Creation Caring Buildings-The Earthship


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Guest presentation at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, OH on October 12, 2009.

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  • St. Edward invests a tremendous amount of human capital and resources into every student. When I walked these halls over 15 years ago, I was encouraged by every single faculty and staff. If you stripped away these buildings and facilities, St. Ed’s would still continue to thrive. Because when the Godly men and women of the Holy Cross tradition give of their time, talent and treasures, no Edsmen graduates without the competence to see and the courage to act as men of faith. This morning, I’d like to witness to you how my recent competence to see and courage to act as a man of faith is glorifying God and fulfilling God’s covenant to all living things.
  • People are starting to ask these questions as we confront a new situation unique to our history-are we killing our planet?
  • What is the biggest problem facing the world?
  • For Christians, the Bible is a natural place to look for the answers to these questions, since it promises to be God’s Word to us and for us. With over a thousand references to the earth and caring for creation in the Bible, the message is clear: all in God’s creation-nature, animals, humanity- are inextricably linked to one another. In Gen Ch 9 Verse 8, God repeats an everlasting covenant with Noah of protection and presence involving every living creature, not just human beings. I’ll read this verse from The Green Bible. In it, is highlighted the rich and varied ways the books of the Bible speak directly to how we should think and act as we confront the environmental crisis facing our planet. (READ) How can we be part of the protection God offers to other living creatures? In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke Ch 10, Jesus answers the question “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” by saying, “You shall love the lord you God with all you heart, and with all you soul, and with all you strength, and with all you mind; and you neighbor as yourself.” What does this parable teaches us about how we should approach environmental problems today? 1. To have any lasting effect, our hearts must be moved by compassion. 2. We may find it dangerous 3. We may have to use our own resources 4. It may be inconvenient. 5. It may be expensive 6. We may be ridiculed. 7. We will have to take ongoing responsibility. 8. Everyone is our neighbor, including people across the globe and future generations. The story of Noah’s Ark illustrates the way God desires for us to obediently care for his creation. Noah’s struggle to and build the ark among so many disbelievers also parallels the skepticism that Christians have pronounced in the face of glaring climate change data. My journey to remain committed to God’s calling of me to serve God by taking care of creation and building our community’s first earthship home has also been a daily struggle of faith.
  • 1. As a lifelong Christian, it wasn’t until I moved to Gunnison, CO a few years ago that I first heard my first clear message about caring for God’s creation. 3. I remember on my Wilderness Retreat with Mr. Cavoli and students of St. Ignatius, we were taught this ethic in leaving our campsites better or as good as we found it. Additionally, I encountered God often as we lived and travelled within his living creation. What better way to worship and love our Creator than to live in such a way that we improve or at least maintain the natural world around us. 4. I direct an elementary school counseling program and this Golden Rule is the foundation of my character-building lessons. I’ve observed that this foundation somehow loses its importance in age, but not its relevance.
  • During a record winter in 2007, my wife and I bundled up to go hear Matthew Sleeth share his Christian plea for creation care at our Community Church of Gunnison, CO. As a former emergency room physician, resigned from his position as chief of the medical staff and director of the ER to teach, preach, and write about faith and the environment throughout the country, Dr. Matthew Sleeth has been eagerly sought at notable secular schools such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth, and Middlebury– using creation care to build unprecedented bridges between science and religion. His message was instrumental to awakening God’s next calling on my life. For the first time, my years of work, study, relationships and travel among environmental communities found an alignment with my Christian worldview. The validation of this shared platform has sent me on quite the journey over the last few years. From celebrating our carbon-neutral wedding to organizing a local creation care ministry, we’ve been challenged and blessed by our obedience to God. Worshiping God by caring for his creation has become the biggest joy in my life. While on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, Casey and I decided to build an Earthship in which to raise our family. We encountered the radical design in Taos, NM early on in our relationship. Earthships are sustainable vessels that remind me of Noah’s ark. They provide everything we need to survive “the storm” from our culture’s creation carelessness as well as a way to worship God by living in sync with the vibrations of his creation.
  • From the book Comfort in Any Climate by Michael Reynolds: Capture a space that offers comfort to the human body throughout the storms and you have shelter. Shelter has evolved, over the centuries, from basic protection to complex interior environments supported by waning fossil fuels, and elaborate infrastructures. People used caves for shelter the early days of humanity. As population grew, other methods of shelter were needed. People made shelter from animal skins and tree poles. As numbers of people grew and numbers of animals decreased, still other methods of shelter evolved. Later, people made shelters from logs and then chopped up more logs to heat them. Still the numbers of people grew while the number of trees decreased. People now make shelter from framed lumber (a more efficient use of trees). They use various fuel sources for temperature control, but the numbers of people continue to grow and the numbers of trees and sources of fuel continue to decrease. As modern day conditions with both people and planet change around us, it is becoming necessary to reassess how we conceive of and manifest shelter. These performance achievements listed on the slide are incredible for Gunnison, CO, one of the coldest city (on average) in the lower 48 states yet sunniest for passive solar gain and located within the most stringent state water laws in the country.
  • (Comfort in Any Climate excerpt cont’d) Temperature control was introduced in shelters as humanity evolved and grew more aware of comfort. Comfortable temperature was achieved by the use of some form of fire for warming. In recent decades, cooling systems have evolved that also use some form of fire for energy to create the cool temperature. As temperature control became more desired and fuel became more precious, insulation emerged as a factor of new shelters. Insulation traps the temperature that is created inside the shelter. In modern times, millions of humans use some form of fire for both cooling and heating their often poorly insulated shelters. The problem is that the creation and delivery of fire has become so costly to both humans and the Earth that the end of available fire is in sight. To meet our growing needs for inexpensive fuel to heat and cool our homes. Any form of centralized energy production results in delivery through wires and pipes, and this is a detriment to the quality of life on Earth. Even if centralized energy were produced in a harmless way, which may be possible, the delivery web is consuming us. The ever-increasing webs of wires and pipes, both above and below ground, are dangerous, unhealthy, ugly and expensive. Another downside of centralized energy production methods for controlling temperature in human shelters is dependency on the bureaucratic, political, and corporate giants that create and deliver the energy. These “giants” sometimes have a devastating effect on humanity themselves. And last there is the price (in money) that humans must forever pay for the manufacture and delivery of energy for maintaining a comfortable temperature in their shelter. This is felt in monthly expenses and taxes. Thus, Earthships are intended to decentralize energy production and distribution in a way that cares for God creation. Let me share a short clip and some images that explain how.
  • There are 6 Elements to an Earthship: The walls of an Earthship are built with used automobile tires rammed with earth. These massive walls are load bearing monoliths which are wide enough to also serve as their own foundation. No concrete foundations are required. The tire, a steel belted rubber casing, is simply a form for the rammed earth which creates the thermal mass. These building blocks are filled and compacted in place and staggered like bricks. Each Earthship uses between 500-5,000 tires. Small interior walls of the Earthship may be made from aluminum or steel cans, or glass or plastic bottles. Earthships heat and cool themselves naturally without burning fossil fuels or having any utility bills. It taps into and encounters the constant temperature of the earth which helps to stabilize temperature. The living spaces are surrounded on three sides with the rammed earth. More earth is buried behind these walls, then insulated with a thermal wrap. In the winter, glass along the equator-facing side of the building admits sun, which heats the mass of the thick walls. When the temperature in the room drops below the temperature in the walls, the heat is released from the walls into the space. In the summer, with the sun high in the sky, sun enters only into the planters. The naturally cool temperature of the earth cools the building. Natural convection ventilation from under ground cooling tubes, operable windows and skylights provides additional cooling. No money or fossil fuels are used to comfort these homes. There are many ways of building thermal mass into a structure. Rock, concrete, rammed earth and adobe are all effective. When choosing a globally universal method of providing both thermal mass and structural integrity in a single component, one must consider cost, global availability, environmental issues, structure, population vs. resources and user-friendliness. After 30 years of research in this realm, used automobile tire casings rammed with earth to create dense massive round structural bricks have proven to be one of the most appropriate ways to achieve structural mass in shelter. Scrap tires are as plentiful as trees all over the planet, and more tires are constantly being discarded. They provide a perfect “low tech” form for earth-rammed bricks. This results in a very substantial and versatile mass building technique.
  • Every Earthship harvests all of its own water from the rain and snow that falls from the sky on to the roof. This water is stored in cisterns buried outside the building. The water then gravity-feeds a panel that filters, pressurizes and pumps the water to fixtures throughout the building and to the solar hot water heater mounted on the roof. An Earthship uses all of its water four times. These water harvesting systems help preserve existing aquifers and reduce the need for centralized municipal water systems. they may be used in climates that get as little as 7 inches of total annual precipitation. An Earthship uses all water four times and treats it on site in contained sewage treatment bontanical cells. Once-used water from sinks and shower travels through a particle filter into interior graywater treatment planters. These planters re-circulate by solar pumps. The graywater grows plants, is oxygenated by the plant roots and becomes clean enough to flush the toilet. The black water from the toilet then goes outside to a conventional septic tank which overflows into another rubber-lined botanical cell. landscaping plants are grown with used, cleaned black water instead of fresh, drinking water. Ground water supplies are un-touched.
  • Food is grown year-round in any climate in the interior graywater botanical cells. Tropical plants such as banana trees and hibiscus flourish even where there is snow outside. Earthship residents pick their organic produce fresh for any meal. They can also graze throughout the day. The latest earthship design: “The Phoenix” features expanded food production capabilities with a 2nd and 3rd greenhouse and over 1/3 of the total square footage is dedicated to food production. There is fish production and chicks, goats and rabbits for meats, eggs, milks and cheese in addition to fruits and vegetables. The mission is to produce enough food for one family to survive. Earthships are completely “off the grid” meaning it is not connected to any utility lines. Electricity is produced from solar panels and stored in batteries. A “Power Board” organizes and distributes electricity from the batteries to all lights, appliances, etc. Super efficient lighting, pumps and refrigeration in addition to natural ventilation, heating and cooling greatly reduce the amount of electricity needed. Therefore, less electricity needs to be “harvested” from renewable resources. These “designed down” electrical requirements still provide all the amenities one would expect in a home. An Earthship power system does not rely upon fossil fueled, centralized, municipal utility systems. Independence is the result. Both people and the planet benefit from this arrangement.
  • It is a common misconception that communities of faith and environmentalists have little in common. In the United States today, 67% of Americans say they care about the environment because it is "God's creation" - and close to half of creation care participants say they attend worship services at least once a month. Most of the world's major religions have long-standing traditions and teachings that inform how humans should interact with the natural world. So make no mistake - "creation care" is certainly a growing movement. In the face of unprecedented environmental challenges like global warming, people from all walks of life are coming together to make a difference.
  • Many people have heard the notion of “voting with your wallet.”  When we make purchasing and investment choices, we’re casting votes that support the ways in which businesses operate.  Whether we know it or not, as consumers we can cast our consumer votes for businesses and technologies that make positive impacts on God’s creation.  We can use our buying power to support businesses that work to promote social justice and ecological sustainability.
  • Volunteers from our community offered support to our earthship project, but lending institutions presented the biggest challenges. After 7 months of toiling with local, state and national banks amidst a depressed economic climate, we accepted the reality that we would need to seek private investors or facilitate the emergence of an alternative exchange system. With no investors in sight we decided to organize a local Common Good Bank, a sensible economic system developed by the nonprofit organization, “Society to Benefit Everyone” based in Ashfield, MA. We believe that, if others are to answer their creation care calling, they would need a bank that would inevitably fund their projects or businesses that take stewardship of God’s creation seriously. Common good banks are designed to balance benefit to individuals with equal benefit to the greater good. By “Common Good”, I mean the well-being of each and every individual person beginning with those most in need, peace, justice, and a healthy sustainable planet. Churches are not strangers to this kind of stewardship. I believe extending our churches’ compassionate giving and stewardship practices into our local economic culture will provide the leadership and resources for generating resilient and creation caring communities.
  • The journey of obedience continues as Casey and I have returned to our fulltime roles in our public schools while the message that Matthew Sleeth connected between my Christian and public worlds is becoming the fabric of my walk with Christ. Today, I am one of a growing number of Christians whom the Lord is using to witness to people about his love for them and for the natural world. The earth was designed to sustain every generation’s needs, not to be plundered in an attempt to meet one generation’s wants. As I go around witnessing and teaching, people share their concerns. Many want a less hectic daily schedule; others long for meaning and purpose, and the security of a rich spiritual life. Still others know what is keeping them from a closer walk with God but cannot overcome inertia to make the necessary changes. As future leaders and difference makers in the world, I challenge the young men of the St. Edward community who have “the competence to see and the courage to act” on this Creation Care movement support me in fulfilling God’s covenant to all living things.
  • Creation Caring Buildings-The Earthship

    1. 1. Creation Caring buildings-the earthshippresented by eric krawczyk ’94-October 12, 2009 1
    2. 2. W is my role as a Christian in caring for hatthe earth? 2
    3. 3. T e rb m h Po l eThe last half century has been a period of unprecedented change and growth:• Between 1960 and 2000 the world population doubled from 3 to 6 billionpeople, and the global economy increased more than six fold.• To meet this demand, food production increased 2 1/2 times, water usedoubled, wood harvests for pulp and paper production tripled, timber productionincreased by more than half, and installed hydropower capacity doubled.• However, in meeting these demands, humans changed ecosystems morerapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history,compromising the ecosystems upon which all life depends. 3
    4. 4. creation care v. 1. applying biblical principles of stewardship to the environment we share with all living things1. To have any lasting effect, our hearts must be moved by compassion.2. We may find it dangerous3. We may have to use our own resources4. It may be inconvenient.5. It may be expensive6. We may be ridiculed.7. We will have to take ongoing responsibility.8. Everyone is our neighbor, including people across the globe and future generations. 4
    5. 5. AN w p rah S r gG db e A po c : ev in o y C rgf Cetn ain o ra r io✦More than 85 percent of Americans have some affiliation with a faith group and attenda church or synagogue at least occasionally, yet almost none have heard even onesermon or participated in a single discussion group on caring for Godʼs creation. I wantto change that.✦The Creation Care mission is simple: We want to serve God by taking care of creation.✦The Creation Care message is equally clear: If we love our Creator, we must love Hiscreation. Every sacred text calls us to honor the world created for our sustenance, yet wecontinue to use resources at an unsustainable rate. We are called to leave the worldbetter-or at least as good-as we found it, and yet each of us, every day, is polluting ourland, water, and air.✦The Creation Care’s central text is the Golden Rule, an overarching guideline for earthstewardship that is shared by every religion. We are all called to treat our brothers andsisters as we would like to be treated ourselves. When we use more than our fair share ofthe worldʼs resources, then we are harming our neighbors. 5
    6. 6. MatthewSleeth, M.D.founder 6
    7. 7. 6 principle Building science achievementsthe crocus earthship-Gunnison, COT 7
    8. 8. East & west elevationsthe crocus earthship-Gunnison, COT 8
    9. 9. floor planthe crocus earthship-Gunnison, COT 12
    10. 10. structural cross sectionthe crocus earthship-Gunnison, COT 13
    11. 11. Graywater subsurface flow wetlandthe crocus earthship 14
    12. 12. Graywater Drainage planThe crocus earthship 15
    13. 13. blackwater drainage planthe crocus earthship 16
    14. 14. food & ornamental plant productionvarious earthships 17
    15. 15. Excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s The Ecological Crisis: A Common Responsibility.“It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excessgoods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living inconditions of misery at the very lowest level of subsistence.  Today, the dramaticthreat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed andselfishness – both individual and collective – are contrary to the order of creation,an order which is characterized by mutual interdependence.”“Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must becomea part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the carelesshabits of a few.” 18
    16. 16. “Just as the sun allows no darkness the lake allows no dryness the wind allows no calm the river, no silence…The Earthship allows no poverty.” –Michael Reynolds 19
    17. 17. This list includes the 10things that you canchange in your life whichwill make the mostdifference for people andthe planet. If yourehaving trouble knowingwhere to begin makingchanges, start here!better worldshopper every dollar makes a difference 20
    18. 18. Common Good Financealternative economic exchange system 21
    19. 19. Mr oe R sucs eo re QuickTimeª and a YUV420 codec decompressor are needed to see this picture.•••• 22