Green Party fringe on Cuba

Campaign News | Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Roberto Perez - Cuban permaculturist

CSC fringe meeting at the Green Party Conference

It was standing room only at a fringe meeting held by CSC at the Green Party Conference in September to learn about Cuba’s significance to the Green movement.

The Green Party delegates enjoyed a rum reception and heard about the inspirational way in which Cuba managed to resuscitate its economy and agricultural sector after the loss of Soviet oil in the 90s, and transform itself into the world’s foremost environmentally friendly country. Delegates learnt how this was achieved through the application of organic permaculture farming methods. This is especially significant for Britain and the rest of the world during a time when environmental problems and the issue of peak oil are extremely prominent.

The meeting was chaired by the Principle Male Speaker of the Green Party, Derek Wall, who gave praise to the work of CSC and to the green movement in Cuba, singling it out as the most important country for the green movement in the world today. Wall told the delegates that ‘the one place where there has been serious action on climate change is Cuba.’

He talked of the lessons that Cuba can teach us in order to achieve a greener world, citing the combination of strong political will and community participation as enabling the Cuban people to overcome and transcend their oil crisis, and to develop ecologically sustainable farming methods. Wall explained that we are dependent on oil in Britain and therefore ecologically unsustainable so we desperately need to learn these lessons; ‘Green parties need to look at countries like Cuba to really get change, otherwise they are not serious about ecological issues.’

Wall gave a warm reception to the hugely important and influential Cuban permaculturist, Roberto Perez, who had flown in from Cuba to speak to the delegates about Cuba’s ecological transformation, and the work that he has done to help it. He spoke of the introduction of organic permaculture farming methods that eliminated the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, and also worked with nature to produce a thriving ecosystem and plentiful food supplies.

Emma Piercy, an environmental researcher at Coventry University highlighted the educational aspects behind Cuba’s environmental success. She explained that in Cuban schools children learn by practice and participate in growing organic food. She also stressed that passion for the environment was key to Cuba’s success.

Bernard Regan, Secretary for CSC, praised this environmental work and added that whilst the transformation was precipitated by necessity, its continued success has been due to the fact that ‘it is a change which they have fully embraced’.

Perez talked of the importance of society when thinking of solutions to ecological problems, and said that as everyone needs food to survive, it should not be an issue of profit. He said: ‘Agriculture should not be a business, it should be about fulfilling human needs. If we really want to see a solution, we need to behave like humans. We need to be less selfish and more humanistic, because time is running out.’

Perez also spoke of the element of community participation as being highly important in such changes, which was then highlighted in the extract shown from the award-winning film ‘The Power of Community’. The film charts Cuba’s success in overcoming the ‘Special Period’ and how their community strength helped them pull together to achieve their environmental transformation. Such strength could not be more poignant at a time when the power of community in Cuba helped them to survive Hurricane Gustav, which devastated buildings, but took no human lives.

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