Saturday, April 5, 2008

Garbage Warrior....Sustainable Housing

The "Garbage Warrior" is a man named Michael Reynolds. Michael is a non-traditional architect who has been making houses out of non-traditional materials with his rag tag team of workers for the past 30 years in Taos New Mexico. He makes you question why we have been building houses roughly the same for the past hundred years.

The problem with being a radical thinker, like Michael, is that people often want to stick their fingers in their ears and not hear from you and some want to shut you up completely by barring your every move. The houses that Michael and his crew have built have been evolving in complexity over the past several decades and are self contained habitats that collect their own water, generate their own energy, provide food and process their own waste. With any evolving process, there are mistakes that must be learned from and used to produce a better next step. These mistakes nearly shut Michael down completely.

The people that worked for Michael built their own homes while other experimental homes were sold to people looking for something different in life. In the late 90's the Taos County government didn't like this. They stated that as a developer Michael had to provide electricity from the grid to these houses. They stated that he needed to provide water. He had to build roads. He also had to divide the lots up and sell them appropriately. It seems that bureaucrats are unable to see outside of the box and think about the future needs of humanity. In 2000 Michael gave up his New Mexico architecture and construction licenses because the State Architects Board of New Mexico moved to take his credentials from him.

Building houses out of trash such as used tires and beer cans seems just a little strange, so it is no wonder that stodgy old politician puppets of established industry would fight Michael's every move. It wasn't until the tsunami of 2004 that Michael and his team received his chance to make a difference and to prove his methods.

A small island that was all but destroyed by the tsunami requested that Michael and his team travel there and help them rebuild. The island had approximately 30,000 residents prior to the tsunami. After the tsunami they had roughly 7,000 inhabitants. The people were living in shanty towns and the government had to ship water to the residents. Michael and his team came in and built one of their sustainable houses out of the debris that was laying all over the island. The local people helped build the house and the knowledge of doing so was not only transferred to them, but to area architects and builders as well.

A fantastic documentary was made by Oliver Hodge showcasing this great thinker and architect of our modern times. The film helps demonstrate that in this rapidly changing world we need to listen to radical thinking people that are able to show us different ways of living. If we let governments and the systems we have built get in the way of experimenting and we dismiss people like Michael Reynolds, then we just may doom the human race. We need to embrace these people instead of trying to shut them up. This emotionally moving film proves that one person, no matter how unconventional, can make a positive difference in our world. Visit the Garbage Warrior film website. Visit Michael's company here. See a preview of the film below and a piece produced by CNN. You may just be amazed at how luxurious a house built out of garbage can be.

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