In today’s world, we are constantly at risk of increasing the negative effects of climate change by trying to live up to modern consumer standards. In addition, the idea of durable living has a bad reputation including uncomfortable compost toilets, cold showers and generally a high financial cost. However, the Earthship might be the solution we seek, because this type of home includes a normal toilet, solar heated water and low-cost construction materials. It combines durable and luxury living in a way that hasn’t been introduced before. As Dr. David Hillson (the risk doctor) explains, there are six questions that should guide a risk management process:

  1. What am I trying to achieve?
  2. What might affect me?
  3. Which of those are important?
  4. What should I do about them?
  5. Did it work?
  6. What changed?

These questions are vital to explain why we might need more of these durable homes in the future. Firstly, we are trying to keep human progress at a steady pace, without neglecting the planet we live on. The thing that might affect this progress is, among other things, climate change, which causes more extreme weather conditions to appear more often. A solution to slowing down climate change until we are better equipped to handle it, without drastically changing our lifestyle, is the Earthship movement.

Earthships were first introduced by the architect Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, who above all wanted to create a home that would be built from local and natural materials, be sustained by natural energy sources and lastly that it could be built by a person without prior construction education or experience. A remarkable feature in these passive solar house are the recycled materials that are used. Instead of re-using products using conventional methods, such as melting plastic to create something new, Reynolds prefers to use the materials as-is. An easy example of this can be found in the thick walls of an Earthship, which characteristically contains glass bottles of different colours, stacked to form interesting patterns.

Traditionally, an Earthship its walls are constructed using rammed tires in the shape of a horseshoe. A greenhouse inside the home provides warmth, humidity and a place to grow vegetables and fruit even inextreme climates. Water is collected from the roof and either filtered in one tank or utilized as grey-water, which after one flushes the toilet or showers is then used to water the plants. The electricity comes from solar panels and wind turbines, as for ventilation, the Earthship uses a natural cross ventilation system, which draws from the cool air underground.

Naturally, there is a dark side to these whimsical ideologies. Earthships are highly susceptible to leaking, if the sun doesn’t come out, the house will be cold, the plants that are able to grow there as of now, are not enough to stay self-sufficient and the
standard build is far from cheap. These disadvantages are critical for people deciding whether or not they want to build an off- the-grid experimental home.Though this movement is inspiring and provides a lot of ideas, the Earthship itself is far from perfect. There is need of a lot of improvement to make this concept work, personally, I would love to see this story have a happy ending.

This Girugten article was first published in the GEO PROMOTION MAGAZINE, 23rd of February, 2019.

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