When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.
It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call “The Special Period.” The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is a project of The Community Solution, a non-profit organization that designs and teaches low-energy solutions to the current unsustainable, fossil fuel based, industrialized, and centralized way of living. Visit www.communitysolution.org for more information.
The documentary, “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil,” was inspired when Faith Morgan and Pat Murphy took a trip to Cuba through Global Exchange in August, 2003. That year Pat had begun studying and speaking about worldwide peak oil production. In May Pat and Faith attended the second meeting of The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, a European group of oil geologists and scientists, which predicted that mankind was perilously close to having used up half of the world’s oil resources. When they learned that Cuba underwent the loss of over half of its oil imports and survived, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, the couple wanted to see for themselves how Cuba had done this.
During their first trip to Cuba, in the summer of 2003, they traveled from Havana to Trinidad and through several other towns on their way back to Havana. They found what Cubans call “The Special Period” astounding and Cuban’s responses very moving. Faith found herself wanting to document on film Cuba’s successes so that what they had done wouldn’t be lost. Both of them wanted to learn more about Cuba’s transition from large farms or plantations and reliance on fossil-fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers, to small organic farms and urban gardens. Cuba was undergoing a transition from a highly industrial society to a sustainable one. Cuba became, for them, a living example of how a country can successfully traverse what we all will have to deal with sooner or later, the reduction and loss of finite fossil fuel resources.
In the fall of 2003 Pat and Faith had the opportunity to return to Cuba to study its agriculture. It was a wonderful trip. They saw much of the island, met many farmers and urban gardeners, scientists and engineers – traveling more than 1700 miles, from one end of Cuba to the other. It was all they had hoped for and more.
In 2004 Community Service, Inc. (CSI) began raising money and organizing a third trip (October), to film in Cuba. Greg Green, cinematographer and director of The End of Suburbia documentary, was the chief videographer. Faith Morgan shot the second camera, John Morgan did still photography and Megan Quinn, Outreach Director of CSI, was sound director. After their return from Cuba, they secured assistance and direction from Tom Blessing IV, producer, and Eric Johnson, post-production supervisor and editor. Together, they bring over 40 years combined experience in film and television production.
The goals of this film are to give hope to the developed world as it wakes up to the consequences of being hooked on oil, and to lift American’s prejudice of Cuba by showing the Cuban people as they are. The filmmakers do this by having the people tell their story on film. It’s a story of their dedication to independence and triumph over adversity, and a story of cooperation and hope. Several Cubans expressed the belief that living on an island, with its natural boundaries, breeds awareness that there are limits to natural resources. Everyone who has worked on the documentary hopes that, seeing this film, people will also see the world on which we live, as another, much larger, island.
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