The World’s Most Sustainable Country: What? Cuba?

By 2006, when this picture was taken, urban farms such as this converted soccer field in the middle of Havana were supplying the city with 90% of its produce while using virtually no petroleum products. (Photo by Dave Williams/Flickr)

By 2006, when this picture was taken, urban farms such as this converted soccer field in the middle of Havana were supplying the city with 90% of its produce while using virtually no petroleum products. (Photo by Dave Williams/Flickr)

After 50 years of pretending that Cuba is not there, the United States government this year admitted that, well, it is still there (even  Fidel Castro is still there) and we may as well deal with it. This is seen in some quarters as progress. But it is widely assumed that American business will swoop in there and upgrade them from their 1967 DeSoto cars, re-mechanize their agriculture, build fast-food restaurants, and stamp out Communism. It’s what we do.

What we should do is recognize that Cuba confronted in 1991 precisely the kind of Apocalypse that looms before us today — the sudden loss of external inputs to the economy — things such as oil, heavy equipment, cars, and did we mention oil? — and handled it. We have more to learn from them than there is likely time to learn before we are in the soup, but we should do the best we can, because there is no better example in the world for meeting and besting such a crisis. Continue reading

In a Maryland Village, The Street Not Taken

Urban sprawl

Against an ocean of urban and industrial sprawl, a tiny town (not pictured here) offers resistance.

Is it, as the town’s mayor and the Washington Post calls it, “the greenest street on the East Coast?” Or is it a tiny Band-Aid on an enormous, cancerous tumor? We’ll report, you decide.

The street in question, in Edmonston, Maryland (population1500), is three quarters of a mile long. It has just been re-engineered to be “green” with a year-long, 1.3-million-dollar project that was funded with stimulus money. Continue reading