One of the odder things I saw in New Mexico was this colony of "earthships", houses built out of garbage and packed dirt, powered by their own solar and wind units, and featuring self-contained systems to capture and recycle rainwater. Operating without air conditioners or heating units, the buildings are designed to maintain stable temperatures thanks to design features. The point, of course, is to be environmentally friendly.


I wonder if some of my more eco-aware readers might be able to weigh in on the validity of this. Based on the movie, I have a few doubts. Mostly, they seem to be completely ignoring the environmental impact of living in such a sprawling fashion. A low-density compound of people living 15 miles outside of Taos, New Mexico is either going to result in a ton of driving, or else is going to be curbing its environmental footprint primarily through its residents never going anywhere or buying anything. This is fine, perhaps, when you're talking about people with total commitment to the cause, but it's not really pointing in the direction of a systemic solution. My understanding is that it's much better to encourage people to live in relatively small apartments where they can walk to the grocery store and take mass transit to work than it is to get everyone to stick solar panels on the roofs of big exurban houses. But perhaps I'm wrong?