Our little house was built in 1927 with lumber milled from the La Sals, the adobe chimney made from local earth. Star Hall was built over 100 years ago from locally cut sandstone blocks and adobe bricks still held together with mud mortar. The same goes for the Schafer House at the Youth Garden Project. There is no cement foundation, no imported steel in Star Hall or the Schafer House, only rocks, dirt and trees from where we live.
Nature bestows these gifts to us freely. And she will continue to do so if we carefully manage her forests, water and the very earth beneath our feet. Knowing the trees and the people that make my home fosters appreciation for the unique place in which I live.
This relationship is severed when we become dependent on purchasing all our goods from some place far away, made by people we do not know. It also denies us the opportunity to cultivate true community prosperity. Or what I call Ecological Up-sizing.
If the foundation of my house is made from the stone cut from the local stone quarry (and sandstone slab countertops, sinks and windowsills) the walls and earthen floor made from the local adobe yard, the roof cut from the local mill, my cabinets and furniture made from Russian olive, piñon, juniper, the tile made from fired local clay, wild willows, tamarisk and grapevines pruned from local vineyards into hand-woven chairs, baskets and woven fences, then I am supporting a whole community of craftsmen. Prosperity is defined as “A successful flourishing or thriving condition.” We just Up-sized our community prosperity.
I see many opportunities for Up-sizing in Moab:
Development of interdependent cooperative enterprises, each benefiting from the success of the other. For example, a weavers cooperative that relies on local craftsmen to build their looms, local farmers for their wool, plant fibers and natural plant dyes displayed in a cooperative-run gallery. A local brewery that relies on locally grown grains, the spent grains cultivate mushrooms, the mushroom waste goes to feed chickens (poultry and eggs) the chicken poop is turned into methane to power the equipment that runs the brewery, wastewater from the brewery is alkalized by farming nutritional algae, the alkalized water provides clean water for fish ponds that syphon the fertile fish water to hydroponic green houses that produce vegetables and waste that feed the chickens and any solid waste to fertilize local gardens ... and the party never ends.
Supporting local agriculture is one of the most effective ways to create prosperity. The more we grow and sell locally the more jobs we create while providing real food security. Imagine a cooperative marketplace with many shops under one roof selling all local goods; a bakery (we already have a source for local wheat), dairy and cheese shop (got that too), tamales and pasta shop (fresh made daily – who can resist?) meats and eggs, fresh produce, prepared produce, dried, canned, and frozen.
Utilizing “waste” materials is another abundant local resource. Turn wood pallets into furniture or reconstruct them into ladder roof trusses (the engineering is already approved for this); glass can be re-melted into tiles and blocks, glassware, plates, bowls, vessels – a local grocery store features beautiful recycled glassware made in Spain! (We could be doing the same and spare the shipping costs!) Turn waste paper into insulating “papercrete” blocks and panels, (we use shredded paper as a primary ingredient in our clay plasters).
Tires! I visited this shop in a tiny town in New Mexico where a father-and-son-team were turning tires into woven floor mats. They were making so many they had a contract with Target! (I bought one 10 years ago – still in perfect condition). The transfer station is an abundant source for recycling steel, smelted into whatever it can be remade into. Hey guys! We need your ingenuity! Solar steel-smelting ovens? Solar hot water heaters? Solar cookers! Solar driers! Super-efficient wood burning masonry stoves! Designs for rainwater catchment systems, greywater systems for landscaping, attached passive solar capturing green houses! Learn to eco-vate with what we have! If our school curriculums included sustainable living skills then maybe more of our kids would remain in Moab.
Remember when Americans prided themselves on making things that were of such high quality you could pass it on to your great-grandchildren? Remember when we used to make things, period?
I think real prosperity has less to do with profit and more to do with realizing we are our wealthiest resource.
I know. We need seed money. With the help of local government tax incentives, private investors, grants and loan agencies that offer reduced rates for entrepreneurs committed to using 25-100 percent local resources, we can diversify our economy and become a more prosperous, secure community.
Kaki Hunter and her partner Doni Kiffmeyer co-authored the book Earthbag Building. They have been teaching natural and alternative building techniques in such diverse locations as Belize, the Bahamas, Canada, Jamaica and throughout the U.S. since 1996.