Atlantis 2012: The First Week & a Half

ACD Media’s Vanissa & Oja in the mirror of the new ACD Media mobile HQ, “Cecil Fatima,” an ’87 van with an excellent 350 Chevy engine.

To Our Global Community,

It’s been about a week and a half since our departure from New York City to Albuquerque (ABQ), New Mexico, to document the Earthship build outside of Estancia (60 miles out from ABQ) and the daily grind has been full blown since then. We have had many, many obstacles (from small to big things, like discovering we did not have warm enough attire to be sleeping in a van in below 40 degree weather – yes the desert gets freezing out here without the sun, and running out of money for gas, for example), but our spirits are bright and optimistic — besides, there’s no turning back now!

For a while we were driving to the site in a UHaul van and sleeping in it (better option than staying in a tent), but came upon a lucky find a few days ago, an ’87 Chevy van with a 350 Chevy engine, returned the UHaul and bought the van. Now, ACD Media HQ has gone mobile. 🙂 It is the perfect find for our situation, as we need something to house our media equipment from the rough weather, and also need a place to rest our heads on the site, and whenever we’re off site (hostels and hotels are great too, but we need to save money – this is a completely volunteer job).

The Route 66 Hostel in downtown Albuquerque, NM, where we stayed.

While the obstacles are many and sometimes downright annoying, we are constantly reminded of the reason why we are out here: The movement towards sustainable living through documenting the Earthship build and experiencing the build first-hand and hands-on. Why this obsession with Earthships? Well, because we’re tired of being so dependent on a system that depletes our bank accounts while also depleting the Earth’s resources, polluting environments, and waging war and genocide all over the world. We understand that in order for us to move forward in this movement towards unity and consciousness that we must learn how to live independently from the system, and that’s why we’ve quit our jobs and have come out here.

Through our blogging and documenting, we hope to inspire our audience to get involved and stay involved, by sharing the knowledge and utilizing it to boycott the system. Our end goal is to contribute our energy to building Earthships in Ayiti (translated from the Taino derived Kreyol word to English as ‘Haiti’ meaning ‘Mountainous land’ as the most mountainous island in the West Indies), and in that sense, combat what Columbus had set out to do 500 years ago. We’re not with the colonizers on their road to colonizing the world and make every land look like an American strip mall, so to speak, but to help empower communities who have traditionally been marginalized and exploited during the conquistadors’ murderous endeavors.

A photo of the Earthship build in Haiti, in July 2010, just months after the devastating earthquake.

It’s not a new revelation that the way we are living in the so-called ‘1st World’ and how those daily practices have acquiesced those in the so-called ‘2nd’ and ‘3rd Worlds’ is an exercise in futility. Not only for our planet (those of us that lack the arrogance of people who talk about saving the planet know that Pacha Mama will always heal herself), but really for humankind: for the generations to come, for all of those beautiful children that we see our friends and siblings having.

As the world’s political and national leaders, economists and business people speak about development and developing countries, many of the things that make up what is connoted as ‘development’ have had devastating affects on the people of the planet as well as our home. From the BP oil spill to all kinds of unexplained cancerous illnesses, the mysterious disappearances of the bees in North America and the incessant tectonic plate movements, tsunamis and floods, there is a loud voice coming from our environment that many are ignoring, but many others hear without a viable action to take in response.
Well, the response has already begun in the form of self-education, mentorship, and action. Here, in New Mexico, the Earthship Biotecture community has been teaching people who are taking the initiative to seek solutions on how to build off-the-grid, sustainable, weather-proof (including earthquake resistant) housing.

The Earthship Build site – Week One.

And now for a more detailed version of our journey so far (we feel it necessary to describe in detail, as we struggle day by day to make this happen): We arrived in Albuquerque with the intention to document the Earthship build outside of Estancia (6100 ft. above sea level) in the mountains of New Mexico on the evening of September 5th, after working three 14 hour days to stack some paper for our journey, then packing and moving most of our possessions from our apartment in Brooklyn to a storage unit. Exhausted, yet excited, it took us a few days to recuperate and finally get on our way to the build site which is located about 60 miles away from ABQ. We spent two nights at La Quinta hotel, close to the airport and one in a hostel (Route 66 Hostel) in downtown Albuquerque, where we had a bed to sleep in, WiFi, and enough room and time to transfer data from memory cards, get better acquainted with the intern coordinator at the build site, Anne Tempel, and better understand where the site is in relation to the city.

6100 feet above sea level where you literally experience more sky and clouds.

Road map showing the distance between Albuquerque and Estancia. The Earthship build is about 10 miles from the small town of Estancia, heading towards Mountainair on Junction 542. We had no idea the build would be so difficult to get to. Source: New Mexico Tech (Thanks!)

The “piggy” landmark right before we have to turn right on Junction 542 to head to the build, about 60 miles outside of ABQ.

We had set out to arrive at the build the evening before in a UHaul (the most inexpensive option), but in the pitch black darkness of an Estancia country road, we could not locate the site, which is tucked behind a trailer and tractor graveyard of sorts, on one plot of an 80-acre piece of land. So, we turned back and slept in the back of the truck parked at a motel parking lot in the nearby town, Moriarity. It was freezing where we were sleeping, something we definitely did not expect from the desert images we had seen and the casual mention of the fact that it might be a little cold at night, and with a few blankets that we purchased earlier that day, we felt the rude awakening of our Mother beginning to test the fortitude of our good intentions for the first time out here.

The long country road to the Earthship build.

By the time we reached the site (several interns on the build also had challenges finding and getting to the secluded area), the tower of earth-filled tires that makes up the foundation of the soon-to-be Earthship had already been set and stood before us like a giant totem in homage of the majestic mountains in the distance.

A wall of stacked tires that have been rammed into the Earth and packed tightly with dirt. The tires serve as excellent insulators for the house, keeping it cool on the inside in the hot summers and keeping it warm on the inside during harsh, cold winters.

The stacked tires rammed into the Earth and packed tightly with dirt.

Layers of cement and dirt the crew calls the “Can Wall.” The cans are used as filler to save on cement.

Tractor used to dig humongous holes and move mounds of dirt.

It was Sunday and most of the builders and interns had already headed back to Taos (where the Earthship crew has its roots) or into Albuquerque, with the exception of a few of the interns who had opted to camp on the build site grounds. We soon found out that the construction schedule is Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm, with a short debrief by the lead builder or ‘foreman’ after each workday.

Mounds of dirt and tires. Since it was Sunday, the crew and interns were not building. Note the stack of tires in the back on the right.

The clients’ 5 month old puppy, Disaster, looks at the neighbor’s dog resting on the AV. Upon entering the build site, we were first greeted with the clients’ neighbor, whose mother had sold them the land.

As we walked around the grounds, we saw those who had stayed behind for the weekend and were casually introducing ourselves to state our intent and make acquaintance. On the west side of the Earthship foundation, there was a white van parked with its door opened and a young bearded man sitting on top of it reading and writing. There was a young woman walking back and forth to and from the vehicle who seemed to be running some kind of errands. These two young folks are Charlotte and Nile, Earthship interns. On meeting Charlotte, we were immediately engaged by her point-of-view as a young college student seeing Earthships as part of an alternative to the dominant structure of our society and decided to begin our interviews of the builders with her. Please stay tuned for her interview which will be posted soon.

The white van that we saw in the distance, which we found out soon belonged to interns Nile and Charlotte, two college students who traveled from Oakland to participate in the build.

· Special thanks & props to our brothers Liam ‘L Dubbs’ Flynn-Jambeck for the connection to a gig at Electric Zoo, Luke Aidge Patterson & Len Pumaro for the help out on the move, and Paola Campana-Toala & Danny Campana for their assistance with our flights out…this journey would not have been possible without your help.

See the September 8th & 9th set on Flickr!

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