top of page

Earthship - Harvesting Potential in the Dirt. アースシップ - 土に秘められた可能性を収穫。


They're popping up all over the world—and for a very good reason.

We’re like a virus…and we’re going around sneezing on people’s faces

In the not-so-distant future, we may very well be looking back on ourselves as the generation that sacrificed knowledge for short-term comfort. Most would say we have both knowledge and comfort, which may be true in a sense. This comfort, however, is a brittle facade, for in order to obtain our modern-day “civilized” ease-of-mind, humanity has become dependent on a lateral consumerist economy that does not sustain the people.

Amidst global warming, population explosion, worldwide pollution, the depletion of oil reservoirs and numerous other self-stifling aspects of our current living habits, we have seen the appearance of a handful of renaissances offering innovative solutions. Amongst them, one project aims at tackling not just one of our bad habits, but the majority: that is the zero-carbon home, named the Earthship.

There is nothing extraordinary about the Earthship. And that’s what makes it so exceptional—it simply makes sense.


In hopes of spreading the ideas behind the most sustainable and self-sufficient design and construction in the world—one that uses mostly trash and surplus materials—founder and chief of Earthship Biotecture, Michael Reynolds (bio below), spends half of his working year circling the globe, giving lectures and workshops, helping disaster stricken areas, and killing beer cans and preconceived ideas with candidness and humor.

His work stems from the realization that humanity is like a stampeding herd of buffalo headed for a thousand-foot cliff, as he explains in the opening of the 2007 documentary Garbage Warrior. “…And I’m in that heard,” says Michael. “But I ain’t going down that way.”

On the weekend of November 18th and 19th, 2017, Michael visited Japan for the first time in 25 years. This time to the city of Mima, in Tokushima Prefecture (on the island of Shikoku) to give a lecture and workshop on the discoveries after 40 years of experimenting with sustainable autonomy. OVERSTAND was fortunate enough to interpret for the gathering.


The fact that Michael hadn’t flown to Japan in such a long span of time speaks more of Japan’s overall lack of awareness than it does Michael’s schedule. One would think that such a leading nation of innovative design and technology would have been more eager and actively welcoming to ideas that both benefited its citizens and matched that values of its ancestors. However, this type of slow coming-around to the value of a diamond in the rough is something Michael is used to. He has spent years in the city councils and legal courts of his home of Taos, New Mexico, battling rigid regulations regarding building codes and has even had his architectural license stripped from him. Though it was later offered back to him only after the U.S. Board of Architects learned of his relief work abroad, Michael says he doesn’t need it, nor want it. He invented a new field of building, which he named Biotecture.


Nonetheless, his visit to Tokushima was significant. People from as far as Yamagata and Kumamoto gathered to the hillsides of Mima to attend the free lecture and hands-on workshop.

Here, he gave a very easy-to-understand rundown of principles behind Earthships. The first slides started with a cartoon aimed at children. “I’ve given up on adults” he says with a laugh, adding in all seriousness that it’s gonna take the young generation to turn us in the right direction—that the adults now take too long and “they’ll be gone” by the time it takes us to properly implement what he calls S.A.F.E., or Sustainable Autonomy For Everyone.




The Principles of Earthship


In order to sustain human life today, whether it be on a boat, in outer space, or upon land, we must address the following six essential needs.


1. Comfortable shelter


2. Water


3. Food


4. Supply of energy


5. Treatment of human waste


6. Treatment of trash


According to Michael, the first half of creating a sustainable lifestyle is to “encounter the Earth’s phenomena” i.e., wind, rain, sun, gravity, condensation, thermal mass, lightning, etc., in ones immediate surroundings and adapt to it for sustenance. These “unarguable” natural phenomena cannot be “bought or sold or corrupted.” They have the ability to kill you or save you, without discrimination.


The second half is to re-consider the factors that are leading us on our current path of destruction and keeping us from utilizing a multitude of other paths. Some of these factors include politics, tradition, regulations, religion, economy, Monsanto, nuclear, big gas and oil, pharmaceuticals etc..


One key to doing this is to realize that intelligence is not always a good thing. After showing many compelling slides of how humans have been mistreating the earth, he adds “if this is intelligence, then I don’t want any.” When an audience member asked him what life changing event made him become this outlaw who experiments with the surplus of the world, he replied, “I got hit on the head.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Earthship is the use of thermal mass. Michael often reiterates just how indescribable of a feeling it is to walk into a comfortable self-warming home in the middle of a subzero winter. “There is no diagram or words that I can say to prepare you for that feeling. It’ll knock your socks off.”


Earthships always face South—in the Northern hemisphere—to catch the sun. The sun enters through large windows, heats up the greenhouse and rooms during the day, and hits the back walls of each room, heating up the 2 meter thick (the magic thickness) wall made of tires pounded with dirt (the magic ingredient) a certain amount of rocks and sand (according to the surrounding environment) and coated with plaster.

This mass “harvests" the energy of the sun until sunset. The minute the room temperature becomes lower than the temperature of the wall, that’s when the “heater” kicks in, and that radiant heat disperses from the walls to warm the room. No tricks nor switches, just pure basic physics.


The other indispensable component of the Earthship is the human waste treating system referred to as botanical cells, a.k.a. the indoor garden.


Rainwater is harvested by the roof and stored in cisterns. “Gray water” from the bathtub, bathroom sink, washing machine, etc. flows into the rubber-lined indoor garden (botanical cells) where it replenishes the plants (you can grow almost anything, from your common temperate climate vegetables, to tropical fruit such as banana and papaya, even cacao) while their roots treat the water. After traveling through the botanical cells, the treated water is then pumped up and reused for flushing the toilet. The toilet water, along with the kitchen sink water ("black water”), is led into an anaerobic septic tank where the solids are broken down by bacteria and E. Coli is treated, and then flows back into the botanical cells and finally into outdoor botanical cells in order to grow landscaping plants and to fertilize the surrounding land. This process is beneficial to the natural environment as well and even attracts wildlife. Thanks to this water and human waste treatment system, you can provide food for your family regardless of climate or season without ever having to go to the supermarket.

On the second day, participants gathered at a planned construction site for an Earthship. Funds for the build were being raised through crowdfunding.

Michael demonstrated the proper way to pound dirt into the tires in order to make the primary building blocks for the walls.

Participants broke up into groups and took turns swinging the sledgehammer to get a feel for how much dirt the tire can actually hold—about four wheelbarrows worth.

A standard Earthship can consist of anywhere from 500 to 1,000 tires, so you can imagine the benefits of making it a community effort. Michael’s Biotecture team also runs an academy (link) and usually makes their construction a part of its hands-on learning experience, a great way to get an Earthship made while spreading awareness and methods of sustainable autonomy.


After the tire-pounding experience, Michael took everybody back into the classroom, in order to present what would be the ideal design for an Earthship in an earthquake prone country like Japan. The designs, which have been/are being implemented in Haiti and other sites, include circular rooms and light weight material for the roof.

The lecture was wrapped up with explanations about the water and waste treatment.

Potential of Earthships in Rural Japan


On an individual level, the Earthship has the power to let you own your life. If implemented on a global scale, the principles behind Earthship have the potential to help veer the stampeding herd away from the treacherous cliff. And if done by communities, with proper planning and cooperation, it has the potential to bring life back to the dying mountains, families back to dissipating towns as well as combat Japan’s annual declining birthrate and population aging.


Despite all the hardships of getting Earthships recognized by construction laws and withstanding the weight of corporations with stakes in big-energy, Michael is positive about the future of his projects and the sustainable autonomy mindset. “We’re like a virus,” he says, “and we’re going around sneezing on peoples faces.”

Global Earthship Model


Michael Reynolds Bio


Michael Reynolds is a world leader in sustainable housing. For over forty-five years he has been designing and building homes that heat and cool themselves, are built from natural and recycled materials, produce their own electricity, collect their own water, treat their own sewage and grow their own food. He is the author of seven books, the initiator of 3 off-grid communities. The largest community, Greater World Earthship Community, currently has 60 totally off-grid homes with a plan for 130 total. He is the subject of the documentary Garbage Warrior and travels with his team around the world demonstrating Earthship/sustainable principles. In 2006, he spearheaded the New Mexico Sustainable Development Testing Site Act which was signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson. Recent international projects include: tsunami relief in India, typhoon relief in the Philippines, earthquake relief in Haiti, a school in Sierra Leone, a community center in Malawi and a music school for indigenous people on Easter Island. In 2010 Taos County approved the world’s first Sustainable Development Testing Site where he is currently experimenting with advanced methods of carbon-zero housing for disaster relief and economically autonomous communities.
















彼の活動は、2007年作のドキュメンタリー “Garbage Warrior” の冒頭にあるように「人類はまるで高さ300メートルの崖に向かって突進する牛の群れのようなもの」だという直感に起因している。「俺もその群れの一部なんだけど、だからって一緒に滅びるのはごめんだ」と。

2017年11月18, 19日の週末、マイケルは実に25年ぶりに日本を訪れた。今回は徳島県美馬市にて、持続的自由な暮らしを追求し40年もの間ずっと繰り返してきた実験を通して見出したものをレクチャーとワークショップという形で解説してくれた。恵まれたことに、OVERSTANDがその通訳を手がける機会をいただいた。








レクチャーは、アースシップの主な原理のとてもわかりやすい解説からスタートした。最初のスライドには子供向けの漫画が映し出されていた。マイケルは笑いながら「大人を相手にするのは、もうあきらめた」と言い、会場の空気を和ませたが、その後真剣な顔になり、人類を正しい方向へと舵を切ってくれるのは若い世代しかいなく、それがちゃんと実行される頃には今の鈍い(のろい)大人は「すでに存在していないでしょう」と補足を加えた。ここでマイケルがいう「ちゃんと実行」される対象をS.A.F.E.と名付けている。SAFEは “Sustainable Autonomy For Everyone” の頭文字をとったもので、「みんな(全生命)のための永続的自立」を指している。







1 居心地良い住処


2 水


3 食料


4 エネルギー補給


5 排泄物の処理


6 ゴミの処理




マイケルによると、永続的な生活を築くための最も肝心な部分の一つは、「自分の周りにある地球の現象 (風、雨、太陽、重力、結露、熱質量、雷など)と向き合い、それに対して働きかけ、享受したものを生命維持に置き換える」事である。これらの「疑う余地のない」自然現象それ自体は「売買」や「退廃」も出来ず、全生命に対して優遇も差別もなく与えられ、人を生かす事も、死なす事も出来る。






































































































サステイナブル住居の建築家として世界のトップを突っ走る恒久の異端児。45年以上にも渡り、冷暖房を自ら調整し、天然素材や「ゴミ」を建材とする、自家発電、貯水、下水処理もし、食料まで自給自足可能なお家を設計・建設してきた。本を七冊も著し、オフグリッド(大規模電力網に頼らない)コミュニティーを三つ創立している。その中で最も大きい、グレーター・ワールド・アースシップ・コミュニティーでは、現在オフグリッド住宅が60軒、将来的には全130軒まで増やす計画を立てている。レイノルズ氏はGarbage Warriorsというドキュメンタリーでは密着され、制作チームと世界を巡回しながら各地でアースシップの講義を開き、持続可能な生活の信念を訴えてきた。2006年に「ニューメキシコ州持続的開発試験現場法(仮)」の起草事業の先頭に立ち、後に元州知事ビル・リチャードソンによりその法案は成立した。最近では、インドでは津波による被害の救援活動、フィリピンでは台風の救援活動、ハイチでは地震の救援活動、シエラレオネでは学校を立ち上げ、マラウイでは市民会館、イースター島では先住民のための音楽学校を設立するなど、国際支援事業に励んでいる。2010年、ニューメキシコ州タオス郡の行政が世界初、持続的開発試験現場の許可を承認し、レイノルズ氏は現在、災害支援または経済的に独立した自治体のためのCO2排出量ゼロ型の高度技術を取り入れた住宅作りの実験を行なっている。











Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page