“Earthship Biotecture”: Renegade New Mexico architect’s radical approach to sustainable living

New Mexico residents are trying to a break free from Los Alamos’ nuclear legacy by creating more environmentally sound ways of living. At the forefront of this struggle is renegade architect Michael Reynolds, creator of radically sustainable living options through a process called “Earthship Biotecture.” Reynolds’ solar homes are created from natural and recycled materials, including aluminum cans, plastic bottles and used tires. These off-the-grid homes minimize their reliance on public utilities and fossil fuels by harnessing their energy from the sun and wind turbines. In Taos, New Mexico, Reynolds gives us a tour of one of the sustainable-living homes he created.

Green infrastructure and food

A late-summer conference that brought city gardeners and construction developers from around the world to Toronto has just issued a declaration. The statement calls for a new generation of living infrastructure that’s built in partnership with what’s conventionally thought of as urban agriculture.

Cities and Suburbs in the Energy Descent: Thinking in Scenarios

The vulnerability of cities and suburbs in the post-petroleum era has been the object of much debate because their present organization makes their operation so energy-intensive. The debate heretofore has tended to swing between two extremes. One claims that these forms of social organization on the land are so unsustainable that their populations will be forced to abandon them gradually as the energy descent progresses. The other extreme entertains dreams of massive programs of public transportation to save suburbia. It also relies heavily on technologies like high-rise agriculture and on the efficiencies of population density to save cities. This is the vision of the eco-cities movement. Neither of these scenarios makes much sense.

Montreal: City of Bikes

Last year I visited Montreal to attend the Ecocity World Summit, a biannual gathering of visionaries from around the globe committed to creating cities where people live in mutually enriching relationship with each other and with the Earth. Looking at cities as living breathing organisms, with all their residents human and non-human forming an intricate web of interdependence, the very idea of an ecocity is rooted in a sharing principle, where citizens understand not only the physical value of making the most of our natural resources, but the cultural, spiritual, ecological, and ultimately, economic value inherent in building networks and communities.

The man who started a fire (Christopher Alexander Lecture at Berkeley, California)

As said in the introduction to this lecture held in spring 2011, Christopher Alexander has started a fire that keeps on burning, spread by the “wind” throughout the world. But in the wake of this fire there’s no ash, but only beauty and true living structure. As in the new cosmology of Alexander, matter is not inert anymore — it has spirit, revealed in the field of centers. This means that beauty is seen as a fact of the wholeness found in nature and the universe.

What does it mean?

In the word-cloud of current events, the phrase “parasitic financial system” billows up to a degree that suggests even so-called thinking persons begin to understand what’s happening: that banking shenanigans are sucking the life out of advanced societies. That’s why Matt Taibbi’s metaphor of Goldman Sachs as “a Vampire Squid jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” remains so potent years after it was minted.

Regenerative Adelaide

An urbanizing world requires major policy initiatives to make urban resource use compatible with the world’s ecosystems. Metropolitan Adelaide has adopted this agenda and is well on its way to becoming a pioneering regenerative city region. New policies by the government of South Australia on energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport, zero waste, organic waste composting, water efficiency, wastewater irrigation of crops, peri-urban agriculture, and reforestation have taken Adelaide to the forefront of eco-friendly urban development. Working as a thinker in residence in Adelaide in 2003, I proposed linking policies to reduce urban eco-footprints and resource use with the challenge of building a green economy.

Post-peak woodwork

Building things by yourself, especially with leftover material, has this air of post-peak self-reliance. But, often, that supposes the existence of industrially made products. When you need wood, for instance, you can get planks or beams from a store or, more in a post-peak style, you use material taken from discarded furniture. But in both cases, the wood you use has been industrially processed.

Suppose, instead, that you live in a remote village in the mountains, a place like Valboncione, in Italy.

Home Energy Labels: An “mpg” rating for your home

The bad news is that it is very difficult to get the American public to embrace household energy reduction despite the promise of financial savings. Local government and utility programs designed to tap into these savings rarely achieve even a 1–2 percent household sign-up rate. However, in the offing could be a game changer to unlock the latent green premium in our homes: an energy-efficiency label equivalent to a miles-per-gallon rating for vehicles. This could provide homeowners and prospective buyers with a straightforward understanding of household energy efficiency relative to similarly sized homes in the community and region.

Mother Earth News’ 2012 Homesteaders of The Year

Have you ever crashed a realtor’s open house — not because you were a buyer, but just so you could see what the owners have done with the house? That’s kind of how we feel when we read about the three Mother Earth News 2012 Homesteaders of The Year. We want to stop by each of these homes, just so we can learn everything about what they’re doing!