Sunday, November 29, 2009

Garbage Warrior

I'm going to veer off the traditional book path and review a movie that I recently ordered for my Library. I first read about the concept of Earthships from Chile's blog, Chile Chews, and do want to make sure I give credit where credit is due! As part of my initiative to bring Green books and movies into my Library I've kept an eye out for materials on the concepts and work of eco-friendly housing as it is an increasingly important topic.

Over a year later I encountered reviews of a movie describing the work of renegade eco-architect Michael Reynolds in the wonderful move Garbage Warrior. A brief trailer of the movie is featured above.

Two definitions are important for an understanding of the film's contents:

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Now both of those definitions sound rather easy to understand in my opinion. We are searching to find ways to develop sustainable housing that use less energy, and perhaps may use readily available ingredients along the way. Unfortunately part of this film documents Reynolds incredible struggle to be allowed to experiment, research and develop concepts that may be crucial to architectural revolutions needed in our coming years with shrinking resources and climate destabilization.

Want to make things much more difficult? Throw in politicians and lobbyists that may have hidden agendas of which we are not aware that decidedly swing our ability to move forward in the opposite directions. Though Reynolds is obviously more the builder than spokesperson to politicians (creative thinker meets a few Type As) he perseveres and manages to make some headway through a restrictive maze of regulations.

There were a few key points that came out during the film that really made me stop and ponder how much we, as regular people, must stand up and support research revolutions. Creating homes that do not contribute to the "grid" of economy, challenging building and construction unions that want maintain the status quo (if you build homes out of recycled ingredients you may be challenging the bricklayers union) and creating a push to allow innovation is incredibly important.

Are safety and building regulations important? Absolutely yes. However part of the struggle is the film is even the right to research and develop beyond our current norms. Obviously we have to start changing how we build both for now and for our future, and without experimentation we will have no success.

Warrior documents the building crew as they take their radical ideas into areas of natural disaster to create self-sufficient housing out of ingredients that are readily available. One home built is made from recovered plastics and features an external lip that will catch and drain water into an underground storage area - also serving as a cooling mechanism for the household above.

The movie is entertaining, nicely paced and ties into our topics of sustainability. The documentary was eventually picked up and supported by the Sundance channel, and you may most likely find it in your local Library. If not, just ask!

I won't give away the ending, but I was left cheering because big change does come in the face of our everyday heros.


Kale for Sale said...

This looks terrific. I've seen earthships in New Mexico and they've always intrigued me. And I love documentaries but truth be known the cute guy is going to like this more than me. He'll think I'm way cool for finding about it though! Thank you.

Chile said...

For anyone interested in their own earthship, there are plenty of partially completed ones for sale in rural New Mexico. :)