (((Forced relocation out of cities before they implode.)))

From The Community Solution's viewpoint, (((I know I've been going on a bit here, but this is ALL the "Community Solution's viewpoint" == this whole thing is a put-up job without a whisper of dissent))) Cuba did what it could to survive, despite its ideology of a centralized economy.

In the face of peak oil and declining oil production, will America do what it takes to survive, in spite of its ideology of individualism and consumerism? (((Why not worry about Australia? They've got the very same problems, plus no rain.)))

Will Americans come together in community, as Cubans did, in the spirit of sacrifice and mutual support? (((Or will we all end up in the handbasket to hell of Cuban reality, with spies on every block, commandeered cars crammed with strangers, wheelbarrow traffic jams and food grown on the levelled sites of former strip malls and fried-food shacks? Yes, yes, I know this sounds very James Howard Kunstler == there are times when one has to appreciate the prophet of a long emergency. At least the guy writes in real English instead of a numbing, tapioca nomenklatura-ese.)))

"There is climate change, the price of oil, the crisis of energy," Beres from Cuba Solar said, listing off the challenges humanity faces. "What we must know is that the world is changing and we must change the way we see the world."

(((Or we can face the facts on the ground without blinding ourselves with political spin, which may be Al Gore's greatest gift to his fellow politicals. He knows they're in major trouble even if they can't force inconvenient truths out of their mouths.)))

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