Rumble Pie | Deep Ecology Blog

Rumble Pie #31
Presenting First Earth

AT GREEN APPLE, WE FEEL so strongly about putting out a positive message of what we can all be doing to improve our relationship with nature, that not only have we blogged about it in articles... and not only have we documented in with photography... but we have even produced a full-length feature movie about it! It has been called the definitive documentary about natural building, and it was shot in eight countries on four continents, over a period of over four years. Publishing house PM Press has signed on as distributor and will be officially releasing the DVD in a couple of months. The name of the film is FIRST EARTH - Uncompromising Ecological Architecture.

THE FILM STARTED OUT AS a personal project when I first apprenticed with earth architecture pioneers Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley in the rainforests of Oregon in the summer of 2004. At that time, I realized that natural building was going to be one of the most potent forces that could help shelter us from the converging catastrophes of the early twenty-first century. But it was being done out in the backwoods by hardcore deep ecologists, unaccessible to anyone else who hadn't heard of it already. This was a grassroots movement that was never going to get good mainstream media attention; it deserved to tell its own story.

SO I BEGAN TO FILM what I saw and what I did, so that I could explain to all of my friends and relatives why building houses out of mud could be strong and beautiful, practical and affordable. It's not easy to overcome most people's prejudices towards dirt! In our hyper-regimented society, there is a serious stigma towards materials that are not industrially-produced and standardized. Anything out of the ordinary will usually be viewed with some suspicion, and anything that even remotely invokes the image of a 'hippie' house is going to get a lot of people's guards up.

TO TELL THE STORY convincingly, I would have to prove that as a fundamental building material, unadulterated earth wasn't only an appropriate choice for the third world, but that it had deep roots in Northern Europe and the Southwestern States, as well. To show that it could be built many stories high, I had to journey to the Middle East, and to show that it could withstand awesome earthquakes, I had to travel to the West Coast. To understand the origins of earthen architecture, I had to immerse myself in continental Africa, and to deal with legitimate questions about gentrification in the future, I had to really get to know inner city ghettoes.

IN MANY WAYS, I WOULD have much preferred to have just built my own house out of cob and be done with it, to just be the change that I want to see in the world. By now I would have long since finished building my dream home, wherever that might be in the world, sitting around the fire, baking bread, maybe taking care of a couple of goats. But there was a vacuum that desperately needed to be filled, and no one was stepping up to the plate, so I filled that niche as best as I could. And I have to say, I had a hell of a lot of fun traveling all around the world, meeting some amazing people, and learning a lot more than I would have from just staying in the same spot for four years.

THERE IS NO WAY THAT this film could possibly have been made all by myself. Computers got old and needed to be replaced, cameras broke down and new ones needed to be bought. When you're in a foreign country and you don't speak the local language, it's helpful to have a traveling buddy who can take still shots while you shoot video, and vice-versa. Even if you're using simple equipment, it also doesn't hurt none to have another body to help lug it around across the continent and beyond. And when you're only working intermittently on ecological activist jobs that exactly don't pay hand over fist, there is no shame in availing yourself of ideological supporters who are willing to you get from place to place.

MANY PEOPLE CAME TOGETHER and contributed their skill sets to the project, because they believed that people need to know that the way that we house ourselves in North American is patently wrong-headed. They know that we need to look to all of our ancestors that used their ingenuity, and the common materials that were the closest -- and to our best and brightest mad scientist environmentalists -- who are using their ingenuity, and common materials that are the closest! Among these people, Peter held the vision, and contributed of his own time, energy, and resources to ensure that this important film would be seen by as many people as possible.

SO INVITE YOU TO WATCH the film FIRST EARTH - Uncompromising Ecological Architecture. Right now, while the DVD is still in post-production, you can see the film in its entirety in a YouTube-embedded frame on the official website for the film. Just click on the link "Videos", and you can watch all twelve parts in succession. The website is also filled with additional material, hundreds of still photos and extended interview footage with some of the most important pioneers of the natural building movement. And if you enjoy the film, feel free to share it with anyone you wish. Happy viewing!