An Open Eye Media U.K. production. (International sales: the Works Intl., London.) Produced by Rachel Wexler. Directed by Oliver Hodge.
With: Michael Reynolds.
Mike Reynolds is a true garbage warrior. For more than thirty years he has been pioneering the field of architecture by introducing a new method of self-sustainable building called “Earthship Biotecture.” Before it was cool, responsible or even common knowledge Reynolds was advancing the cause of recycling materials for use in building homes in bold and original ways. Taking old aluminum cans and glass bottles to make walls, packing used car tires with dirt to create thermal mass fortifications, orienting windows to the south for solar gain, no power, gas or water lines coming into the house and no sewage going out. Going off the grid by combining wind, solar, greenhouse, and garbage-building technologies- thereby saving incredible sums of money on each new Earthship project- Reynolds has made few friends and many more enemies out in his hometown of Taos, New Mexico.
Spanning three years and four countries, the premise of the 87-minute three-part documentary is simple: “We’re trying to devise a method of living that allows people to take care of themselves.” The first half hour amazes the viewer with photos of many of the avant-garde houses Reynolds has built throughout the starkly beautiful Taos landscape and quickly segues to showing us, that while initially as successful as any unregulated housing subdivision could have been, the crushing and mind-numbing reality that is the United States legal system.
After being stripped of both his state and national architect license Reynolds takes the battle to the state legislature in an attempt to create a “test site” for experimental housing, where he and others with any ideas can build free of regulations in order to move beyond what he calls the “endless horseshit” of the current status quo methods of constructing living spaces. Despite the fact that Reynolds many triumphs are documented, easily confirmable and as he readily admits, just scratching the surface, bureaucratic redtape and basic shortsightedness reminds the viewer just how quick humans are to sit around and argue semantics, filibuster rather than pass good, basic laws and eventually just shoot themselves in the foot waiting around for what, the rapture, one might suppose.
In the meantime Reynolds and his team are called away to aid in the post-Tsunami cleanup of the Andaman Islands where after more than three years of waiting the local wells are still contaminated and the general picture of destruction has not changed. It takes fourteen days for his team to impress the local engineers and what is left of the citizens enough to start their own program of Earthships across all 500-odd islands. Reynolds lamentation that it takes a tsunami to change people’s way of thinking follows closely on the heels of yet another disappointing New Mexico legislative session while Hurricanes Katrina and Rita disastrously prove Reynolds’ point that the increase of magnitudes of storms due to climate change has necessitated the call for sustainable, practical and timely solutions worldwide now. Not next session, next month or even tomorrow, but now.
“We’re trying to devise a method of living that allows people to take care of themselves.”
Reynolds is a realist and openly admits that it would take a disaster to change the current paradigm of wasteful consumption and the grinding out process of legislative bill passage. “The American Dream is dead. The new American Dream is survival.” By the time people open up to the possibility of the widespread use of the Earthships as self-sustained living areas it would probably be too late to effect any real change. He sees a Twelve Monkeys future where people have moved out of the ill-conceived cities and back to the countryside, venturing back only to strip the still useful parts off the concrete carcass for reuse in new and inventive ways, allowing us remnants to evolve the old fashioned way: making mistakes and learning from them.
Ordering Garbage Warrior via the website will support further Earthship Biotecture as well as provide you with extra footage.
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a line of documentaries HESO Magazine will look at which revolve around potentially life-altering subjects. Many of these productions were funded independently and are still seeking wide release. There are many ways our readers can help promote positive movements: Visiting the website and donating a few dollars, educating yourself further on the subject, or simply telling friends and family members about alternative media and ideas. It’s simple. Don’t take my word for these things, but find out for yourself what’s going on in the world around you so you can make an informed decision about your own life and the lives of your family and community. Thanks.