Garbage, Homes & Plan B

Beer can wall

Remember that old saying about garbage? Turns out it’s just an old saying that’s not relevant to us anymore. Since we are now into what looks like the worst tornado disaster season since 1927, radical ideas about rethinking our buildings suddenly have relevance. That’s why the biopic, Garbage Warrior, is  generating renewed interest. It’s clear that radical new ways of living and building our dwellings is no longer a fringe idea. The takeaway message of a NOVA program about the very real dangers of F4 and F5 ranked tornadoes  is that we have to build our houses to withstand forces akin to atomic bomb explosions. In the area called ‘tornado alley’, normal building codes no longer cut it. Billions of dollars and dozens of lives have been lost in the almost unimaginable destruction of recent tornado events, and global climate change might, just might, have something to do with it. There will be more of these disasters. Where is Plan B?

It’s been developing through trial and error in New Mexico since the seventies. When it comes to radically rethinking home building, Michael Reynolds, the hero of Garbage Warrior, has been doing it all his life.  This inspiring documentary is about his life long battle to build houses that sustain themselves  in spite of bureaucrats, idiotic land use rules, and lawsuits that nearly bankrupted him. Using tires and earth, bottles and other ‘junk’, he and a crew of no nonsense idealists have been building what he calls ‘earthships’ in New Mexico, India and lately, Europe, since the seventies. The earthships are entirely self sustaining structures; they not only house you off the grid but also feed you with home grown veggies, herbs and fruit. If you haven’t seen the story of this classic story of overcoming formidable obstacles, here it is:

Those in the know will yawn and tell you that this is by now an old idea and an old movie. Yes, it is not a new idea, but it is an idea whose time has finally come. The Garbage Warrior, who has always known that his ideas are only welcome in places where everything has been destroyed as in the Tsunami aftermath, may just find his radical vision welcome in America at long last. His do it yourself credo is in the best tradition of the early American settlers, and in the face of ongoing disasters such as we have seen in Oklahoma last week, the Garbage Warrior could become the Garbage Saviour. When people have nothing left to lose, the radically different looks easy and inviting. We do have a Plan B: we just need to take it seriously. The old Plan simply doesn’t work in our scared new world.

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