Organic Cuba without fossil fuels.
January 24, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Thank you.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2008

So, the key to sustainability is to be economically isolated from most of the rest of the planet.
posted by oddman at 8:44 PM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

The food industry hype that the world needs high-tech solutions to feed itself is bogus.
posted by stbalbach at 8:50 PM on January 24, 2008

So, the key to sustainability

Yes.. it's all about your relationship to the USA, which is, effectively, the rest of the world.
posted by pompomtom at 8:53 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh for crying out loud.

I have been twice to Cuba in recent years and visited organic farms and workers quarters. I adore the island and its people. But it is an absolutely miserable place to live for ordinary Cubans. For all the wonders of organic Cuban gardening the country can't feed itself and can't afford to buy enough food from abroad. Cuban agriculture is not a model.
posted by LarryC at 9:00 PM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'd read Rosset's article on this more than a decade ago:
It is unclear whether the widespread implementation of an alternative model of agricultural development will, in conjunction with other government policies, allow Cuba to emerge from the crisis wrought by the collapse of the socialist bloc. As agricultural scientists, environmentalists, and concerned citizens however, we can say that the experiment in agricultural alternatives currently underway in Cuba is unprecedented, with potentially enormous implications for other countries suffering from the declining sustainability of conventional agricultural production.
I understand it's become quite a Mecca for potential organic farmers since and is indeed having impact on international development models.
posted by Abiezer at 9:04 PM on January 24, 2008

Here's the question: In order to produce enough food to feed 1000 people, how many of them have to work on Cuban farms?

In the US the number is somewhere in the range of 30.

Here's a different question: If Cuba is such a utopia, why do so many Cubans risk their lives to try to come here?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:11 PM on January 24, 2008

Oops, should have previewed. LarryC, here's a Case Study in Food Security that notes poblems but concludes:
"The most important bottom line is that, by the end of 2000, food availability in Cuba reached daily per capita figures of 2,600 calories and more than 68 grams of protein. The UN¹s Food and Agriculture Organization considers 2,400 calories per day and 72 grams protein per day to be an adequate diet. Despite the remaining problem areas, the acute food shortage crisis is essentially over. Cuban society has successfully made, while under considerable duress, heroic efforts to construct its own version of food security for its population, and has perhaps shown the way for other societies."
posted by Abiezer at 9:11 PM on January 24, 2008

If Cuba is such a utopia...
SCDB, your predictably binary thinking has little to do with the question of what is a successful strategy of food security under resource constraints.
posted by Abiezer at 9:14 PM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Nice straw man SCDB. I'm wondering who posited Cuba as a Utopia?

As to your first question: how many Arabs do you need to kill to get the oil to feed those people in such a low-labour environment?
posted by pompomtom at 9:14 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Note that unlike some places', Cuba's definition of "organic food" does not in any way mean GMO-free.

Checkout the Cuban GMO Vision [pdf] from Havana's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
posted by finite at 9:16 PM on January 24, 2008

Interesting article. This is the google maps view of the Vivero Alamar urban farm mentioned in the article. I think.
posted by maxwelton at 9:18 PM on January 24, 2008

See also this interesting Harper's article from 2005: The Cuba Diet.
posted by maryh at 9:18 PM on January 24, 2008

Look, I am a big Michael Pollan fan, I bought a free range chicken today, I want to believe!

Yet I read that article and I remember visiting a family in Havana, and how the 17-year-old boy looked to be about 9, so shrunken was he by malnutrition, and the way his arm and especially his knee joints were swollen and stuck out against his shrunken skin.
posted by LarryC at 9:19 PM on January 24, 2008

LarryC: I have been going from things I've heard from people in the development sector, including people who've visited or worked in projects in Cuba. I realise Cuba attracts ideologues of all stripes and don't discount your anecdote, so just did a quick search for some reputable figures.
Best and most recent I have found is this FAO PDF which seems to show a spike in malnutrition in the late 1990s dropping away to much less recently. Calorie and protein consumption are up but fat consumption has dropped; growth in food production is outstripping population growth, etc. It does appear what I have been told is not far from the reality. When were you last there?
posted by Abiezer at 9:35 PM on January 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

One of the archeological signs of the Mayan collapse after several intense droughts was the shortened, malnourished skeletons.
posted by eustatic at 9:39 PM on January 24, 2008

that said, Cuban society re-organizing like this is quite amazing.
posted by eustatic at 9:40 PM on January 24, 2008

If Cuba is such a utopia, why do so many Cubans risk their lives to try to come here?

As opposed to Mexicans, Guatemalans, etc etc etc. But wait, they're capitalists!
posted by wilful at 10:32 PM on January 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Still intrigued by this, I looked around for comparative studies and found this UN report that compares "Hunger and malnutrition in the countries of the Association of Caribbean States." Cuba comes out top of eight countries compared for dietary energy supply (the table maps this back to 1990 and even at the worst of the post-Soviet collapse embargo, Cuba drops only to fourth). There's also a table of percentage malnourished: in the 25 ACS meber states; with 3 percent malnourished in the 200-2002 period, Cuba has the lowest figure of any of the countries listed, better even than Mexico and the Bahamas, and orders better than nations like the Dominican Republic. Also, "Cuba and Belize show a low level of [low birth weight] LBW (6 percent), which is lower than the average observed in the most industrialized nations." And so on. The clear message seems to be poor but out-performing comparable nations significantly. Perhaps there's something in their model after all.
posted by Abiezer at 2:15 AM on January 25, 2008

Erk; hope the typos above don't interfere with the gist of the comment.
posted by Abiezer at 2:17 AM on January 25, 2008

If Cuba is such a utopia, why do so many Cubans risk their lives to try to come here?

For the healthcare?
posted by mattoxic at 3:28 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

If Cuba is such a utopia, why do so many Cubans risk their lives to try to come here?

Brilliant thinking! Except, of course, Cuba's not a utopia — it's a country trying to survive despite being deliberately and brutally blockaded by its natural trading partner. Some people want out of that, just like a lot of people want out of the neoliberal "paradises" of capitalism in Central America. This is encouraged by the fact that the US government (primarily for reasons of propaganda) is quite committed to the fact that Cuban "dissidents" do pretty well for themselves here. Better deal than the Mexicans who brave the border just to get day work and hope they don't get deported.

And even if Cuba were really the nightmare that the US government proposes it is, it wouldn't change the fact that Cuba has solved significant problems of green growth and healthcare without spending trillions of dollars on them.
posted by graymouser at 3:40 AM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I also like the way that SCDB's rhetorical question ignores the agency of American policy in Cuba's economy, so that Cuba's not surprisingly good despite the embargo, but rather purely worse than here.
posted by klangklangston at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2008

It's not a complete and immediate unalloyed success! Let's ignore it! We've got a good thing going here! Just over that next hill!
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:39 AM on January 25, 2008

Cuba's perfect. No, Cuba's perfectly evil. No, Cuba's perfect. No.. (repeat)

Tell you what, why don't we make a new perfect country from a composite?

Healthcare: Cuba
Trains: Germany
Freedom of press: Britain
Political system: Ireland
Food policy: Cuba
Economics: Sweden
Music: America

Etc etc.
posted by imperium at 10:35 AM on January 25, 2008

Abiezer: I was last there in 2004. And I don't want to make it sound like Darfur or something! Cubans live in aching poverty but I don't think actual starvation is happening anywhere on the island.
posted by LarryC at 11:19 AM on January 25, 2008

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