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By Phil Hall | August 13, 2008

Faith Morgan’s trenchant documentary details the lessons that can be learned from Cuba’s early 1990s energy crisis. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the tightening of the U.S. economic embargo nearly brought the Caribbean island to a standstill. The result was an acute drop in oil imports, which brought about disruptions in transportation and construction and chaos in the nation’s food production operations.

But the resilient Cubans found solutions to overcome the absence of oil. Imported Chinese bicycles filled in for gas-guzzling automobiles. Organic farming replaced petroleum-driven agricultural processes, and free corners of urban space were turned into mini-gardens. Solar power was installed where connection to the electrical grid was lacking. Despite difficulties, the Cubans persevered and even gained from the situation – studies found a drop in diabetes, an increase in healthier diets, and a greater sense of energy self-reliance.

The film also offers troubling data regarding worldwide oil consumption, and it predicts a crisis in the near future when demand outstrips supply. In some ways, the film argues, Cuba’s problems are a preview of what could occur on a global scale.

In view of the current energy crisis facing the U.S. and other countries, the Cuban example of sacrifice and ingenuity offers the proverbial food for thought. Obviously, many of the examples are unique to the Cuban society, where free enterprise has been conspicuously lacking since 1959. And the anti-Castro crowd will clearly see this production as little more than propaganda.

Nonetheless, the film addresses vital issues that no country can afford to ignore. This film deserves to be seen and discussed.

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