Alternative Structures and Simple Living in the Desert – Scarlet A. Vinson

Environmental issues are the top headlines in much of today’s news, and often the problems we face seem insurmountable. We can only take it one day at a time, attempt to deeply understand each problem and search for the best possible solution. There are so many things to consider…rising temperatures, dying species, unpredictable weather patterns, toxins in the water and air, corrupt governments that bow to the money of big industries…and our own personal accountability for such changes.

No matter which problem you refer to, the problems almost always lead back to human beings and the selfish exploitation and squandering of the resources around them. Our global culture has made this not just an exception, but the norm, and it is a subject that is difficult for people to address. At this point in time, it is no longer a matter of choice. To begin to understand the solutions, though, we must first understand what man’s true needs are. Then, we must accept living within a certain means, moral code and daily lifestyle as to really only take what we need and give back as much as possible. There are only a few things humans really need…amongst the first are food, water and shelter. In this report, I would like to concentrate upon the aspect of shelter.

The average American home is part of the average American dream. But while families become less and less cohesive, the American home is growing larger. They are now, in fact, twice as big as an average home was in 1970, while average family size has grown smaller (McKibben 34). Part of this is due to a change in perceptions of need in

mainstream America. It is also due to minimum size standards set by the building industry in the 1970’s. While their motives were supposedly driven by the desire to raise the standard of living for American families, some wonder whether or not these laws were entirely profit driven. After all, if you are practically paid by the square foot, why wouldn’t you want to build bigger homes? But, a bigger home uses more wood and other resources. As of now, we have already lost almost half of the forests that once covered the Earth (Elizabeth 5). It would seem as though we cannot afford to waste wood. Besides this, of course, a bigger house leads to bigger financial drain for the new owner, both in price and operating costs. When one imagines “the American Dream”, the kids, the dog and the home may be an intrinsic part of it. One doesn’t often imagine, however, being enslaved in a life of debt for ten years, twenty, thirty…possibly for the rest of your life. Where is the dream in that? Sadly, though, this is now the case. This is what the American dream has become.

Check out part 1 and part 2 of this project.