This film was a great example of how the power of community thinking can lead to a number of solutions when a country is in crisis.
Starting off with a history of what Peak Oil is, there was an interesting graph showing the three highest uses of oil, in barrels per person in the U.S., per year. It turns out that food (through production and distribution) actually requires more oil at ten barrels per person, than do cars at nine barrels and houses at seven barrels. This was followed up by a statement that was a little surprising to me. The film stated that we (the world) are consuming five barrels of oil for every one that is discovered. While I knew that we were using more than we were finding, I didn’t realize that the difference was this high. It makes me more concerned about our ability to implement other energy solutions fast enough.
The film focused a lot on how things were actually accomplished, for example their farming techniques and how the government divided up land to farmers. One of the things that was lacking, in my opinion, was more of a focus on how the community was involved, especially given the title off the film. I felt that the film expressed that local communities were important, and that they helped support the movement to agriculture, but didn’t really get beyond just stating that fact. There was no analysis into how exactly the community got involved, no real examples of specific communities and how they handled “The Special Period,” and no analysis of how an integrated community made the outcome any different than it might have been otherwise. It seems like the message of the film was less about community, and more about the process of changing the way people think; how the government made smart choices and gave people the freedom and land they needed to develop their own food sources.
There were, however, some great mentions of the process of societal change, and how it came about. One of the biggest examples of this was that they realized that not everyone knew how to farm. They took knowledgeable, experienced farmers and led local workshops with everyone in the community to provide the skills needed for a mass of people to be able to successfully run their own miniature farms and gardens. This level of community interaction of free education and sharing of trades was an integral piece of their success in my mind. They taught the rule that “you hire nature to work for you; you don’t work against nature.”
“It was necessary, and result of a change of mind, a change of scale. And it was a big effort. But how much money they saved… you have to realize, they did it because they had to, but from a few years point of view, there were so many benefits.”
My favorite quote of the whole film, comes very near to the end. Roberto Perez, of the Foundation for Nature and Humanity states:
There are infinite small solutions… you fix one little problem here, one little problem there, and life gets better. You think globally, you act locally. This is very important.”
I would recommend this film, as a short documentary that can show the outcome when a society chooses to change. However, I think what is missing is a deeper look into how communities were such an integral part of this change. It does provide a sense of hope that change is possible, but given that a majority of the change was made possible by the government allowing people to use land free of charge, and free of taxes, I am doubtful that such a solution would ever be possible in an industrialized nation such as our own, where corporations and other other entities would never let such an opportunity to make money pass by for free, even when faced with no other options.