[permaculture] Musings II

loren luyendyk loren at sborganics.com
Mon Dec 30 01:46:51 EST 2013

Thank you Scott for this very well written and concise summary of the IPC experience.  I concur on all counts and look forward to further commentaries.

I enjoyed meeting you and also appreciated your presentations/sessions 
as you pointed out not one, but a whole herd of elephants in the room.  I think these topics would be great to address in more detail at the NAPC, perhaps we could develop a set of "Standards for Economic Exchange" in the permaculture profession, so that we can guide others in how to be as ethical as possible within and inherently unethical system.  But that is trending off topic, just had to put it out there though.

In Cuba I had the pleasure to stay in two different "casa particulares"- privately run room rentals (as opposed to state run).  Both of these had very interesting hosts, one a lady who had gone abroad on a work visa but got pregnant and married and was then found and extradited back to Cuba, 8 months pregnant.  The other couple had worked for the state, the husband had supposedly been one of Fidel's bodyguards.  

Being relatively fluent in Spanish I had a chance to talk with them in great detail about the Cuban situation.  Needless to say I could not understand some points as there are some freaky weird things going on and it was just outside of my reference field....  but I was able to glean some interesting info.

One point in their history that I came to understand, is that they suffered most after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  From what I gathered this is when the "special period" started when 
things got real tough for them.  No more imports from anywhere.  Until that point the US embargo had less of an effect on them as they relied on imports of food fuel fiber from Russia.  

I think most people believe that the USA is responsible for Cuba's woes.  This is only partly so, and Cuba is probably better off for it.  Like you pointed out Scott, Fidel basically took the land back from international  interests and "gave it" to the Cuban people.  The US based United Fruit Sugar Co was the largest interest.

This pissed off a lot of rich Cubans who had all their wealth (gathered via good ol' Capitalism) redistributed to the Cubans (with a little off the top for the Brass).  These Cubans fled to the US just after the revolution  in '59 and they apparently are one of the more vocal anti-Fidel lobbies in the USA.  In fact I met a Cuban lady in California recently who fled to the US after the revolution, and she was very disappointed that I had visited Cuba, because I was "giving money to Fidel".  

Despite a rough history, it seemed that Cubans are genuinely happy.  They may crave for some of the technogadgets and shiny things the rest of the world has, but are better off without them in my opinion.  The juxtaposition came to mind that Cubans have little and are happy, while USAliens have lots and are depressed.  You could insert any 2/3rds world culture for Cuba, as I have seen this over and over.

And I too fear for the future of Cuba- the near future.  Fidel and Raul are getting old and I don't think they have familial successors.  The rule of Cuba will be up for grabs in some way very soon, and hopefully the multinational Capitalists don't get their fingers in there.  Not so coincidentally, there was a ConAgra conference running concurrently and less than a mile from the IPC Conference.  This is scary.  The USA would love to exploit Cuba.

I see real potential for a permaculture food revolution there, but the current mainstream farming is the same as the rest of the world.  Sugar cane, tobacco, rice- monocropped, sprayed.  Based on machinery and petroleum.  We saw a lot of this to the east of Havana towards Cienfuegos.  The industrial ag model is pretty prevalent there.

BTW- the other biological weapon used by the US to cripple agricultural production was a swine flu.  I think most of Cuba's pigs had to be buried.  (I too enjoyed El Museo de la Revolucîon, with the bullet holes in the wall in the entry way.  This was the only place in Cuba I found a book on Botany, ironically, in the bookstore.)

Loren Luyendyk
Accredited Permaculture Teacher, PRI-AUS
ISA Certified Arborist WE-7805A

> From: scott at permaculture.org
> To: permaculture at lists.ibiblio.org
> Date: Sun, 29 Dec 2013 13:13:14 -0700
> Subject: Re: [permaculture] Musings II
> As per LL request my text version of Musings II
> Musings II
> Well, its been a while and I see lots of information about IPC11 on the
> internet, also beautiful photographs which I will eventually add my lot to.
> First of all I left out a couple of things about the Conference period:
> One, Robin Francis' talk was my favorite and was truly inspirational, I hope
> she puts it up on her website since I was unable to get my computer to talk
> to her computer in Cuba.
> The second outstanding event for me was a visit to the Cuban Museum of the
> Revolution.
> This is a must visit site if you ever make it to Cuba.  I was very involved
> in Cuba's fight for freedom as a 60's radical in Students for a Democratic
> Society (SDS) and have always thought that I was well informed but now I
> realize how many gaping historical holes exist in my knowledge.
> I was shocked but not surprised to learn that the U.S. engaged in biological
> warfare against Cuba using four different agents.  Three of those was
> tobacco mosaic virus, a virus to kill sugar cane, and the introduction of
> the dengue fever mosquito.  For some reason I can't remember the fourth.
> But still, to see the might and main of the U.S. directed at an island 90
> miles from our coast is a little over the top.  Cuba's sin was to recapture
> their government, natural wealth, and business from an ever increasing and
> aggressive attempt to turn the country into another Puerto Rican satellite
> of the U.S.
> 80+ young men set sail in a small yacht from Mexico to liberate Cuba.  Over
> half were killed in the very first encounter with Batista's military.  But
> they went to the hills and won the peasantry to their cause and ultimately
> won the day.
> We were asked to sign a petition to President Obama to end the embargo of
> over 50 years.  I think all of us signed but I certainly had some
> trepidation.  Is the revolution of Cuba up to a massive onslaught from the
> corporate world?  To my mind the powers that bought Batista and his cronies
> are still out there in spades and will not hesitate to dismantle all of the
> social programs and commons of Cuba and turn it into another Walmart and
> McDonalds playground.  This will ultimately be up to the Cuban people and
> their government and I fear the outcome.
> I also realize the incredible hardship that our embargo has placed on the
> Cuban people.  The embargo has been responsible for economic collapse, near
> starvation, and lack of the basic commodities like medicine, fuel, food, and
> the list goes on.  I wish with all my heart that Cuba is able to resist the
> tide of capitalism and insist on growing in their own way.
> I was reminded where ever I went of the continuing war being led on Cuba
> with billboards and signs in every public space condemning the U.S for the
> imprisonment of five Cubans patriots in the United States.  These men were
> convicted in a kangaroo court in Florida and given harsh sentences for
> warning Cuba of planned attacks originating in the U.S.  Former Attorney
> General Ramsey Clark spoke out against this injustice in Cuba in November.  
> With all of this in mind it was amazing how warmly the U.S. permaculture
> delegation was received by the Cubans.  They understand that there is often
> a real separation between the government's action and the humanity of the
> people within that country.
> We waited for the buses outside of our hotel in a driving rain generated by
> weather in the U.S.  This rain persisted for three days.  We were now headed
> to Los Cocos a Cuban beachside resort for Cuban families.  We arrived,
> debussed and then the inevitable wait, while standing in the rain, for our
> room assignment.  There was considerable grousing when the American
> delegation that had signed up for the IPC through the tour group Eco-Cuba
> Network was assigned their rooms first.  It was thought that the U.S.
> delegation was getting preferential treatment when, in fact, it was that we
> happened to have a very professional group of people who have organized many
> of these visits.  The other groups were either poorly represented or not
> represented at all and therefore had service on a par with what they didn't
> pay for.  The Eco- Cuba Network did an incredible job of trying to smooth
> out the chaos of poor organizational skills.
> Accommodations were Spartan but not uncomfortable.  Most quarters had four
> to six occupants which made it a little tight.  Meals seemed to cause the
> most problem and that was partially a result of having more people than had
> been planned for.  I suspect that we were served typical Cuban fare for our
> meals which was usually some form of mystery meat, (spam like), white rice,
> and occasionally vegetables.  It was a high carbohydrate dining experience.
> We lost the first half day of the convergence because of hours waiting for
> room assignment and then another block of hours getting lunch.
> I had three presentations during the convergence which had to be constantly
> changed from one time slot to another due to long breakfast and lunch lines.
> Someone did point out that because we stood in lines for hours it was a
> great time to meet new people and that a lot of conversation took place that
> might not otherwise have taken place.
> My first presentation was on Capitalism and Permaculture which was well
> attended and surprisingly, to me, was well received.  I primarily wanted to
> have a discussion rather than be a talking head.  My premise is that the
> evolution of Capitalism throughout the world has led to a very powerful 1%
> controlling the economies and governments of most countries.  This has
> evolved into the corporate formation of a system of greed and control that
> has eroded our social justice system and our planetary environment.  It is
> my contention that Capitalism cannot be part of permaculture design and, in
> fact, is a direct contradiction to the ethics of permaculture.  There was
> some push back from a few who argued that it was the form of Capitalism
> being practiced rather than Capitalism itself.  I argued that the fact that
> Capitalist theory required continued growth and therefore continued erosion
> of our planets resources and human resources made it non-viable within a
> permaculture context.  What I mostly feel when I bring up this subject is
> that there is still a remnant McCarthist anti-communist element in the
> western culture causing any discussion about the dysfunction of capitalism
> tend to make people put me into a Communist box;  Which is not true and
> inhibits open conversation among many.
> Most of the tragedies around the world - war, hunger, disease, prison
> populations, exploitations of workers, sexism and racism can be laid at the
> door of capitalist greed. These are all areas, I feel, that should be
> addressed by permaculture design and in these area I think that we are
> extremely lacking.  All of these planetary ills fall into the purview of
> permaculture ethics and need to be addressed in pc classes and designs.
> Where we need more work is on invisible structures, it is what I find most
> lacking in our role as educators.  Without social and environment justice
> the permaculture ethics do not exist.
> I am happy to say that the conversation with those who attended this
> gathering was thoughtful and lacked any meaningful contention.  I was
> pleased to not feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.  I did leave with
> the idea that we have to get better economic definitions in order to have
> serious conversations.  My beginning in this query was the journey of
> founding the Permaculture Credit Union and looking at how regulated
> financial institutions are, and that the "sin" of usury is embedded in the
> system.  Current banking systems and government taxation force us to
> participate in unethical behavior no matter our "good intentions".  
> I was sorry to miss the workshop of Felip Alves an economist from Portugal
> who expanded on the Capitalism conversation.  I hope to be able to continue
> our conversation in the future.  
> My next time slot was devoted to Professional Practices in Permaculture
> which I will pursue in my next segment of Musings.
> Scott Pittman 
> "To change something build a new model that makes the existing model
> obsolete"  Buckminster Fuller
> -----Original Message-----
> From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
> [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Scott Pittman
> Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2013 12:20 AM
> To: 'permaculture'
> Subject: Re: [permaculture] Musings II
> This is volumn 2 of my IPC11 musings: see attached
> "To change something build a new model that makes the existing model
> obsolete"  Buckminster Fuller
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