Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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29 Jan 2008

Monty Don Goes to Cuba.

montyNot having a TV myself I missed Monty Don’s recent episode of **Around the World in 80 Gardens** where he visited Cuba and the organoponicos there. However, on the day, at least 5 different people rang me up to ask me if I had seen it, and how great it was. I therefore plan to sit down this evening and watch it on BBC I-Player, a rather wonderful new device of the BBC’s that allows you to watch the last 7 days worth of their programmes, if you feel so inclined. I’ll write more about it when I have seen it, but given that it is only available to view for another 5 days, I thought I’d mention it now.

Categories: Food, Localisation

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Walter Lippmann
29 Jan 3:02pm

Cuban society today represents an effort to build an alternative to the way life was under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who ran Cuba before Fidel Castro led a revolution there. No one complained about a lack of human rights and democracy in those days, but U.S. businesses were protected.

Some things work, some don’t. Like any society, Cuba its flaws and contradictions, as well as having solid achievements. No society is perfect. But we can certainly learn a few things from Cuba’s experience. I think we can learn more than a few.

My father and his parents lived in Cuba from 1939 to 1942. They were German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and not political left-wingers. That family history is where my own interest in Cuba comes from. My dad met my mom in the United States and that’s how I came into this world.


Graham Burnett
29 Jan 5:21pm

If you don’t catch the program on the BBC web player Rob mentions, you can also download it from UK Nova, a site primarily aimed at UK ex-pats where they can share telly programs that arn’t commercially available on DVD (so hence as far as I’m aware its completely legal, unlike some ther file sharing sites).

I myself am downloading it at the present after my friend Steve who is also interested in TT phoned me to ask if I’d watched it…

Jane Buttigieg
29 Jan 10:18pm

This was good viewing. I still haven’t seen The Power of Community yet, but it did leave me wondering a few things. Surely they don’t live on just these vegetables? Are they on a mainly vegetarian diet? Where are they getting their rice, cereals etc as these weren’t shown. Are they eating meat? In an oil reduced economy, how are they getting these, and things like fish, cheese etc, if at all? I think we could grow veg like this in cities in England but surely this would not be enough…or would it? Anyone have any ideas on how to have protein in the diet in an English city after oil has run low?

Josef Davies-Coates
29 Jan 10:31pm

Thanks for the heads up Rob 🙂

I don’t have a telly either, but was at my girlfriends and she wanted to watch something else.

Despite knowing about iplayer it hadn’t occured to me to use it!



Chris Vernon
29 Jan 11:37pm

A really good ~20 minutes for prime time TV. Mentioned oil and energy several times.

It should also be available on for a few days.

Ken Moon
30 Jan 10:21am

I saw it last night – good old BBC repeating programmes ad infinitum has its’s benefits. It was really good, the phrases ‘peak oil’ and ‘transition’ were mentioned numerous times, maybe he’d like to be a public face for the movement in the UK, a patron? rock on monty 🙂

Ken Moon
30 Jan 10:25am

Oh – the issues rasied by Jane are looked at in the power of community to some extent – the best way to find out maybe to for a delegation to go visit and feedback – the cuba solidarity campaign runs volunteering trips out but this involved flying. Cargo boats make regular trips back and forth to the Carib but this takes a little longer.

Jill Robinson
30 Jan 9:17pm

Has anyone found a way to view this from outside the UK?? The BBC iplayer is not available to us, and whew! I couldn’t figure out what that site is about or how to use it! Still, I’d love to watch!! Thanks! And BTW, THANK YOU ROB!!! YOUR WORK IS AN INSPIRATION AND BEACON IN THE DARKNESS!!!

Graham Burnett
31 Jan 12:40am

Hi Jill, yes – as I said above, download it from UK Nova. Cheers Graham

Graham Burnett
31 Jan 12:47am

OOPs sorry Jill, just read your post properly and see that you tried with UK Nova – its pretty easy to figure out – simply register as a member, click the ‘torrents’ link, you will get a great long list of recent TV programs, the majority of which I’m sure you wouldn’t want to bother with (Holby City?? Corrie Classics??), but in the ‘find torrents’ column type ‘around the world in 80 gardens’ in the ‘keywords’ box and voila! Then simply click the ‘download’ link and it should download to your computer to be watched at your leisure!

Jill Robinson
31 Jan 12:59am

Thanks for the tip, Graham. When I tried to sign up, I got a message that it was full, I should try again in the future. Do you know if slots open up fairly often?? And, if I got in, I could download even if I have nothing to upload?? Thanks again!

Patrick Cleary
31 Jan 5:25pm

Well I know Monty Don is a lovely fella and says all the right things re climate change and peak oil but surely the massive contradiction in all this is the vast amount of energy consumed in making this series. Not to mention the encouragement to millions of others to jump on aeroplanes and visit the places featured in this programme. He even says how much he looks forward to visiting Cuba again.

I find this deeply frustrating when even intelligent people like Monty Don pay no heed whatsoever to the obvious hypocrisy inherent in their behaviour. I guess you can make exceptions for the likes of Al Gore but even then I’m not so sure. I think Rob Hopkins makes a valuable statement by not flying abroad to conferences and showing there is a better way.

What we really need is celebrities who are prepared to publicly admit that, much as they would love to visit Cuba etc., they recognise it is incompatible with the environmental crisis and wasteful of precious resources. Monty Don could easily have incorporated Cuba into his Gardeners World series without ever leaving the UK.

Jason Cole
5 Feb 1:21pm

Patrick I think you need to wake up and smell the coffee. People are going to travel because they can, and whether the likes of Monty tour abroad or not isn’t going to make one iota of difference.

What Monty’s programme has done is provide validation for those who only believe what they see on mainstream TV. Most people I’ve told about “Power of Community”, or have even seen the DVD, found it hard to believe since the only mainstream exposure they have on Cuba is one of a “communist hell-hole”.

Now you could argue that producing DVDs is consuming resources etc and is a “contradiction”.

To me, this “contradiction” thinking leads to alienation of permaculturists, and drives them towards isolating themselves from the world, because energy is consumed in spreading the word. Even to the point of removing profiles from facebook.

At the end of the day, the likes of Monty Don, Al Gore, Richard Heinberg etc, are travelling in order to serve a purpose, they are not merely travelling for the sake of it. When they are presenting “on site” they have credibility; if they just ran internet blogs then to most people they wouldn’t be seen as much more than “nerdy conspiracy theorists”. And don’t forget, writing books and posting material on the internet, consumes energy.

Use a better argument against the deniers who cry “hypocrisy”, rather than allowing them to beat us into submission.

Graham Burnett
5 Feb 5:51pm

Hi jill, I managed to sign up to UKNOva without any difficulty, although I believe they do have some kind of ‘quota’ system that won’t allow more than 30,000 people to be signed up at any one time, I’m afriad you just have to keep trying! And yes you can download without having anything to upload, but if you keep your connection open when your download has finished it means that you too are ‘seeding’ the program for others who want to download it. Or something. Good luck!