The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil.
Dir. Faith Morgan.
The Community Solution.

I saw this movie a week ago and I can’t stop talking about it. It is absolutely the most uplifting movie I have yet seen on the topic of the multiple pending environmental disasters towards which the human species seems to be careening.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba abruptly lost 80% of its import-export business.  For a tiny island producing only three cash crops and heavily dependent on foreign oil, foreign food, and petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides for the food they did produce this was catastrophic.

Immediately they faced what oil geologists tell us we will all face: a peak oil crisis.  Peak oil is the term used to describe the phenomenon experienced when the production of oil, a finite resource, reaches its peak and begins to rapidly decline.  In short, we will run out of oil.  We in America, similar to Cubans in the late 80’s, are dependent upon petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, and oil-guzzling tractors and combines as well.

The situation in Cuba was dire.  People on their way to work had to wait four hours for a bus, only to find that there was no work due to power outages or lack of supplies.  They then had to wait another four hours for a bus home.  Within weeks, children were showing signs of malnutrition and babies with low birth weight were born.

I will not ruin the surprise and tell you how they got themselves out of that mess, but only that they did and how they did it is a lesson for all of us, which is what makes the movie so uplifting and worth seeing.  As a sneak peak, I will say that currently, 50% of the food in Havana is grown by organic urban agriculture.  My friend who’s a habitat biologist tells me their coral reef is the healthiest on the planet.  That means there’s hope for Earth yet.

About the Author
Shelley Dennis


  1. Karen Stucke

    At Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Chandler AZ, our social action group showed this film in 2009 or 2010 and I was very impressed with the real-life struggles and solutions that Cuba went through. The average Cuban lost 20 lbs. That’s a serious change! I borrowed the movie and showed it to some friends.
    The recent enthusiasm for urban gardening in the Phoenix metro area shows that with determination and trial and error, even this harsh environments can be bountiful. The knowledge gained will help us transition to a more local food economy with less dominance of big oil in our food production.

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