Cuba’s alternative way
When you say Cuba, Ernesto Che Guevara and Castro are remembered by many. For some, beautiful women (and men) and juicy nightclubs swing in the memories. Even more memorable are the Cuban cigar and Havana rum.
I went there a few years ago to fulfill my wish to go to Cuba while Fidel Castro is still alive.
When I reached Havana Airport it looked like a third-world country airport. The faces of the immigration officers, who speak broken English and had fewer smiles, seemed to cause a bitter feeling in my heart that had already read the American propaganda.
I was stunned at the uniqueness of Cuba when I exchanged Australian currency for Cuban money and boarded a taxi.
Only a few vehicles were visible on the quiet streets without much traffic. I thought this was the route from the airport to Havana. A few years ago, I counted the four hours it took to travel from the Katunayake Airport to Colombo, which was the same or shorter distance.
The next day the car we were traveling in went on the main road to Cuba as we drove to the site of the Che Guevara memorial where many of the items used by the revolutionary Che were found as memorials and the belongs of Che Guevara who was shot dead by the American spy agency and then brought from there are kept there.
This road passed through sugarcane fields. Those who were standing to continue their journey by the roadside were, picked up by several passing vehicles. “If government officials do not pick up people standing in their way, they should justify their superiors,” our driver told us.
How much fuel would be saved if the same procedure was followed in other countries?
Horse-drawn carriages are used as garbage carts. Bicycles and motorcycles were widely seen on the road. I thought crude oil from Venezuela was being used sparingly.
According to a 2007 report by the World-Wide Fund for Nature, Cuba was the only country in the world to have an ecologically sustainable economy.
Forty years were Soviet aid to Cuba, which was under the US embargo. During that time the fuel, chemical fertilizer, for sugarcane the main agricultural product, and the tobacco came from the Soviet Union. At present Cuba is forced to rely not only on its own resources but also to conserve and use those resources sparingly.
In 1997, environmental law came into force in Cuba. The changes that followed were examples of other countries. Current petrol prices and global warming testify to the fact that third-world countries cannot go the way the West had gone through.
Natural agriculture and urban agriculture were the basis of Cuba’s success. As food was produced near populated areas, they were transported in horse-drawn carriages, reducing transportation costs
Massive power generation projects were shut down and small power generation projects were designed. Electricity was generated by windmills. Low-power incandescent bulbs were distributed free of cost to homes. Small villages were provided with electricity through solar panels.
Each village school was provided with two solar panels, a computer, a television, and a DVD player. Similarly, village hospitals were provided with a small two-way radio with a solar panel and autoclave, and refrigerator.
Biogas extraction from sugarcane remains meets 30 percent of Cuba’s energy needs. Factories that waste too much energy have been shut down. A Cuban expert who recently visited Australia said that such paper and many sugar mills had been shut down and that workers there were receiving other vocational training and education at full pay.
Although Cuba is a third-world country in economy or GDP measures, educational and health improvements are comparable to those of rich countries. At present, the income earned by tourists and the oil available from Venezuela is used sparingly.
There are many things we can learn from Cuba.