I’d venture to say that a good 25% of the education that I took away with me from the Academy came directly from the people who work there. Not from what they were teaching us about earthships, but from who they are as people, what they believe in, how they live and why they are passionate about it. That part of the learning was optional and I’m glad I took advantage of it and got to know some of them a little bit better “outside of class”. Most of our instructors were very open and comfortable talking about their personal experiences and beliefs, they invited us into their homes and some joined us for Saturday night parties or at the local brewery. For me personally, many were my my age (give or take) and it was great to hear from Phil and Tom and Rory what it was like bringing up kids in an earthship in the Greater World Community.
There’s is definitely a familial feeling and close relationship between the staff – they bust on each other and themselves constantly, and they all imitate and rip on Mike Reynolds, their boss. All done with love, of course. The fact that they are comfortable with themselves and who they are makes for a comfortable learning environment. It’s the kind of class dynamic I tried to foster when I was teaching high school English. When a student knows you as a person and not just a “teacher”, they are free to be themselves.
I could write pages about our individual instructors, but I guess the guy who impressed me most was Phil Basehart, Mike’s primary builder and one of his long time employees. He was definitely a great teacher, I always felt like I walked out of Phil’s classes with a whole new toolbox full of knowledge. But standing around a hot fire under the stars on cold night with cold beers is a much better way to get to know someone. He’s got three kids and a son just a few months younger than my little one, and I finally got him to admit he’s a year younger than me after some prodding. We’re at similar stages in life, but I am a bit envious he went straight into building earthships 20 odd years ago and never looked back. His years of experience and knowledge of earthships is probably only second to Mike Reynolds. I had no idea what I was doing with my life 20 years ago. Oddly enough, that’s about when I first heard of earthships, as I mentioned in a previous post. Maybe I should have gone to see that “houseboat”.
What impressed me most about Phil, though, is his personal dedication and honest passion for earthships and what they mean for a better future. His last classroom lecture was about the humanitarian work Earthship Biotecture does, and he had a slideshow presentation to go with it. Phil has been all over the world teaching the techniques and building earthships for victims of natural disasters, the poor, the disadvantaged and needy. He’s been to places like Haiti, after the earthquake, the Philippines, after a typhoon; Malawi, Africa, India, Mexico, Easter Island and many more, building schools, homes, shelters and community centers. With each slide he showed us of the various builds, he pointed out the local people and gave them names and stories and backgrounds that made them come alive. He gave us the history of the place and the government, told us about the corruption and the culture, the conditions locals lived in and how difficult life often was for them. And Phil made it very clear that this is what Earthship Biotecture is all about to him. Helping people. Doing something to leave this world a better place. I think we all left that class feeling both exhilarated and emotionally drained, and I realized I need to find the time to volunteer for a future humanitarian build… or stage my own. (More on that subject coming soon.)