Nope, not another April Fool’s joke: the Sundance Channel will be rolling out the second season of The Green starting tonight, hosted by Simran Sethi and Majora Carter. At 9 EST, a new episode of the award-winning series Big Ideas for a Small Planet will air. Subtitled “Power,” tonight’s show “explores the booming field of alternative energy as it introduces several individuals who are working to develop clean, renewable energy from resources like the sun, wind and even cow manure.”
Following that, Sundance will air its original documentary Garbage Warrior. I got a chance to screen this film a few weeks ago as part of a package I received from Earth Circle Cinema, and it’s well worth staying up past your bed time (if that’s an issue). Garbage Warrior tells the story of architect and Earthship creator Michael Reynolds, and his thirty-five+ year quest to create self-sufficient, sustainable buildings made from natural materials and society’s “waste”: “tires, beer cans, glass, and plastic bottles.”
Filmmaker Oliver Hodge frames Reynold’s story as a true “David and Goliath” epic: after years of developing an Earthship community outside of Taos, NM, the architect and the community he’s created come up against “the Man,” in the form of building and planning regulations well out of step with Reynold’s vision of low-impact housing. Garbage Warrior shows the prices Reynolds paid in challenging the system (particularly the loss of his architecture licenses and certifications for most of the 90s), and the battle he takes on with the state legislature to change laws that ultimately dampen creativity, and discourage building professionals from experimenting with more sustainable forms of construction. Does he win? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out…
Perhaps the most moving element of the film, though, involves Reynolds and team going to the Andaman Islands after the 2005 tsunami. While politicians dither in Santa Fe, the Earthship team provides housing for victims of the disaster. Hodge, and Reynolds, play up on the irony: politicians the world’s most developed nation just can’t wrap their head around what Reynolds is doing (or choose not to), while tsunami victims in the developing world are not only grateful for his work, but immediately understand its relevance to their living situations.
This doesn’t mean, though, that Reynolds promotes a step backwards in living spaces for the developed world; rather, as the film shows consistently, his Earthships are not only built for sustainable use of resources, but also for comfort. Hodge’s frequent shots of the buildings demonstrate that they’re also aesthetically pleasing… a “win-win-win” for a “modern” society.
I’ll put some links up to Reynold’s concepts in the discussion forums for… well, discussion. Garbage Warrior is a really well-made film… but, given the compelling nature of its subject, I’m guessing Hodge and team found that the story told itself.
Let us know what you think about the first offerings of ’08’s The Green… I know I’ll be watching.
Many thanks to Special Ops Media for the images.
UPDATE: Rather than creating a forum on Reynolds, I’ve done one on The Green itself… but always interested in discussing Reynolds and his work.
I visited the Earthship in Taos years ago, and it’s quite a place. The barriers that Reynold et al. face are common to those who will not “fit in” to some government’s master plan. (Read Seeing Like a State)
He is coming up against two problems: He reuses material that others prefer to see as trash (dirty, dangerous, etc) and has does so with “irregular” methods that bureaucrats do not understand. Your excellent point — that victims did understand, appreciate and use his homes — is based on their familiarity with poverty.
If anything, many people are too rich to care about saving materials and prefer to live in “new” houses with the superstition that old is bad (or moving soon means that investment would be wasted).
To see how a poor person gets value from bottled water, check out this photo.