Cuba, Thailand, New York City. All three have faced either economic or natural disasters. The adversity and degree to which each was affected varies, but all have lent us invaluable lessons and warnings about future, inevitable collapses and disasters. With this knowledge in hand we can begin preparing ahead of time, so not only do we “survive” the collapse, but we create thriving, advanced communities that remain entirely unaffected by such collapses – after all, prevention is the best medicine.
Cuba: In 1991, the Caribbean nation, after the fall of the Soviet Union upon which its economy hinged, found itself so destitute it was unable to feed its own people. The writing had been on the wall, particularly when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began instituting “glasnost” economic reforms, but little was (or could be) done in time to head off the consequences of collapse.
With no other choice, the people of the city of Havana began tearing up empty lots, reclaiming abandoned buildings, and planting “urban gardens.” Neither “communist” nor “capitalist,” the spurt of survival-driven local enterprise brought a people teetering on the edge of starvation back to a degree of stability. Journeyman Pictures, in their 2003 documentary “Seeds in the City – Cuba (23 mins),” tells the story of Havana and the urban gardening revolution that took place there.
It is a story that has people around the world clamoring with interest and admiration. But despite all the people of Havana have accomplished, one can only imagine how much further ahead they could have been if they had the foresight to begin localizing before the collapse when they had the resources, time and chance to leverage technology to its fullest potential on a local scale. The lessons of Havana’s journey haven’t been entirely lost on nations next in line for economic catastrophe. Many (but not nearly enough) in cities across the United States have begun investigating roof-top gardening and raised-bed gardening (.pdf) similar to that found in Havana. In Southeast Asia’s urban city-state of Singapore, aquaculture and vertical gardening are being developed, and people around the world have been quietly perfecting the art of indoor hydroponics.
Before one can have an advanced civilization, one must be able to feed themselves and find clean water. The movement in Havana, in turn inspiring movements around the world, offers us a model to begin developing before the collapse. Had the people of Havana preemptively developed urban agriculture before the collapse of the Soviet Union, they may have thrived instead of just survived. …