The economic hierarchy of American capitalism is tied to a multi-faceted oppression, most ominously related to a lack of practical education. Poor Americans must endure the capitalistic notion of wage-labor, which binds them to servitude, in the cause and structure of the wealthiest beneficiaries of settler colonialism, as it has assimilated and acculturated both ambitious immigrants and the children of exploitative settlers.
Self-education is primarily concerned with the role one exemplifies in the history of civil society with respect to immigrant, slave, Indigenous, and settler heritages. Self-education empowers youth to discover their place in multigenerational American class struggles, and revivify healthful relationships to local economic and land-based communities. Instead, American lives are led and persuaded to fight on behalf of the extraneous wealth of the self-interested few.
War training displaces youth from attaining the experiential education that has relevance to their self-education as global citizens in the 21st century. In turn, the military exploits the life-threatening tendencies so often exhibited by male youth. As author Roxana Robinson elucidated at the PEN World Voices Festival 2014, in reference to her book research interviewing young soldiers, there simply comes a time in a young man's life where he wants to go to war. Sadly, this occurred after 9/11 with an archaic charge.
The greater tragedy is simply a lack of education, and military recruitment tactics, that define the hierarchies of combat, and truly, the life of the individual soldier. As an American, the loss of life is disproportionate to those who would be destroyed. In an interdependent world, the poor kill the poorer, and the quick reap the rewards. They say nothing moves faster than a million dollars – so much for taxing rich warmongers.
In this way, the economics of non-renewables can be seen as temporal. They are bound to the upswing and bust of rapid financial trends, as with the means to transport products, and facilitate the speed of modernity. Whereas, to think faster, requires spatial thinking. Thankfully, there are some who are cutting to the chase.
Known as the Garbage Warrior, Michael Reynolds received global attention as an architect before he became an architect. Since he was a student at the University of Cincinnati, he laid cans like bricks to test sustainable architecture. In a state that enshrined nuclear test sites, and where people still hold the federal government accountable for negative repercussions to human health, Reynolds had to fight tooth and nail to get permission to test architecture for sustainable, carbon-zero living.
Following a screening of the film, Garbage Warrior, telling the story of his legal battle, Reynolds has been attributed with saying: “If all of the soldiers in all of the armies in all of the world were to put down their weapons and pick up tools and start making sustainable housing for all the people in the world, life would just begin on this planet.”
Today, New Mexico is home to the Earthship Biotecture Academy, wherefrom an “Earthship Army” is trained, and equipped with the knowledge and capacity to promote, and build autonomously, carbon-free housing globally. Reynolds coined the term “biotecture” after New Mexico took away his architect’s license.
“Over 45 years, it’s still evolving. We did have to come up with our own name, which we call biotecture. Part of that is because architecture is not really dealing with the problems of people on this planet, housing people on this planet,” said Reynolds, to open the NYC Earthship conference, held at The New School, during which he single-handedly briefed a well-attended audience for over four hours.
The encumbrances of land ownership and architectural regulatory processes condemn homeowners to consume the products of non-renewable energy sources from extractive industries such as from the Utah tar sands. The label, "dirty oil" as with the word "fracking" is part of the environmental campaign to increase awareness.
Meanwhile, the struggle to live a carbon-zero, independent life remains as distant a dream as hitting the lottery for most wage-earning, urbanized Americans, not to mention 80% of the world living in the Global South. Yet, it is with such vulnerable peoples where the opportunity lies. For example, Native American reservations have land, and like countries in the Global South, lax building codes.
One attendee to the conference was a young mother, and realtor from Gloucester, Massachusetts. She has set forth plans to develop city property for the homeless utilizing the lessons of biotecture. Homeless people require housing, and oftentimes an adjustment period in which they are able to live a healthy, stable life. Biotecture not only offers homes that practically anyone can learn to build, but also that are self-sustaining.
Every earthship-housing unit decentralizes residential infrastructure, and frees people from economic dependence on non-renewable energy sources. The home gathers, filters, and stores water. By virtue of using the water, as in the shower and toilet, food-producing plants thrive. The homes boast no utility costs, where, for example, the house will remain at 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in temperatures ranging from -40 to 100+.
The decentralization of economic dependency, as with the cannabis liberation movement for farmers and small business owners in Maine, has revolutionary implications. At one point during his presentation at The New School, Reynolds showed an urban design concept, intended for a development that was drawn for Turkey.
The sleek design illustrated how the decentralization of biotecture rests on the fact that each and every housing unit is independent of a centralized grid, as globally standardized for urban, and suburban infrastructure development. Reynolds divulged explicitly, the relation to war and empowering people to build their own defense by building sustainable, autonomous, carbon-zero housing:
If you’re going to do a village of this many homes, your first thing is to spend ten years getting infrastructure: power, water, sewage. You have to build all these infrastructures to support this many people. Well, each one of these buildings is a self-contained earthship. So, literally, you could start this thing tomorrow. You drive down there with a truck full of tires and start pounding tires. You are building not only your house, you are building your heating system, your sewage treatment system, your power system, your water system all in one. You do not need infrastructure. Infrastructure is one of the hardest parts of doing a development, and one of the most taxing to the planet. These buildings have their own everything.
One of the things I say about these buildings, and people do question it as an analogy, but look at cancer. Cancer is one of the most powerful things on this planet, and one of the most feared things on this planet. Why not learn from it? Cancer is individual cells. It doesn’t have a brain. It doesn’t have a heart. You have to burn out each individual cell, or every single one of them keeps growing back. Making housing that way really seems sensible. Like, in a war they talk about, “bomb their water, bomb their power and you’ll have them on their knees.” You’d have to bomb every house here to get these people on their knees. This empowers people to have their own sustenance.
Sustainable housing, and autonomous infrastructure development is much like the maturation of an adolescent human being. An adult sucking at the nipple is, metaphorically, relatable to the untimeliness of consumer products like oil and gas, as sourced from such terrains as the Utah tar sands, and other extractive industry sites.
Living autonomously is an affirmation of maturation toward independence, as biologically characteristic among mammals. Truly, evolution is a quality of biological autonomy. “It’s not really ecology and saving the planet, it’s just a logical way to exist on this planet to have a future,” Reynolds emphasized during the NYC Earthship conference. “The whole thing is evolving. The materials we throw away on this planet are evolving. We are changing with them. We’re seeing more of the energy crisis and water crisis. We just start incorporating it piece by piece into these buildings.”
Fossil fuels are the motherless infant formula of human evolution, which, for better or worse, is human, and therefore imperfect, subject to all forms of artificiality. From the womb of the pre-industrial era, to the childhood of non-renewable consumerism, human beings are slowly, however unsteadily maturing towards energy independence. In the process, people are becoming more united as a human race.
Modern conflict is a condition of speed, and technology. People will always fight, but that does not mean they need guns. What people need is immediate, carbon-zero energy independence. Autonomous housing in the 21 st century is one of the most important evolutionary movements in human history. The story began in the plains of Africa, and coursing through the mysterious monolithic cultures of archaic prehistory, to the first, and now, unfinished pages of history.