In our over-developed, hyper-consumer-centric world we tend to think of climate change solutions in terms of technology. What new whizz-bang gadget can be invented for a seemingly easy fix that we can all benefit from? And these developments such as windmills, electric cars and solar energy are important, yet also significant and perhaps equally vital are the seemingly meaningless decisions that individuals make that significantly lower our carbon imprint.
Much can be learned from places where resources are scant and people must conserve. Examples of this are as simple as growing food locally in community gardens, using public transportation, riding a bicycle when where we would take our car and recycling. Although, in developed countries such as the United States, these ‘innovations’ are not yet common, Cuba is one country that has been forced into these ‘solutions’ by necessity.
In 1991 the Soviet Union pulled out of country and Cuba was left to fend for itself.
The ample and continuous supply of petroleum that the economy ran on ground to a halt. Cuba’s oil imports dropped to 10% of pre-1990 amounts. This had many adverse effects on the economy and caused a sea change in Cuban behavior: the food supply became limited, the cars already old and decrepit versions of the 1950’s were now used as taxis, people car pooled and in a myriad of ways individual Cubans developed innovative ways to survive this change.
Some of the solutions were government sanctioned but many were simply individuals finding their way so they could eat, move around and simply eke out basic survival. These included the advent of community gardens called ‘Organoponicos.’ Cuba went from a farming system that was almost entirely conventional modern agriculture, with inputs of fertilizers and pesticides that actually surpassed the United States, to 80% organic farms, in only a Decade. Today, they dot Havana and most communities throughout the country and have helped to significantly improve the average Cubans’ diet.
Many people choose to walk where they need to go and public transportation are used by the vast majority of Cubans. These modes of transport include busses, animal powered vehicles, and finally the 1950’s American cars that sometimes carry up to 6-8 people on their routes. Although these cars use combustible engines the fact that they have been preserved for upwards of 60 years means that Cubans have not bought a new car every 2-3 years like the average American.
It’s important to note that globally there are more countries like Cuba with few resources and where the people are forced into environmentally conscious decisions by necessity than there are places with the “whizz bang” gadgets. It’s not to say that Cuba is a perfect society, which must be emulated in every way, simply that much is to be learned from their initiative and innovations.
They still rely heavily on subsidized, imported oil from Venezuela and the government is set to drill for oil off the coast of Havana, yet the survival solutions developed during the past two decades help the average Cuban o survive and the majority of these mechanisms are generally good for the climate. With an ever-increasing world population that’s expected to reach between 8 – 10.5 billion people by the year 2050 we must learn how to conserve our resources so that life on earth will continue into the future millenniums.
This story is part of Climate Change by NOOR.