Sunday, December 7, 2008

Building the Earth Domes

If TEMA were the Oregon Trail then we just spent the last five days traveling at a grueling pace on meager rations. By now we have a broken a wagon wheel, two of the oxen died, Paul drowned while we were fording the river, and Mary has Yellow Fever. We need a break, and fortunately, we get one. We’ve arrived at a beautiful stretch of beach at a location called El Cardinal, just north of the town of Brilles. This is the eastern side of Baja, facing the Sea of Cortez, so the water is warm, the beaches are almost as gorgeous as the snorkeling, and the sunrises – holy fuck are they amazing! We’re here for the next four days to build some very simple, low tech “earth domes,” for a man named Jeff. These domes are a pilot project for what Jeff hopes to be an empowering and contagious revolution regarding building practices, local, sustainable, and green. These structures are extremely easy to make, so you don’t need to be a experienced with construction to help, and due to their simplicity, can be made almost entirely from local materials. They are very energy efficient, and have a very low environmental impact. Earth domes are often used in disaster relief situations because they are quick and easy to build, while still being solid, safe, permanent structures. Here are some pictures of us building earth domes.

(note: I couldn't upload these pictures due to internet restrictions, but check back later, or check the TEMA website for more (note: nevermind)).

Ultimately, these domes are just going to be Jeff’s vacation home. Jeff is taking a very novel and honorable approach to building a vacation home – especially compared to the hulking mansions on either side of Jeff’s property; Jeff is adding so much to the local economy, and doing so little to harm the environment, but the fact remains -- it’s still a vacation home. There was a slight lack of clarity regarding exactly who these earth domes were going to be for. Some of us were thinking these domes were part of a larger compound (which Jeff hopes they some day will be), and there were some very mixed reactions when we found out that we’re basically just donating our labor to help yet another gringo build another house on the beach. Personally, I am interested in learning how to make these structures; I feel like that knowledge will come in handy some day. Also, while I’m certain there are far more effective ways to make a positive change in a community, there are certainly far more damaging and counterproductive ways to travel through Mexico. This is a satisfactory compromise in my book.

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