John Storey

Net Zero Is Incorrect

I live in the state of California in the United States of America. It is 2019, and I'm watching climate change fears drive some decent legistlation. In particular, I'm seeing laws now require newly built homes have solar panels on them, and incentives for buying electric vehicles. This works, but as usual, not totally as expected (the solar panel law just incented builders to form their own solar panel company with sub-par panels, and force you to agree to horrible deals if you buy their homes. I'm looking at you Lennar!). Regulation can help, but as usual, it creates a strong incentive to pervert for personal profit.

Soon I expect we'll see a Net Zero law. The idea of Net Zero is that the surplus electricity produced by your home is sent to the grid, and and night you live off electricity coming from the grid. If you balance that out, a net amount of zero electricity needs to be created for your personal use. It sounds like a good idea. But I think it embodies some bad thinking.

What we want is what Michael Reynolds has been touting for the last 40 years. He is working out of Taos, New Mexico trying to promote building homes that are completely independent of any grid -- electrical, sewage, water, to some extent even food. It's using modern and old technology to have a modern life while having, as far as practical, a personal homestead. The house provides your water, food, treats your sewage, and gives you food. If the worst comes to worse, you won't freeze in the winter, or do without power at night. It's a totally independent home that is going to be relatively unaffected by the electrical grid going down, or the public water supply being polluted (remember Flint, Michigan.) People living in these style homes report paying a couple of hundred dollars in utilities a year. That is what is normally spent in a month.

Out of work? Your basic needs are met without much expense at all. It's not a big problem now. Basic income? For what? You have shelter, regulated heat and cooling for free (no ac or heater required!), power, food, clean water, sanitary facilities ... this would drop basic income to less than one-tenth of what it might currently cost. It would actually make it affordable as opposed to the crazy talk it currently is. We could do the right thing for every human.

Hmmm ... economic collapse? You aren't going to be looking for the soup kitchen if you live in an earthship.

Welfare? No need to beg the government for money -- or as much -- when you already have your needs met in your own home.

How can this happen? The short answer is: modern technology combined with the sustainable living movement. Generally I am a conservative in my opinions; there has rarely been a democrat that I found reasonable or realistic. But Reynolds, green as he is, is on the right track. I am not going to say we don't need infrastructure, or we should withdraw from the modern world. Of course we need society. Healthcare is not met with an earthship for example. But we can have lives resistant to infrastructure failure or forms of hydraulic despotism. All we need is ownership of homes that are more than modern caves, but instead have integrated systems designed to provide for our basic needs with very few inputs from the outside.

That's freedom. That's the basis of a strong citizenry. That's the basis of a strong nation, and since I'm pontificating, I'd say a strong human race.

Look at the 30 year mortgage you have, which comes with utility bills, sewage fees for the state, water bills, all coming every month ... wouldn't you rather have a modern home (earthbag earthships seem a great intersection of proven ideas) without all that expense? Here in California 20 or 30% of your net income might be to pay these bills -- I've heard people say 50%. You should keep that money for your own use.

Search Google for earthships. After 40 years there is a fair amount of misinformation and fear mongering out there, but just look at the ideas behind it. Maybe you don't agree with every idea, or the way those ideas are actualized, but consider if there is not something that would give you a better life. If the cost seems too much, or the designs too different, then for USD $30,000 Green Modern Kits will sell you a 1200 square foot shell built of SIPs. Put in a polished concrete floor, maybe with radiant heat, and you are well on your way of getting the benefits of earthships. You need to add a rainwater harvesting system, a greenhouse for food, a septic tank, and some solar panels. I think the integrated earthship approach is better, but it's probably way easier to permit a SIP home. It's also much more affordable. Still too much? Look into earthbag homes. I'd start with the Cal-Earth Institute, then watch the mylittlehomestead YouTube channel.

Interested? If you read this, likely you know me. Let's grab a coffee and talk more.