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Oil dependence and Cuba

Erasmo Calzadilla My parents named me Erasmo 34 years ago, when I was planted in a neighborhood of retired military personnel situated toward the southern city limits of Havana. I don’t know why, but I’m impassioned with thought, philosophy, art, science, friendship and music; in short, everything good that has stirred the passions of humans, nature, and God – or whoever was the creator. Actually I graduated in pharmacy, but I work as a professor at institutions that believe in me and are welcoming. It is important to highlight that I also hold a well-defined political position: I am a bitter opponent of those who are bossy, abusive, and imposing, those who believe they hold the truth, etc., independent of their attire. To them, I occasionally dedicate a few angry words.

Oil platform (Source Wikipedia)Oil platform (Source Wikipedia) There is an anxiousness that I haven’t been able to shake and which is in fact changing my life. It hit me after reading about the Hubbert Theory of Peak Oil and becoming aware how little oil is left on the planet. It is striking how dependent we are on this fossil fuel whose extraction will soon cease satisfying our collective demands.

If we don’t take urgent measures, when this occurs the world will sink into chaos not much different from the Apocalypse. Friends that I’ve talked to concerning this matter, even very well educated people, believe that this will take hundreds of years or that a new technology will emerge to immediately replace oil. Almost no one suspects what is fast approaching, while the oil industries and automobile manufacturers prefer it this way.

Almost all objects with which we coexist are developed based on petroleum, and our culture itself is shaped by the idea that its exploitation will permanently increase. In the century or so that we’ve been burning oil, we’ve forgotten and destroyed traditions and customs that we’ll have to rescue or re-invent when it runs out.

In Cuba

Some progressive researchers warn of the possibility of a catastrophe, but it’s curious to see how those same people miss the boat when dealing with the issue in Cuba.

Many of them point to this country as an example of what could be done when the crisis hits, since something similar occurred here with the fall of the socialist camp, and we were able to survive to tell our story.

It’s true; we had to go back to draft animals, traditional green medicine and urban agriculture; but, as soon as the Venezuelan tankers appeared in the port we returned to being as oil-dependent and oil-centric as any nation on earth.

To tell the truth, we have indeed implemented a mass campaign to conserve energy, but I don’t believe that there exists a deep change in our policies or mentality in this same sense.

The problem is that the oil-centric energy paradigm is the pillar of the political paradigm of the centralized State, which has not given an inch. Most urban neighborhoods will succumb or have to painfully readapt themselves when the electricity and water pumped with the black gold becomes scarce.

The positive

But, if what they predict ends up coming to pass, it won’t be all bad.

Should we survive the fuel war and the accompanying chaos, perhaps we’ll be able to enjoy greater local autonomy and reduce our environmental pollution.

The rhythm of life will unfold more leisurely and harmonize with our biology. Maybe there will be more opportunities for human relations and all the good that can be derived from that.

I believe that the oil shock will mean the undoing of capitalism, which depends so much on production perpetually increasing. However I worry about the survival of “State socialism” and other forms of authoritarianism; history has demonstrated that such systems are not necessarily dependent on petroleum.

Among my family and friends, all these concerns have transformed me into an advocate of a daily practice that minimizes the use of fossil fuels. These days I’m getting used to sleeping without a fan, and it’s pleasant to again hear the sounds of the night.

Editorial Notes: Much more interesting than the usual pro- or anti-government propaganda about Cuba. Havana Times didn't give permission to re-post this, but I think it's important to hear some fresh voices from Cuba. According to Havana Times, the website is not approved by the Cuban government and, while broadly sympathetic to the Revolution, it has been mildly repressed. Apparently it is now edited in Nicaragua. A Spanish-language version of the article is online: El pico del Petróleo -BA

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