The "Special Period" in Cuba was a time of economic crisis. Although the time during this period was indeed "special," the terminology for this time period hides the true destruction that was faced beginning in 1989. Due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Comecon the Cuban economy collapsed losing over 80% of foreign trade and market.
Energy Sources: Petroleum imports from the USSR ceased and oil imports slowed steadily. This impact was felt immediately in many different aspects of life. Transportation was limited, agricultural machines were left without fuel and an immediate breakdown of the system. As ways to fight this loss the government encouraged the conservation of fuel and energy for all people. To help in this struggle the government bought 1.2 million bikes from China, produced half a million more, and distributed them as means of transportation. Public transportation was implemented, however, people would have to wait hours for a bus that may be full when it arrived.
Food: The imports of pesticides, fertilizer and oil made the agricultural industry nearly impossible. Nationwide food shortages fell over Cuba and famine struck many. Child malnutrition became evident, on average Cubans lost 20 pounds and in some places the daily caloric intake dropped to 1,500 calories per day. Many times, needed calories were supplemented with sugar, the only thing available. Food rationing was implemented by the government in order to combat the food shortages but there was unusually not enough food to give everyone the right amount of food. The practice of organic farming took off due to the need for crops. The government also gave land to those who would farm and produce food for the community.
Organic Farming in Cuba
Building Materials: Without the imports of steel, building material, and the lack of money to produce such items, buildings began to collapse. With the poor economy, building fixes were the last priority, however, the detriment on the housing is evident.
Although through this time period Cubans had to learn to live without many things they were used to, they quickly adapted to a system that worked with the resources they have. Their farming techniques can be used as a model for a more organic way to produce food. The way Cuba has adapted to not having the necessary fossil fuels could also act as a model for when the fossil fuels on the planet become scarce forcing us to adapt.