International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Anita Fabos

Second Reader

Nigel Brissett

Third Reader

Jude Fernando


degrowth, Marxist ecology, Cuba, agroecology, urban agriculture, political ecology


Cuba is the global leader in practicing agroecology, but agroecology is just one component of a larger climate-ready socio-economic system. Degrowth economics address the need to constrain our total global metabolism to within biophysical limits, while allowing opportunity and resources for "underdeveloped" countries to rebuild themselves under new terms. Degrowth recognizes the role of overdeveloped countries in surpassing the ecological limits of our planet at the cost of wellbeing for billions of dispossessed people within and between countries. Cuba's circumstances during and following the Special Period exemplify both sides of the degrowth scenario, as well as demonstrating policy and grassroots adaptations to massive economic contraction, and potential forms/paths of "development" for the "Global South" within degrowth. This scenario demonstrates the theory and practices of 1) a catastrophic transition out of highly industrialized agriculture and 2) a path of recovery toward a dignified quality of life while under serious economic and political constraints, providing lessons for both the Global "North" and "South". This case study of a socialist country uses historical and dialectical materialism to argue that an effective degrowth transformation is encompassed by and most effectively pursued through the revolutionary socialist struggle to transform society. The analysis of Cuba's agroecological story demonstrates the significance of the following characteristics in revolutionary systems of production for achieving just standards of living for global humanity: a planned economy with the nationalization of resources and centralizing planning, and worker’s democracy enacted through mass movements, organized democratic structures, and a conscious revolutionary leadership.



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