The Peace and Justice Group of Waldo County will hold its spring potluck and film screening Wednesday, June 17, in the Abbott Room of Belfast Free Library, 106 High St. Attendees should arrive at 5:30 p.m. for the potluck; the film will start at 6 p.m.

Faith Morgan’s "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil" (2006, USA/Cuba) is the second in the group’s Cuba Film Series. As the United States signals possible warmer relations with Cuba, the hope is to deepen our understanding through films and dialogue.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half — and food by 80 percent — people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles, as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.

The documentary offers an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call The Special Period. The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis — the massive reduction of fossil fuels — is an example of options and hope.

In part due to the continuing U.S. embargo, but also because of the loss of a foreign market, Cuba could not obtain enough imported food. Furthermore, without a substitute for fossil fuel-based large-scale farming, agricultural production dropped drastically. So Cubans started to grow local organic produce out of necessity, developed bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers as petrochemical substitutes and incorporated more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Since they could not fuel their aging cars, they walked, biked, rode buses and carpooled.

"There are infinite small solutions," said Roberto Sanchez from the Cuban-based Foundation for Nature and Humanity. "Crises or changes or problems can trigger many of these things which are basically adaptive. We are adapting."

While the U.S. has maintained hostile diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Cubans have accomplished higher literacy rates and lower infant mortality rates than those in America. Cuba provides free healthcare, dental and education to its citizens who, on a fraction of the per-capita income, outlive Americans. What might the world learn from Cuba’s experiences?

The Cuba Film Series will continue through the summer on the third Wednesday of July and August. The July 15 film is Saul Landau’s first film on Cuba, “Fidel!” (1971, USA-TV). The Aug. 19 film is “I Am Cuba” (1964, Cuba/Soviet Union). Screenings will begin at 6 p.m., with discussion to follow. All are welcome; admission is free, with donations accepted. For more information, call 323-5160.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.