“If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by”

Raul Castro reports on progress since his call in July 2007 for Cuba to produce more of the food it uses:

“If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by, to be able to bring it in a cart with horses, an ox, or pushing it ourselves (Applause).”

RETURNING TO THE LAND, MAKING IT PRODUCE MORE

from:

Moving onto another subject, of the few that I plan to touch on this morning, on July 26, 2007 in Camagüey, I referred to the pressing need for us to return to the land, to make it produce more. At that time, almost half the arable area was idle or under-exploited. We called at the time for generalizing – with the greatest speed possible and without improvisations – every experience of outstanding producers in the state and campesino sector, and to stimulate their hard work, as well as to definitively resolve the state’s damaging failure to make payments in that sector.

The handover of land in usufruct is progressing satisfactorily, although shortcomings persist, in some municipalities more than in others. Of the 110,000-plus applications made, close to 82,000 have been approved to date, covering 690,000 hectares; in other words, 39 percent of idle land.

I believe that it is little. It is not a question now of rushing to distribute it without control; it is doing so more efficiently, it is doing it in an organized way, and it is a task of top strategic priority. One of the speakers who preceded me referred to the fact that it is a matter of national security to produce the products used in this country and on which we spend hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars — and I am not exaggerating — transporting them from other countries.

The land is there, here are the Cuban people, let us see if we work or not, if we produce or not, if we keep our word or not! It is not a question of shouting ‘Homeland or Death!’ ‘Down with imperialism!’ ‘The blockade is hurting us!’ while the land is there, waiting for our sweat. Despite the increasingly greater heat, we have no choice but to make it produce. I think we agree (Exclamations of “Yes!” and applause)

Flying, mostly by helicopter, all over the country, I sometimes order the pilot to take a detour and fly over any town, city, etc. I can assure you that in the majority, there is an abundance of land, and good quality land, right outside our backyards, which is not being cultivated; and that is where a plan is being made to advance, with intensive crops, irrigating wherever possible, where there is water and the resources to do so. If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by, to be able to bring it in a cart with horses, an ox, or pushing it ourselves (Applause).

Of the land distributed, close to half has been declared free of marabú and other undesirable plants, and almost 225,000 hectares have been planted — that is, one-third.

We cannot be satisfied as long as a single hectare of land exists without being usefully employed, and while a person willing to make it produce is waiting for an answer.

Land that is no good for producing food should be used for planting trees, which are, moreover, a great resource. And the person who is talking to you has experimented for many years, especially in recent years, with planting small forests, and I have had the pleasure and satisfaction of watching them grow, and according to the type of tree, sometimes, within five years, I have formed a small forest with several hundred different types (of trees); but every time we talk about this subject, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture appear — the current one, and all the previous ministers of agriculture — with an endless list of millions of pesos or foreign currency requested for the task assigned, and if a little plastic bag doesn’t appear, the planting can’t be done. I don’t know what the hell our grandparents planted with (Laughter and applause), but there they all are, and we are eating the mangos that they planted (Applause).

We are not educating children to love trees, and that they should plant some— where there is land, of course — over the course of their years in elementary and high school. Some of the youth leaders are hearing me here; but planting trees can be done by young people of the third age, like me; in other words, it is not just a task for the young (Applause).

There are encouraging results for the milk distribution process, which has grown by more than 100 million liters annually in the last two years, given that from 272 million in 2006, it went up to 403 million in 2008, and this year everything seems to indicate that the increase will be higher. I spoke about this in 2007 in Camagüey, on a day like today.

I have very briefly addressed two aspects of the decisive issue of food production, which holds great importance in replacing imports, as I was saying to you, and in reducing the country’s hard-currency expenditure.

July 2009

Source:  http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2009/julio/mar28/31Rauldiscurso.html

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Not just climate and peak energy – but biodiversity as a limiting factor – for us

Yes what they are saying is basically that biodiversity is decreasing catastrophically – guess which species is in for a population crash.

“Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of six billion heading to over nine billion people by 2050.”

“The Outlook warns that massive further loss of biodiversity is becoming increasingly likely, and with it, a severe reduction of many essential services to human societies as several “tipping points” are approached, in which ecosystems shift to alternative, less productive states from which it may be difficult or impossible to recover.”

“Potential tipping points analyzed for GBO-3 include:

The dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest, due to the interactions of climate change, deforestation and fires, with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions.”

Read all about it – if you dare, at

http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=624&ArticleID=6558&l=en&t=long

A Forestry Manifesto for England’s Northwest

This is a really good initiative that would double tree cover in the NW.

The presentation makes some good points about carbon sequestration, self sufficiency in timber, climate amelioration, wellbeing and the local economy.   Other issues such as soil health and fruit production would be worth looking at too.   A paper some years ago on re-establishing the great Caledonian forest in Scotland cited the example of forest-led economic development in Norway, and while our bioregion is very different, some of this analysis is, nevertheless relevant, and in  a post-hydrocarbon world (time-scale for the manifesto is one generation, but changes will happen faster), there will be a need to rebuild the natural economy that is the basis for lasting human wellbeing – forest restoration is one part of this.

see the manifesto here and the slide show here.

RS 2010 – an alternative vision

As previously noted here, the North West Development Agency has put out its 20 year draft Regional Strategy.

I’m in the process of commenting on it (at http://www.nwregionalstrategy.com/Part1?dm_i=1G3,303C,HXIM8,9FLW,1)

One question concerns the overall vision – Here I’ve put my version, based on the concept of the “bioregionally sustainable production of wellbeing” – and below I reproduce their original version. It is really important that those of us who believe in true sustainability are prepared to spell out how this concept is different from the make-believe sustainability of the conventional wisdom, exemplified in NWRDA’s draft document.

The quality of life for the people of the Northwest will be excellent and the region will become more prosperous, more equitable and produce far less carbon: by 2030 it will be a better place to live, learn, work, visit and invest, and where:

  • we are well on the way to a low-carbon economy and lifestyle, using our tidal, geothermal, wind, and biomass assets (but running down our nuclear industry) and achieving a quantum change in energy efficiency in all sectors, to contribute to energy security and with low carbon and resource efficient solutions embedded throughout our activities;
  • there are jobs for all in a closed loop economy with increased agricultural production, high levels of skill and knowledge, and the restoration of industrial production for necessary local use, with a mix of community, cooperative, private, governmental and corporate business models.
  • deprivation, especially child poverty, has been eradicated and with high levels of health and social well being, supported by strong and accountable, adequately funded public services;
  • people have a good choice of high-quality, affordable and low-carbon homes, well connected to sustainable transport and with high quality digital access for businesses and individuals; and
  • we are living within environmental limits and have enhanced our natural and built environments.

Following consultation on the strategic options outlined in Section D, the final version of the Vision will also have spatially specific elements, amending or adding to the four bullet points below.

  • The region has built on the combined strengths and resources of all its areas.
  • We have regenerated those areas and communities facing significant economic, environmental and social challenges and throughout the region we have mitigated the risk of economic and social collapse due to the accelerating global ecological crisis.
  • Our region has high human capital, measured through the cultural and social development of its people.
  • Diverse communities work and live together with high levels of social solidarity within and between them.
  • We have thriving towns and socially and economically sustainable rural communities.

and here is their original:-

“The quality of life for the people of the Northwest will be excellent and the region will become more prosperous, more equitable and produce less carbon: by 2030 it will be a better place to live, learn, work, visit and invest, and where:

  • we are well on the way to a low-carbon economy and lifestyle, using our nuclear and other assets to contribute to energy security and with low carbon and resource efficient solutions embedded throughout our activities;
  • there are jobs for all in a highly productive, well-skilled, knowledge-based economy, attractive to private investment and internationally competitive;
  • deprivation, especially child poverty, has been eradicated and with high levels of health and social well being;
  • people have a good choice of high-quality, affordable and low-carbon homes, well connected to sustainable transport and with high quality digital access for businesses and individuals; and
  • we are living within environmental limits and have enhanced our natural and built environments.
  • The region has built on the combined strengths of Liverpool and Manchester as world class cities and Preston as a driver of economic growth.
  • We have regenerated those areas and communities facing significant economic, environmental and social challenges
  • Growth opportunities around Crewe, Chester, Warrington, Lancaster and Carlisle have been fully exploited.

We have thriving towns and socially and economically sustainable rural communities.”

Getting started on the economy

Here is a revised and extended version of a paper posted here last May:  Getting Started on the Economy.  More work needs doing on it but it

  • presents the problem for the regional economy in terms of two flawed assumptions endless growth and global competitiveness;
  • suggests some alternative guiding principles;
  • suggests some ways in which we can promote them.

Do comment so we can develop the thinking here.

It can be read in conjunction with the Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion paper and Sustainability: Utopian and Scientific.

(file updated 25/09/2010)

A reminder

“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human
victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us”
– Friedrich Engels, in Dialectics of Nature.

Thanks to John Tummon on the Convention of the Left mailing list for remembering this quote from Mr Manchester himself.

Consumer culture and the crisis

Report from the Worldwatch Institute reported by the Guardian:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/12/climate-change-greed-environment-threat

The average American (sic they mean UnitedStatesian) consumes more than his or her weight in products each day, fuelling a global culture of excess that is emerging as the biggest threat to the planet, according to a report published today. In its annual report, Worldwatch Institute says the cult of consumption and greed could wipe out any gains from government action on climate change or a shift to a clean energy economy.

No surprises here but useful to have this one to cite.   As we have argued (and see also John Bellamy Foster) this is the central problem – but it isn’t a matter of greed or even a cult of consumption – it is a matter of a capitalist system that requires endless production-consumption in the intersts of the treadmill of capital accumulation.  This is what has to stop – anything else is merely cosmetic because it does’t put out the fire beneath the planet.

A local renewable energy grid

Scottish island of Eigg wins green energy prize

Hebridean islanders build renewable electricity grid

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/13/eigg-wins-green-energy-prize

“The success of the project proves that when communities are incentivised, empowered and supported they become a compelling force in solving some of society’s biggest challenges.”

ALthough the conditions are very different in the Mersey/Manchester bioregion, this kind of intelligent self reliance, reducing our dependence on imported energy and using complementatry sources linked togeher,  is what we are after here.

And in Manchester, One of the actions from ‘A Certain Future’ is to

Produce a Manchester Energy Plan that provides the framework for establishing a city-wide decarbonised energy generation and distribution system and local energy plans supported by the LDF and Strategic Regeneration Frameworks.  Establish the partnerships and investments needed to develop and deliver the Energy Plan and the structures needed to integrate projects sharing heat, power and ‘smart grid’ information, and to manage them.

And did you miss this story last summer? –

Manchester’s manure to fill gas grid from 2011

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE55E1BP20090615

The figures in this story are interesting – a lot of gas, but nowhere near enough to power all our homes – let alone all the vehicles.   There really is no alternative to reduce reduce reduce our energy horizons.

How to square the circle ?

The NWRDA has produced the first part of the draft Regional Strtegy RS2010.

They have set out an interesting challenge:

“Therefore we are clear that over the next twenty
years this region must:

  • capitalise on the opportunities of moving to a lowcarbon

economy and address climate change

  • build on our sources of international competitive

advantage and regional distinctiveness

  • release the potential of our people and

tackle poverty

  • ensure the right housing and infrastructure for

sustainable growth.

We must tackle all these, however, in a period
when less public expenditure will be available.”

A tricky pancake indeed!  Some of us think that the second of these – this idea of international competitiveness is incompatible with the others.  Indeed that is one of the key ideas of this bioregional green deal project – strategic localism rather than strategic globalism (see our glossary.  We also aren’t at all sure that ‘sustainable growth’ is anything more than a contradiction.

Unfortunately the paper gets worse the more you go into it.  It uses the sustainability language, but with no depth of understanding as to what this might mean – it is playing at sustainability – fiddling in effect while the planet burns.

But let’s give it a thorough read and join in the consultation.   We know they mean well, we need to help them come up with a workable strategy not a fantasy.

The Copenhagen verdict

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia,  on November 28, 2008: “As long as we do not change the capitalist system for a system based in complementarity, solidarity and harmony between the people and nature, the measures that we adopt [to save the planet] will be palliatives that will be limited and precarious in character.”