It's images like these, NASA satellite photos of 25 years of the growth of Las Vegas, that depict our existence as infectious growth on the land. Maybe I'm just feeling particularly cynical today, but is there any other way to describe it.
Our incessant need for "things" (full disclosure, I'm re-reading Thoreau's Walden) drives our ambitions at a unfounded pace. It began in the U.S. with Manifest Destiny, our seemingly inherent nomadic tendencies to wander, to find new lands, which is fine until our technology became so that we left scars on the land wherever we traveled.
It is a truly scary self-reflection to actually sit down and ask, "Why the fuck do we do it all?" Why do we build tall buildings? Why do we build giant corporations, hoard giant monies, build giant houses? It's scary, because if you answer it correctly, much of what we've frantically pursued in our lives (including my own), just doesn't mean much.
Sure, we're a product of everyone before us, it would be naive of me to think, at this point, at least in most areas in America, there is opportunity to live as comfortably as Thoreau does at Walden Pond, the space and resources just aren't there. But this paradigm shift we're reaching in sustainable living, and this global financial meltdown makes me think it's possible, and makes sense to return to a similar type of living. Not living beyond what we actually need as humans, food and shelter. Everything else might be considered frivolous pursuits.
A young couple in Whales is doing just that. Managing on an annual income of just $10,000 went ahead and built their own cheap home anyway, sustainably, mostly out of materials from “a rubbish pile somewhere.”
They had wanted to spend as much time as possible at home while their two children were young. Their nearby woodlands ecological management work would have been impractical if they were paying a mortgage. So with the help of some friends and people simply passing by completed their very low impact homemade house. A hand built unique setting for a charmed life for their two young toddlers. Completed in just four months. Total expenditure? $5,000. Tools? A chisel, a chainsaw and a hammer. Building expertise? Home owner Simon Dale says:
“My experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around in-between. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverance and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.”
Sustainable design and construction:
- Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
- Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
- Frame constructed of fallen trees from surrounding woodland
- Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally very easy to do
- Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
- Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
- Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture compared to cement
- Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
- Other items were reclaimed from “a rubbish pile somewhere”: windows, wiring, plumbing
The Dale's are now working on a precedent setting settlement of nine low-impact smallholdings where families can live and work on the land for a simple livelihood.
So its clearly possible, and I'd like to think we have the capability to live without greed, but I think it would take a massive event to globally change our living mentalities at this point.