It's a shocking thought. But, in the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed, subsidized oil shipments to Cuba, its longtime ally, ceased. The Cubans went through a terrible period. Food and fuel were scarce, and the average Cuban adult lost 20 pounds. But in the next decade Cubans reshaped their economy to use much less oil. How did they do it? They organized public transport using available vehicles. Personal cars have virtually disappeared. The country diversified its agriculture (which was so heavily focused on sugar) and essentially went back to organic means of production. (Modern industrial farming is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for pesticides and fertilizers not to mention the fuel for machinery, processing and transport.) Many people returned to the land to grow food. Those who stayed in the cities set up gardens everywhere. Today everyone learns how to grow food. The country is also reforesting knowing that this is essential if it wants to maintain the fertility of its soils. (For an audio interview that goes into more detail, click here.)
Today Cuba's citizens enjoy surprisingly good health with some key measures exceeding those of Americans. If peak oil production comes soon, we may be forced to look to a longtime enemy for at least some answers on how to adjust without tearing our society apart. That's really the most shocking thought of all!
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