Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Cuban permaculturalist touring Australia in 2008

The wombats are recovering from our summery slumbers, and will be bringing more up-to-the-minute posts in the near future. Perhaps one of the most important fronts for the struggle for our collective survival is opening up in 2008, and the battle against climate disaster and ecological collapse looks us directly in the face.

As a response to this challenge, and the fragmentation of the various left and environmental forces different forces are already on the move. Friends of the Earth is holding a conference on February 9 in Melbourne to bring green groups together, while Green Left Weekly is sponsoring a conference in Sydney on April 11-13 called "Climate Change, Social Change" - obviously aimed not only at unity, but at developing the strategy necessary to actually bring about the changes to save the planet.

This conference will have some pretty exciting speakers, both local and international, including marxist ecologist, editor of Monthly Review and author of Marx's Ecology, John Bellamy Foster, Venezuelan youth activist and communal council organiser (and environmental engineering student) Sandino Carrizales, and Patrick Bond, director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of Natal, and editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society.

However, the othe
r confirmed international speaker deserves a bit of a longer look. Roberto Pérez Rivero, from the
Fundación Antonio Núñez Jiménez de la Naturaleza y el Hombre in Cuba:

Introducing Roberto Perez
- Robyn Francis, December 2007, (via Djanbung Gardens Permaculture)


The big words on many people's minds today are Climate Change and Peak Oil. The big question is how do we make the transition to a low energy society, and what would such a society be like? Where are there models we can learn and take inspiration from? If you have seen the award-winning documentary film, The Power of Community, you would promptly reply "Cuba".

When Cuba lost access to Soviet oil, fertilizers and export trade market in the early 1990s, the country faced virtual overnight economic collapse and an immediate crisis - feeding the population. The story of the Cuban people's hardship, ingenuity, and triumph over sudden adversity --through cooperation, conservation, and community--to create a low energy society is inspirational. Cuba's transition to organic agriculture, and rapid relocalisation based on decentralized health care and higher education, bicycles and public transport, and community response to radical change is both thought provoking and empowering.

Roberto Perez, Cuban permaculturist, featured in The Power of Community film, will spend 2 month touring Australia sharing the Cuban experience through public presentations, national and regional conferences. Roberto attributes much of the success of Cuba's urban agriculture and food security to the introduction of permaculture by a group of Australian permaculture trainers during the early years of the Cuban crisis, or ‘Special Period'. The city of Havana now produces over 60% of its fruit and vegetables within the city and peri-urban areas.

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Permaculture plays a major role in food security and Urban Agriculture in Cuba - Photos courtesy Cary Cruz

Roberto Perez works as a permaculture and environmental educator for the Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Cuba's major environment organisation based in Havana. An inspiring, articulate presenter, Roberto was a keynote speaker at the International Permaculture Convergence, IPC8, in Brazil, May 2007.

His visit to Australia will provide a rare opportunity to hear about the Cuba experience first hand and engage in dialogue and discussion on practical ways we can meet the challenges of climate change and making the transition to a low energy society.

News of the visit is generating a phenomenal response. You are invited to participate in this high profile sustainability initiative as a sponsor or supporter - towards a carbon-responsible Australia.

Living Planet Sustainability Index
Roberto Perez is familiar to many Australians as the dynamic permaculturist featured in the DVD documentary "The Power of Community", which has inspired a diverse audience throughout Australia, including schools, universities, climate action groups, relocalisation groups, community gardeners, church groups, and countless public and private screenings.

The new wave of change firing the Australian public signals a readiness to re-examine our society and explore sustainable solutions to embrace the challenges of a low-carbon future. Australians have much to learn from the Cuba experience, particularly in the areas of urban agriculture, food security, building community and living a low-impact lifestyle.

The 2007 Living Planet Report recently released by the World Wildlife Fund claims that the only truly sustainable country in the world is Cuba--Sustainable development being defined as a commitment to "improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems". The two key parameters employed by WWF for measuring sustainable development were the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) as the indicator of human wellbeing --calculated from life expectancy, literacy and education, and per capita GDP; and Ecological Footprint calculated at 1.8 global hectares per person to measure the demand on the biosphere.

Cuba was the ONLY country on earth to achieve both criteria for sustainable development.

In terms of ecological footprint, Australia rates as the 6th highest nation on earth. If everyone lived like the average Australian we'd need almost 4 planets to support the earth's current population.

The report naturally does not imply that everything in Cuba is perfect, it still faces challenges in terms of environmental degradation and living within the limits of the USA trade embargo, yet this externally imposed restraint is perhaps the key factor resulting in the Cuban population living within it's global footprint. The report is definitely a wake-up call that the affluent lifestyle enjoyed in Australia is clearly not sustainable and we need to live more like Cubans in terms of simplicity and frugality, we need to dramatically reduce our consumption and become more resourceful with less. Roberto's visit will provide a unique opportunity to learn more about how a society can survive with serious resource constraints and attain a high degree of self-reliance.

Roberto's full itinerary can be found here or contact climatechange.socialchange@gmail.com for more info on the April 11-13 conference.

2 comments:

Kamala said...

Hey, Wombat,
owing to an ambiguity in a bio blurb, early publicity for the climate change|social change conference suggested that Patrick Bond was the author of the work referred to; turns out, it should have said editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society. Could you amend any other info you send out? cheers.

Red Wombat said...

Done.