As Kermit the frog might have said, “I was green before it was popular to be green.”
The “Green” movement has its roots in the late 60’s with the “back-to-the land” movement—-when people really started to think not just about alternative life styles but different methods of building—-including sustainability. It could easily be argued that the father and mother of the back-to-the-land movement were Helen and Scott Nearing. They started “Living the Good Life” in 1932—a logical reaction to the Great Depression. (Is this starting to sound like déjà vu all over again?) Prior to Helen and Scott there were various other societal breakaways from the Shakers & Quakers to the Pilgrims—-but these were more religious than geo-political—-but nonetheless some of the early “green roots”—-if only in attitude.
By the time an idea becomes mainstream, trendy, or common, it has usually had its roots planted at another time—-growing, mutating and blossoming into its current form.
My own roots as a builder began in 1971, living off the land in rural upstate NY, in a Ferro-cement dome—-and I was a huge fan of Helen and Scott.
There is an old article in a 1978 issue of Mother Earth News that talks about the prototype for a much larger one that my first wife Jill and I built. (My oldest daughter was born in the later version.) At the time, I was really into building with very simple readily available materials—-I quickly learned that this desire had to be balanced with the ability to heat the dang thing efficiently. It would have made a better chicken coop—and did.
Eventually my house designs evolved into what became commonly known as “Passive Solar”—-where passive (non mechanical) construction techniques were used to improve the energy efficiency of the home. These approaches, among other things, included more insulation, and orientation of the home to take advantage of the sun—-which would result in increasing the amount of windows in the path of the sun, while decreasing them elsewhere. A more complete explanation of this type of building can be found in A Reasoned Indictment of the Green Movement.
In my opinion the “Green” movement has not paid enough attention to the energy saving aspects of homes and yet part of its mission is to lower the use of fossil fuels. While changing your light bulbs to CFL’s may be a good thing to do, it is nothing like what a revolution in the way homes are designed and built would do. Every day, homes that meet the “highest certifications” of the green movement are being built completely disconnected from the earth—-vented crawl spaces with insulated floors. Metaphorically speaking, it is usually a good idea to stay connected to Mother Earth.
It is easy to get caught up in the “hype” and “smoke-and-mirrors” of Carbon Credits; or, taking farm land out of food production to support bio-diesel. Since the early 70’s there have been simpler more cost effective ways to actually reduce the use of fossil fuels and ease our guilty conscience at the same time. While, as a transition, Carbon Credits may be necessary to encourage business to do the right thing, is it the right thing to give Carbon Credits to companies that make things we don’t REALLY need? You know the things I am talking about—-the things that recycle from yard sale to yard sale? How much oil could be saved annually if businesses were not allowed to run the signs on their buildings when they aren’t open?
This leads me to conclude that there are many different colors of frogs—-and that not all green is green—-but it is getting there.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle