2 Sep 2008

Roberto Perez: a one man answer to climate change!

Thursday 4th September, 7pm to 9pm
'Greening Latin America'
Bolivar Hall: Embassy Of Venezuela
54 Grafton Way
W1 5AJ

Chair: Joseph Healy, Green Party of England and Wales International Secretary
Roberto Perez, Cuban permaculturalist who launches his British tour .
Dr Diana Raby, Lecturer at the Institute of Latin American Studies (University of Liverpool)
Oscar Berglund Blanco, son of Hugo Blanco editor of Lucha Indigena.
Dr Derek Wall, Green Party Principal Speaker

'This meeting will show case the progress being made in Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba and Venezuela in dealing with climate change, biodiversity and range of environmental issues. It will examine the lessons in terms of politics and environmental policy that both the Green Movement and the wider left in Britain can learn from the Latin American experience.'

Organised by Green Left

DEREK WALL on Cuba's move toward a low-carbon economy.

ROBERTO Perez is a very important individual. He holds the key to dealing with global ecological and environmental crisis.

On Thursday September 4, this Cuban green activist will be kicking off a UK tour with a Green Left rally hosted by the Venezuelan embassy.

I would urge all readers to spread the word about his important work.

We are sleeping-walking into utter disaster. Climate change, other forms of ecological devastation, wars for oil, global economic collapse and food shortages mean that, while in years gone by, there may have been four horsemen of the apocalypse, these days there seems to be a whole cavalry. All these problems are intrinsically linked.

Global consumer capitalism based on the US model means that we consume something like 94 million barrels of oil a day. This is wrecking the global economy. Rising oil prices mean inflation and cause economic stagnation.

Britain, as we know, is currently seeing the highest inflation and unemployment figures for over a decade. Oil prices may fall and even fall a lot, but, with declining supply and rising demand for motor vehicles, they are unlikely ever to drop back to 1990 levels.

High oil consumption is literally raising the temperature of the planet. Higher temperatures mean that the arctic ice is melting, allowing more oil to be extracted. This is madness.

Runaway climate change is a real possibility and could lead to flooding, species loss, a highly unstable climate and the loss of millions of lives.

Biofuels are reducing the land available for food production. In turn, high oil prices make it more expensive to produce food because oil-based fertilisers and pesticides are used in intensive agriculture. More and more are going hungry because of oil addiction.

War for oil has already become a reality in Iraq and energy is also one of the factors driving the conflict in Georgia.

The danger is that, with all these problems, atavistic nationalism will grow and fascism will see a resurgence. In Britain, the BNP sees peak oil as a problem that will put Nick Griffin and friends in power.

But there is a solution. It's a socialist solution and its unlikely main exponent in Britain is BBC gardener Monty Don.

One country has already largely overcome the problems of oil dependency and is well on the way to creating the world's first post-petroleum low-carbon economy.

This country is Cuba.

It survived an oil shock in the so-called "special period" in the 1990s, when the collapse of the Soviet Union cut off its access to cheap oil.

Cuba has worked hard to generate energy through renewables. Many schools, particularly in rural areas, get their energy from solar panels. Recently, a wind map was produced for the whole island and wind turbines are springing up.

But perhaps the most important part of Cuba's true green revolution is agricultural.

Cuba introduced permaculture, a special form of organic farming, during the 1990s. Organic is important because, unlike pesticides, it does not require oil products.

Permaculture, which was developed by Australian writer Bill Mollison, uses ecological principles to minimise energy and labour inputs and to maximise output.

It uses tree crops and mulches to avoid the need for labour-intensive digging. Another principle is companion planting, where intercropping of different plants is used to reduce pests and increase fertility.

Composting is vital. Worm bins are used to turn waste into natural fertilisers and mulches.

Anyone who visited Havana in the 1990s would have found the city gripped by a gardening explosion.

Today, roof tops and the smallest scraps of land are used to grow food. It quite literally stopped people from starving and Havana is now virtually self-sufficient in fresh fruit and vegetables.

So, rather than low-carbon solutions leading to a lower standard of living, permaculture has increased prosperity for Cubans.

In Britain, we farm intensively, get our overpackaged food from the supermarkets and see our fruit shipped halfway across the globe. With permaculture, we could grow far more, eating better and cutting energy bills.

'One country has largely overcome the problems of oil dependency and is well on the way to creating the first post-petrol economy.'

Marx famously talked about the metabolism between humanity and the rest of nature and of the importance of maintaining ecological systems. He and Engels promoted garden cities and saw pollution as yet another attack on the working class.

As we know, much of this ecosocialist vision was lost in the 20th century, but Cuba's special period, along with its commitments at the 1992 Rio conference on the global environment, has made it a strong example of sustainable development.

Far from restoring capitalism, which is increasingly seen as ecologically and economically bankrupt, Raul Castro's recent reforms will deepen this ecosocialist vision.

The Cuban president is releasing land across the island for farming based on the concept of "usufruct." Usufruct provides access to property, in this case land, on the condition that it is looked after sustainably.

So, Cubans can farm as long as they do so in ways which are sustainable, but the notion that land can be owned and abused by individuals for short-term gain is rejected.

Cuba's green vision has been taken up in Venezuela and other Latin American economies because ecological economics, particularly in the form of organic agriculture, make sense.

Monty Don made an exciting BBC programme on Cuba's permaculture gardening ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRz34Dee7XY&feature=related).

"It's an inspiration, it's beautiful," Don proclaims. He has argued that we need this model in Britain.

"You have to become a rabble. One should scare them and pressure them and subvert the system from the ground up."

Perez, who is perhaps the best known exponent of this Cuban approach to ecology, can be seen on the DVD The Power of Community. He is touring Britain to spread the word.

As well as the Green Left event on September 4, he will be talking at the Convention of the Left in Manchester and in Bristol, Brighton, Sheffield, Derby, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Dundee and Totnes, among other towns.

If we are serious about socialism, ecology and the crisis on this planet, we must spread the word about Cuba.

The September 4 event takes place at Bolivar Hall, 54 Grafton Street, London Full details of Perez's tour can be found at www.permaculture.org.uk

Roberto Perez on tour in the UK

Climate change and peak oil are on many people’s minds today. The big question is how do we make the transition to a low energy society, and what would such a society be like? The way Cuba adapted to the Special Period when oil was in short supply is a model that many people are trying to learn and take inspiration from.

Roberto Perez is a Cuban permaculturist and environmental educator who will be on tour in the UK in September. Roberto was involved in work to develop urban food growing in the Special Period to increase Cuba’s food security, using permaculture techniques which seek sustainable solutions by following nature’s patterns.

Cuba’s experience is explained in the award-winning documentary film, The Power of Community, in which Roberto features, and now he will be visiting groups and food growing projects across the country, many of which are organising events for local people to hear him talk about the transition in Cuba.

Cuba Solidarity groups, permaculture networks and transition town communities have joined together to host public events in the following locations:

Saturday 6th September: Permaculture Convergence, Ilkley
Monday 8th September: Leeds
Saturday 13th September: Machynlleth / Centre for Alternative Technology
Tuesday 16th September: Bristol
Wednesday 17th September: Falmouth
Thursday 18th September: Totnes
Saturday 20th September: Brighton
Monday 22nd September: Derby
Tuesday 23rd September: Nottingham
Wednesday 24th September: Manchester
Thursday 25th September: Sheffield
Friday 26th September: Newcastle upon Tyne
Saturday 27th September: Dundee
Sunday 28th September: Forres
Tuesday 30th September: London

See further down this page for more details and additional dates.

*Please support the organisation of this tour:
This tour has been organised by PAB, with support from CSOG and Garden Organic.

We have raised funds to cover the costs of the tour, but at present still have a short fall. In order to support this and future international work of the PAB.

Send a donation to Permaculture Association (Britain) BCM Permaculture Association, London, WC1N 3XX - more info

Details of the tour:

September 2008

Roberto’s tour starts at the PAB’s convergence in Ilkley on the 5th to 7th.
Contact: office@permaculture.org.uk
There are still a few tickets left for the Permaculture Association Convergence, but they are moving fast.

8th - Bradford University
Contact: Anna Harris, anna@shsh.co.uk

12th - Garden Organic and Cuba Solidarity Organic Support Group, Ryton
Contact: Julia Wright, jwright@hdra.org.uk or Wendy Emmett wendyemmett@hotmail.com more details on www.cosg.org.uk

13th - Machynlleth hosted by Transition Bro Ddyfi, 7:30pm
Contact: Transition Bro Ddyfi, transitiondyfi@yahoo.co.uk

16th - Bristol - Public talk 7.30 p.m. £4/£3
4 Princess Row, Kingsdown, Bristol BS2 8NQ and the film will be shown at 7.30p.m. with doors open at 7.00 p.m.
Contact: Tess Green fiducia@blueyonder.co.uk

17th - Falmouth
Contact: Lorely Lloyd, lorely@transitionfalmouth.org.uk

18th - Transition Town Totnes
Methodist Church, 8pm. £5 (£4 conc.)
The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil
An evening talk by Roberto Peres with Cuban music.
Contact: TTT Admin transitiontowntotnes@googlemail.com

20th - Brighton
More information can be found at: www.brightonpermaculture.co.uk

22nd - Cuba Solidarity Derby - 6:00pm
The Voice box, Kensington Mews, Forman Street, Derby DE1 1JQ
Contact: Juan Ramirez Juan.Ramirez@derby.gov.uk

23rd - Nottingham
Details to be confirmed

24th - Manchester
Details to be confirmed

25th - Sheffield
Contact: Karen Lawson karenincuba@yahoo.co.uk or Anne-Marie Culhane mail@amculhane.co.uk

26th - Newcastle
Presentation at the Star n Shadow community cinema with Jo Atkinson from Powerswitch who will be giving a brief presentation on peak oil.
Contact: Wilf Richards, wilf.permascape@virgin.net
27th - Dundee University
Contact: Stephen Brogan S.K.Brogan@dundee.ac.uk

2pm - Fairtrade Festival incorporating music, lectures, stalls and displays and other displays on our new campus green and at the Dundee University Student Union (DUSA) hosted by DUSA.
6pm - Roberto Perez lecture. 45 minute lecture followed by Q&A - the lecture will take place in the new education centre, The Dalhousie Building adjacent to the campus green. Lecture theatre seats 350 and is linked to a further 3 lecture theatres with audio and visual links.
7.15pm - Drinks reception for audience members.
There will be a live link up with this event – details to be confirmed.

28th - Transition Town Forres
Contact: Sarah Lagden sarahlagden@hotmail.com

30th - London
Contact: organiclea@yahoo.co.uk


Scotty said...

Discuss Energy Environment Issues :
Energy Environment Forum
It will be great to have you there !

Jane Ennis said...

Thanks very much for organising this meeting, and the talk by Perez and the other speakers, it was really fascinating - inspired me with the desire to go to Cuba and see for myself! I look forward to attending his talk in London later this month