The thousands of families who have built affordable homes, cash up front, made of earthbags, straw bales, cordwood, cob and rammed tires are not in danger of losing their homes in the current mortgage crisis. And if you include affordable adobe, bamboo and thatch homes built worldwide, over a third of the world’s houses have avoided the mortgage crisis.
In general, the people who build these low cost, alternative homes are often the same people who garden and grow fruit trees, raise small livestock and/or live on farms and, in many cases, utilize renewable energy. This includes many millions of homes with passive solar design, earth-bermed and underground homes, wind and water generators, and photovoltaics. Less obvious, but just as important, are the countless homes who utilize rocket stoves, Lorena stoves, methane digesters, vegetable oil, rice hull stoves or one of the other myriad low cost, sustainable cooking and heating systems.
And let’s not forget those who use (and benefit) from low cost, sustainable cooling systems for their food and homes: rootcellars, cool pantries, pot-in-pot refrigerators, whole house fans, cooling towers, earth tubes and evaporative coolers of all types. In India, for example, it’s common to have breezes blow through wet vetiver grass to cool the home and add a pleasant fragrance. Some build simple evaporative cooling systems with just a small aquarium pump and fiber mats. Many more design and orient their homes to capture prevailing breeze to cool their homes, or just use fans or night venting. Many millions have learned how to use trees and landscaping, light colored roofs, water features, trellises, patio covers and roof overhangs to shade and cool their homes in hot climates.
A picture is starting to emerge. There are many millions of households living within their means in simple, affordable homes, using renewable energy and appropriate technology, and providing food locally who are not trapped in the mortgage system. These same families, in large part, use much less energy and have a much lighter impact on the environment than typical Americans.
So who are the families at risk of losing their homes in this mortgage crisis? I don’t know anyone personally who’s affected, so please forgive me if I offend anyone. I’m asking these questions to help improve our understanding of this serious housing problem that’s hurting millions of homeowners. Are the families at risk of default taking public transportation and riding bicycles or are they driving cars they can’t afford? Are they buying food from restaurants and packaged/processed foods from supermarkets that cost way more than simple foods prepared at home? How much energy are they consuming in relation to the rest of the world? Maybe 10-25 times as much as average? Are these families also overextended on credit cards so they can buy the latest fashions, TVs, stereos, cell phones, portable music devices and laptops? Did they buy energy-efficient homes or did they go for larger, flashier homes?
I’m not trying to stir up a hornets nest. Life’s too short for that. So I’ll wrap this up by saying there’s probably enough blame to go around. While there’s certainly an abundance of greed and corruption in the banking industry and in government that deregulated the industry, those who have lost their homes or are at risk of default probably lived beyond their means and didn’t utilize the abundance of readily available sustainable technologies. I hope people take some time to research all the great ideas out there and start using them as soon as possible.