Most of us were never taught to use resources intelligently. The infrastructure of our civilization has been built on the assumption that there will always be unlimited materials at our disposal and access to extravagant amounts of energy to waste. Houses are built without any thought of how natural forces will act on them and being hooked to the grid is the only chance they have of staying cool or warm enough for the comfort of those within. Civilization on its current trajectory is like an antiquated, coal-powered train, without brakes, coming dangerously close to careening off of the rails. The current administration in the US gives some lip service to environmental concerns but when our ecological policy is purely dictated by economic concerns, the help that anyone could actually offer us is extremely limited.
To me, at it’s heart, permaculture is simply making the best use of all available resources. By designing a house (or any living system) intelligently, we greatly reduce the amount of energy and resources that will be needed in its construction and use. There should never be a building constructed that doesn’t factor in passive solar, natural light, thermal mass, prevailing winds, and every free, perennial force of nature. Whereas traditional, native structures had to incorporate these forces to stay livable, civilization has made us lazy, wasteful, and idiotic.
In the 90’s, I stumbled upon Mike Reynold’s Earthship 1 at the public library in Gainesville, Florida. As I looked through those pages, something clicked inside. The idea that you could build a house out of what would normally be considered “waste,” and design it in such a way that it stays comfortable without grid power or fossil energy struck me as absolutely brilliant. That was the first seed planted that started me on this journey of building my own houses mostly out of dirt and repurposed materials. My experiments have proven fruitful. I have built houses for a fraction of the cost of “traditional” stick frame building that are much more energy efficient and non-toxic to their inhabitants. I also see how the same principles can be taken farther. A little bit of consideration can go a long way. If you haven’t already, I hope you will join this movement. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for each step we take away from a culture with no future.