Low-Energy Lifestyle: Lessons from Cuba

Presented by Pat Murphy, Executive Director The Community Solution Yellow Springs, OH 45387

The Problem – We Will Run Out of Oil

The Possible Decline Could Be Steep!

Alternatives Unlikely to Fill the Gap require land and fossil fuel fertilizers  Bio-fuels
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Questionable Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) World grain stocks at a low point

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Best dam sites are gone Wood renewable but in short supply – deforestation continues PV solar and wind turbines most rapidly growing  Also site-limited  Won’t scale well and are intermediate David Pimentel – Possibly 40% of oil and gas  And much more expensive

What Is Best Response to Peak Oil/Gas? 
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Change the American Way of Life – change our “lifestyle” Current way of life – energy-intensive lifestyle New way of life – low-energy lifestyle Our “Way of Life” will be negotiable if we run out of oil  Natural resources are finite!

Community Solutions – Physical/Cultural  Our goal is small local, low-energy communities
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We think people are happier and life is better Small communities are much more energy efficient

Small community philosophy  Cooperation is preferred to competition  Social interaction is preferred to consumer goods How does “Community” help?  A cultural view satisfied with a low-energy lifestyle

Taking the First Step
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Describing a low-energy lifestyle Defining and explaining the main categories of energy use Listing low-energy alternatives Designing strategies to achieve them

Low-Energy Lifestyle – Key Points

More walking/cycling vs. less driving  We have 10 times more cars per capita than rest of world Reduced size of meals, houses, cars More “home economics” vs. two parents working long hours Less mobility – people will not move as much for jobs Live local entertainment vs. electronic national entertainment Higher quality of life benefit for lower standard of living  Many social indices show declining quality of life  Bowling Alone

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Low-Energy Lifestyle Considerations of Life”  Contrary to American “Way
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“A way of consuming” – only a recent (1950s) “way of life” Low energy fits earlier values – prudence, thriftiness

A more sustainable way to live  Consider legacy of  Nuclear waste, buried CO2 and air CO2, other toxins  More consideration for children and grandchildren  Avoids “betting the world” on exotic technology

Key Categories of a Low-Energy Lifestyle  Food
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Transportation Housing Community zoning and land use Others to be considered later  Education  Occupations  Business and economics

Food/Energy Changes 1900-2000 (world) 
Cultivated area increased by 1/3
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Harvest of edible crops increased by 6 times People per cropland acre increased by 2.7 times World population increased by 3.8 times Fossil fuels use increased by 150 times!!! Green Revolution – energy intensive “industrial agriculture”

Energy at the Crossroads, Vacliv Smil, 2003

Problems of Industrial Agriculture

Industrial food is not safe, healthy, or nutritious  Obesity rates increasing rapidly in U.S. Industrial food is not cheap when all costs are in  10 calories of fossil fuel for every calorie of human food Industrial agriculture is inefficient – wastes fuels  Much of fuel inputs end up in water ways and water table Industrial agriculture injures the environment and wildlife  Mostly from the wastes of the fossil fuel used  Almost all agriculture pollutions are fossil fuel residues

Energy-Intensive vs. Low-Energy Food 

Reduce frozen and packaged foods consumption  Manufactured groceries will be replaced by local production Food should be grown locally  Reduce food shipment distance from 1200 to <100 miles Organic food will eliminate pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers  Agrarian agriculture rather than industrial agriculture Tens of millions of new farmers needed (15-25% of work force)  Labor intensive farming better for soil and more productive Folke Gunther (Sweden) estimates 5-1 energy reduction  “Sustainability through Local Self-Sufficiency”

Other Agriculture Changes
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Move to cooperatives, CSAs, farmers markets, organic farms Move to animal traction to replace some tractors Drying will be by sun and wind, not fuel-based machines All people will take food and agriculture responsibility  Cannot remain ignorant of energy and health issues Food growing and nutrition must be part of school curriculum

Organic vs. Industrial Agriculture

This is the fundamental choice  Replace fossil fuels with labor  Increase diversity

Reducing Car Energy by 10 to 1
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Make cars smaller and lighter (from 20 mpg to 80+ mpg) Lower frequency of use (from 11,000 to 5,000 miles per year) Drive slower (from 70 mph to 45 mph) Give up solitary driving (from 1.3 to 3+ passengers per trip) Emphasize public transportation over private cars

Future Transportation

Carpooling and ride-sharing will predominate  Hitchhiking will become an acceptable norm  Cell phone technology can help this  Check Ride-Share – communitysolution.org  Single occupancy vehicles will be a luxury Trains will replace planes Buses/trolleys/jitneys/bicycles will replace cars Speed limits will be reduced

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Honda Insight

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64 mpg Available since 1999

Volkswagen Lupo

1999 78 mpg

Daimler Chrysler “Smart” Car

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It’s not technology – it’s culture 69 mpg

Volkswagen Research Model

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Top speed under 70 mph 8 horsepower - 235 miles per gallon Looks futuristic but simply light and low powered

Homes in the Future
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Low-energy, smaller homes will predominate “Thick shell” construction without garages will reign  Houses will be much cheaper to build  And even cheaper to operate (low utility bills) ! More co-housing units will be built There will be more compact developments on smaller plots  Eco-villages Houses will include gardens – lawns will shrink Root cellars, cisterns and roof rain catchments will be used  Addresses declining water resources

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Reducing Home Energy by 4 to 1
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Decrease size (from 2400 sq ft to 1000 sq ft) – 1950 size Increase wall/roof thickness (from 2x4 walls to 2x10+ walls) Change temperature range (from 70 to 60 in winter) Reduce number/size of windows (from 12% to 6% floor area)  Double and triple glazing Use flash and solar water heaters/“thick” refrigerators/freezers Include “heat storage” in various ways  Passive solar  Rock and water storage

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Basic Shelter Design – Thick Shells

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New insulation technologies huge advance over 1950s New glass also huge advance

High Energy House (McMansions)

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5000-6000 sq. ft. $800,000 Average new home in US – 2400 sq. ft.

Low Energy “Habitat for Humanity”

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Less than 1000 sq feet $46,000 Average small home in the world – 500 sq ft.

Community Structures

Cities will become smaller  Average house needs replacement every 60 + years Small rural towns will grow and flourish Lot sizes will shrink – clustered zoning will appear Local and individual energy systems will increase  Individual house solar panels  Community wind systems Suburbs will change from bedrooms to communities  A market on every corner again

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Land Use and Cultural Values
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People will live locally – road travel will decrease Residential and non residential places will not be separate

Advocated in New Urbanism building

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People will live close to their work – maybe the same building Many modes of casual mass transportation will appear Zoning will be based on energy analysis

Cuba – Low Energy Lifestyle Example

Cuba is unique in the world today  Oil use reduced over 50% in 1990! Per capita energy use in Cuba is 1/15th – 1/20th of U.S. use Cuba is changing from an industrial to an agrarian society  Emphasizing biotechnology – not genetic engineering  Large number of biological scientists Focus is to build human resources through education  Medical and teaching education is a low energy process Community Service staff visited Cuba three times in the last 18 months

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Cuban History 1990 – Present
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Soviet personnel left Cuba in 1991 – Soviet Union collapsed Ended economic subsidies – $6 billion annually. GDP down 85% in the first 2 years Population lost weight (average 20 lbs.) – 30% per capita calorie decline  Some cases of malnutrition and blindness Major decrease in material standard of living

The “Special Period” – After Oil Loss
Introduced private farms and farmer markets Farms are smaller and use animal traction Maintained free decentralized medical system Used their limited oil resources to generate electricity Deemphasized private automobile

Cuba abandoned the Soviet Industrial Model  Changed from industrial/petrochemical farming to organic

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2004 Status
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Economy growing steadily at a slow rate Food production up to 90% of pre crisis period  But nowhere near pre crisis level of energy inputs Very little new housing – mostly remodels  High energy cost of cement results in short supply Transportation is still ad hoc (improvised)  Everybody shares every vehicle Medical care and education are above previous levels

Cuban Food

Involuntary vegetarianism – more energy efficient  Meat eating went from twice a day to twice a week Increased vegetable and viandas (starches) consumption  Increased vegetable sources of protein  Decreased wheat and rice (Green Revolution) production Urban gardens produce 50-80% of vegetables in cities Rural areas improved education for farmers  Many people moved from Havana to the country  Wages raised for farmers, who are very well paid! Little obesity now due to healthier diet and more physical work

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Raised Beds at Havana Urban Farm

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Designed for hand labor Some placed on parking lots

The Modernized Agrarian

This man earns more than an engineer

Oxen Replaced Tractors

The farmer may have gone to agricultural college

Rooftop Gardening

Permaculture Applications

Rooftop Food Animals

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Chickens, hamsters, rabbits Grows some grasses for animals

Urban Gardens

Downtown Havana

Cuban Housing

Major problem – particularly in Havana  Immigration to Havana is limited Increased efforts to develop rural areas  More sq. ft. per person in rural areas than in Havana House sizes are small relative to U.S.  U.S. new house size: 2400 sq. ft. ~600 sq.ft. per person  Cuba new house size: 700 sq. ft. ~135 sq.ft. per person There is a 4:1 ratio U.S. to Cuba sq.ft. per person  80% of Cubans own their home

Eco Village

Small but attractive

Simple Furnishings

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Kitchen bath utilities are minimal Wooden furniture Wardrobes – few built-ins

Cuban Transportation
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Every means possible – “Camels,” dump trucks, mules, bikes Vehicles heavily utilized  Occupants per trip: 1.2 in U.S., 5-6 in Cuba  Roads lightly used and poorly maintained Hitchhiking is an accepted alternative  In some cases illegal not to pick up hitchhikers Some empty vehicles commandeered by “highway patrol” Very inconvenient but very efficient relative to energy use

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The Camel – 300 Passengers

Cheap Cuba mass transportation

Provincial Version of Camel

Each of these units looks different – innovation

Varied Forms of Transportation

Horse drawn units like this have taxi licenses

Rapid Innovation

Mass transport appeared immediately using existing vehicles  No time or money for light rail or subways or new vehicles  Simply used whatever was available Added incentives to agriculture – “free market”  Big big change from socialist system Many new kinds of business appeared  Government decreased regulation A “social” transformation more than a technical one  Much of Cuba’s political philosophy was changed Successful because of Cuban cooperative history  Competition is not the principle social driver  An example of “Community Spirit”

Medical System Did Not Collapse

Free medical care remained first priority during the crisis  Vital for the morale of the people Cuba has same life span as U.S. – lower infant mortality Has more doctors per capita then U.S. – more labor intensive There is much more effort on prevention  System could not support fast food life styles Doctors live in the neighborhoods they serve  Informally monitoring local health

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Summary – Cuba Culture/Material Life

Cuba has best health care, education, and diet in third world High life expectancy – low infant mortality rates Free education through high school  Elementary class size of 15 students per class  Higher education free but limited availability <25% Social security – men retire at 60, women at 55  Ages will probably increase Food supply healthy and adequate – but not plentiful or rich Far fewer material goods – cars, houses, furniture  Cuba cannot afford “consumerism” at any level  An example of “genteel” poverty

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Cuba – Low-Energy Community Solution 
Definitely a low-energy lifestyle
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Changed from industrial priority to agrarian Huge reductions in energy use for food, transit, housing Major transformation of the society  Culture, politics, values Not out of the woods yet  Great stresses on society  Still using energy to some extent  Unclear if the soil is yet sustainable  Social unrest – lure of Miami

Community Solutions Summary
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Peak oil is coming – denial will be short-lived It will change our way of life  Will not be able to live like we are now Our task is to educate and model the transition Three projects under development  Energy Information Management System (EMIS)  Food Information Management System (FMIS)  “Factor Four” Model Village – Agraria One successful model proposed  Ride-Share Information System (communitysolution.org)

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A Personal Example

Current  Moved from 1800 sq.ft. to 800 sq.ft.  Replaced car with Honda Insight – 64 mpg  Raising eggs for neighborhood  Started garden – will add neighbors land in spring  Replaced furnace in house with efficient unit  Replaced all light bulbs  Heavy use of bicycles Planned  Build 6” walls on inside of exterior walls  Design and build window covers

Remember Albert Einstein

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” “I believe that the horrifying deterioration in the ethical conduct of people today stems from the mechanization and dehumanization of our lives – the disastrous by-product of the scientific and technical mentality.”