I could start building a city tomorrow. I could just take a pick-up truck, a hammer, a shovel and a tire and start building a house that takes care of itself that would be the first house of a city. The city use of this is where I'm hoping it will go, and I think it will.
What do you think makes a good architect, vision or risk?
A good architect, would not be an architect, a good architect would be a "biotect." I don't think architecture has got the ability to face the future because of its own narcissism.
Vision and risk are two key factors. Yes, you have to have vision, but it's a tremendous amount of risk to be able to attempt to do things like running sewage through a living room and building with garbage. To take any sharp turn away from the norm in the future is definitely going to take vision and risk. And they are not possible in today's architecture.
Are there other possibilities of other people using 'unexpected' materials in different ways?
I think with the Earthship concept we have just scratched the surface of what is possible in terms of using the materials that are discarded by modern society. There are many things out there and once people start seeing that as a resource, looking at municipal dumps as a resource, the human mind is going to go crazy with it. I think the potential of it is off the wall.
What other countries have Earthships?
We've got them all over the world. There's one at 14,000ft up in Bolivia, Japan, all over Europe, India, Mexico, Canada, Chile, they're everywhere. It's like planting seeds. Whenever there is one of these types of buildings it causes people to raise their eyebrows, to think, to see that there are other options. And in some ways that is the major task right there, just to wake people up.
Tell us about the different materials you use to make the Earthships?
The different materials we use from the landfills are tires, cardboard, bottles, plastics and glass, aluminum and steel cans, and today we've started using the panels from thrown away refrigerators, cooking ranges and washing machines.
So there is a list of many products that we have right now and there are more coming all the time. In addition to the discarded materials we use all natural materials including natural, wood, rock, and mud plaster. So it's either natural or reclaimed materials. Very few materials are manufactured, but there are some like glass and insulation, but we have greatly reduced the amount of these by using secondary use materials largely combining them with natural materials.
How does someone go about making an Earthship?
In terms of making it so other people can make Earthships, we write a lot of books, make DVD's and CDs and hold lectures and seminars, plus we're setting up education facilities all over the world. So it's an education process at the moment to educate other home builders, architects and designers who can then educate more people on what we have found and use these ideas. We're trying to make it easy.
We have built Earthships in every climate there is. Some people think because they're here in the southwest U.S. they can only be built here, but there are in all sorts of extreme environments. They can be built anywhere because they encounter the local elements and phenomenon and are tuned to that climate.
Because Earthships are made to local conditions and give people what they need for survival, we were asked to go to the Andaman Islands after the Tsunami hit and use their garbage to rebuild buildings that provide water and shelter, which we did. And after the hurricanes on the coasts, we were asked to build homes that wouldn't blow away and again provide water and shelter.
Shelter and water are the main things that are asked for after a natural disaster. Even if your home didn't blow away you still can't use it if there is no water. So with Earthship homes, water comes with them. If water is falling from the sky, and it is on the majority of the plant, it's crazy not to catch it.
Do Earthships foster a sense of community?
Yes, there's definitely an Earthships community aspect born out of many people in one place doing something similar. We don't have an organization or an organized community effort, it is simply a result of people in this community being like-minded, so the community of it grows from the logic of it.
Do ever take time to reflect on what has happened?
Yes. I often spend time thinking on what's happened, what's happening and what's going to happen. A good way for me to do that is to go into the mountains and run, deprive myself of oxygen and see what comes out of doing that. I came out here originally to race motorcycles and to get injured so I wouldn't have to go to Vietnam.
Riding a motorcycle turned out to be a way of escape from everything, because when you're racing a motorcycle through bumps and rocks and drop-offs, you don't think of anything else except the three feet of terrain in front of you. That in itself was a way to turn everything else off and see what else was out there.
Is there an ethos you live by?
Regarding Earthships the one thing that defines it all is logic. We are simply responding logically to the world around us. The problem that exists in this part of the world, indeed in all parts of the world, is that logic is inhibited by rules, regulations, laws, religion, politics and money. We are just saying "whatever logic says, we are just doing it."
Logic is unarguable. When you go outside and it's 106 degrees in the sun, logically you're going to go in the shade. The simplest example of that is a dog. It lays in the shade in the summer time and lies in the sun in the wintertime. That's all there is to it.
What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
I can't even imagine. People go to a spa for physical conditioning , people go to church for spiritual well-being, people go fishing or watch TV to relax and do whatever they do as a profession to make money. All of those things are the same to me. Making these buildings puts them all into one for me. That gets to be like a laser beam, which is a better use of time that spending it in a number of directions.
Is this your calling in life?
Oh yes, definitely. There's no question in my mind. I'm having fun, I'm making my existence, it's my hobby, my work and my religion. Do you feel isolated doing this? If I'm isolated it on purpose so that I can take a step back and look at what else is going on, but then I dive right back into it, going all over the world working with all kinds of people. Isolation is diminished when people get more and more desperate. Desperation is like an arrow that penetrates dogma and what we're doing is on the tip of that arrow.