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Byron Shire
April 17, 2024

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Michael Reynolds is on a mission to leave a low-carbon footprint with his creative low-cost housing designs using recycled materials.

In 2007, he was the subject of the documentary Garbage Warrior, which presented the maverick US architect’s passion for building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities.

And now he’s heading our way with an appearance at the Bangalow A&I Hall tomorrow night.

Fear of change

In the past Reynolds faced much opposition for his belief that humans can successfully design and live off the grid.

But these days more mainstream people seem to be flocking to his conferences and be willing to consider his thesis.

Put simply, an Earthship is a radically sustainable building made of recycled materials.

Reynolds believes it is fear of change that has stopped people adopting truly sustainable building and living practices.

‘It has held people back in the past and in the present.

‘It’s fear of change, it’s fear of choice. People have been conditioned to have the choice made for them. They don’t realise that all they really have to do is simply choose to live this way and implement sustainable designs.’

According to Reynolds, Earthships adhere to the following principles:

‘Electricity from the sun and wind, water from rain and snow; sewage is dealt with by sanitary treatment; heating and cooling from the sun and earth; and food is grown inside and outside while buildings are built with natural and recycled materials.’

The concept of Earthships is a powerful reminder that we can step forward, but how do you convince a public transfixed to home-renovation TV shows that are unwilling to move towards more sustainable structures?

Reynolds believes humanity needs a disaster, or a colossal slap in the face. ‘It seems that humanity only changes when there is an emergency,’ he says.

‘It is difficult to show people a solution when they refuse to understand there is a problem.

‘Also, money and economics cannot be a driving factor in all of this. People must let go of money as the centre of all things. That is the illusion.’

Sustainable housing should be a priority

In order to create radical sustainability, something Reynolds and many others believe is imperative for human survival, we need to relinquish the belief that big houses make us happy.

‘When a person or family has a “simple survival” house that is still super comfortable and in the form of an Earthship or something like it, they are free and really have so much more than the person or family with the big house. If people drop the personal agenda and choose a home based on what they really simply need, they will be happier, comfortable and, above all else, they will be free.’

Reynolds points out it’s time we started living with more of a view to sharing resources in the way indigenous communities have done.

‘We don’t really own anything. When we realise that, sharing becomes a given.’

So how do simple sustainable and less conventionally shaped dwellings compete in the world of housing investment? In the current market people don’t just build homes, they build future money streams through real estate investments. Reynolds believes it’s time we rethought our concept of ‘home’.

‘We see new, modern buildings next to really old churches and beautifully crafted buildings. This “old way” of building is not around any more.

‘This is because money was not the driving factor back then. Money is the problem, accumulation of wealth is the problem. Most of humanity has been successfully conditioned to accumulate and hoard. We must unlearn what we have learned and seek knowledge and wisdom from our elders, from indigenous peoples around the world.

‘Yes, we absolutely must fundamentally change the way we think about the concept of a home.’ In order to change, Reynolds believes that government needs to make sustainable housing a priority. ‘We would like to see the government make a priority to classify basic, sustainable housing as a fundamental right of every human being on the planet.

Conditioned to accumulate, hoard

‘We really have no idea what we are capable of. When we get back to the basics and share and understand that we are all together in this, we are all in the same boat… then we can make big changes – then our communities and our governments will make changes and provide proper rights to the people so humanity can get on with evolving and flourishing.

‘These basic rights cannot be governed by money or profit. A basic, sustainable shelter for every human is easily attainable. We simply have to choose to do this.’

Michael Reynolds will present his Earthship seminar at the Bangalow A& I Hall on Thursday from 6.30pm.

For more information go to www.earthship.com/australia

Photo of ‘Garbage Warrior’ Michael Reynolds from www.zacharysuhar.wordpress.com.

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