Also In The News – An Introduction to Earthships

By Kevin Stevens, Networx

Imagine a home that heats and cools itself without the need of a furnace or AC unit: one that produces its own zero-emissions supply of electricity, and is not dependent on a municipal source for water. This kind of home also processes all of its wastewater locally, and can even grow a quantity of its occupant’s food. Additionally, the home is built with local and recycled waste products, and it can be built with basic low-tech labor. Does this sound like the ideal home of a space age future? Believe it or not, these homes exist today (many have been built by builders in New Mexico) and have been in existence for over 30 years. This type of home is called an “Earthship” and it exhibits all of these features and more.

Heat and Cooling Naturally

Earthships are homes built with passive solar design principles. During the cool winter months, low angled sunlight enters the home and warms the floors and walls. Exterior and load bearing walls are constructed from a “core” of up-cycled tires and rammed earth. This high thermal mass core is covered with concrete or earthen-based plasters for a smooth and cosmetically appealing surface. The mass of the walls and structure “absorb” the sun’s heat, this heat is stored in the mass walls and is then released back into the living space after the sun sets. In summer, the cool base temperature of the earth around the home provides natural cooling. This is supplemented with convective air flow and skylight vents.

Power and Water

Earthships by their nature are off-grid. This means they are self-sufficient in terms of electricity and traditional service utilities. Solar panels and/or wind turbines generate electric power. The home’s roof surface acts as a “collector” for rain and snow harvesting. Water consumption is further enhanced by re-use. An Earthship’s water stores are “processed” by filtration and purification means for initial use. Grey water from sinks and showers is processed through a biological/planter bed before being used to flush conventional toilets. These planter beds can also be used as gardens (some people grow food in grey water-irrigated gardens; some do not). The waste water from the toilets is then processed in an exterior system that can be used for exterior landscape needs. With this system the water is actually used four times… which is a great savings in its own right. Hot water for domestic use is produced using thermal solar power.

Recycled Building Materials

One of the greatest advantages of Earthship construction is the use of reclaimed materials. The fundamental “building blocks” of an Earthship include tires, bottles and cans. Earthship “foundations” begin with old tires that are filled with simple dirt. This local material is compressed into the “form” of the tire and provides a strong solid and dense “brick”. These tire walls are built on three sides of the structure and provide both thermal mass and support for the home roofing system. Interior and decorative walls are often built using bottles and cans as the “core” materials. This integrated “matrix” of concrete and containers reduces the total amount of mortar that is needed and can provide a great decorative element.
Earthships are gaining popularity and can be found in nearly every climate type. One of the best known examples of this type of architecture and sustainable building style can be found near Taos, New Mexico. Here an entire community of Earthships make up the “Greater World Community.” This “subdivision” has been in existence for nearly 20 years.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Feb. 4th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 4
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Comet Garradd and M92
Image Credit & Copyright: Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) 

Explanation: Sweeping slowly through the constellation Hercules, Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) passed with about 0.5 degrees of globular star cluster M92 on February 3. Captured here in its latest Messier moment, the steady performer remains just below naked-eye visibility with a central coma comparable in brightness to the dense, well-known star cluster. The rich telescopic view from New Mexico’s, early morning skies, also features Garradd’s broad fan shaped dust tail and a much narrower ion tail that extends up and beyond the right edge of the frame. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit while the ion tail, blown by the solar wind, streams away from the comet in the direction opposite the Sun. Of course, M92 is over 25,000 light-years away. Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes from planet Earth, arcing above the ecliptic plane.

Finding Dragons

Finding Dragons

 
 
Dragons live deep underground in caverns, usually with many passages and inner caves where the treasure is kept.
 
Some areas, like Wales or the Catalan region around Barcelona, have strong fire-dragon traditions.
 
Visit places with dragon or drake names such as Dragon Hill near Uffingham on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire borders, close to the huge chalk horse symbol of the Celtic horse goddess Epona.
 
Go also to those spots where there are dragons legends, such as Krakow in Poland where the dragon lived in a cave beneath Wawel Hill under the castle. You can be sure people in times past experienced dragon energies there and so wove the legends. Enter ‘dragon’ in the regional website of the place you intend to visit.
 
Explore dry, rocky, sandy regions, like Almeria in the south east of Spain. Visit also the bush lands of Australia and the Midwest of America and New Mexico, where European and Scandinavian settlers from the Old World carried the dragon mythology and the absorbed energies to join with the indigenous myths.
 
Explore the sacred sites of the creatrix rainbow serpent in Australia. In American, Serpent Mound in Ohio, just east of Cincinnati, which was used for worship by the Adena Indians, somewhere between 800 BCE and CE 100, is another perfect dragon location.
 
Most deep forests also have their share of dragon legends, especially in Germany. Visit different cavernous or rocky areas and feel for your dragon.
 
You may even find friendly fire-dragon energies near seaside caves in sandy coves (watch for tides). Western dragons traditionally live alone except for mating.
 
Collect the legends and your own impressions in your Book of Shadows.

When You Might Not Want to Come Out of the Broom Closet

Author: Bronwen Forbes

A great deal has been written about the benefits and advantages of coming out as Pagan to your family, friends and co-workers, both here on Witchvox and in other places. Living an honest life, helping Paganism be more accepted as more people say “I know a Pagan, ” and taking pride in who and what you are – these are all excellent reasons to be open about your faith. However, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, coming out is never something you do just once. You continue to choose with every new day, every new situation and every new person you meet whether or not to say anything about your spiritual path.

Which means, of course, that there are some valid reasons to never come out to anyone, or only to a select few in specific situations. For example (obvious as it is) , if you’ve recently begun the process of legally severing your marital bonds with someone and, before the divorce is final and all child and property custody disputes have been resolved, and you realize in the middle of all this that you’re Pagan, it would probably be in your best interests not to announce your new path until after the dust has settled.

Another obvious example is on the job. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but in this economy, just because you think it’s safe to be openly Pagan at work doesn’t mean it *is* safe. I lived for years in the Baltimore-Washington DC area where no one, not even my employers, cared if I was Pagan or not.

I left DC for a Midwest town that had a university – and a very prominent journalism school. As leaders of a training coven (consisting mostly of college students including one journalism major) , my husband and I were pretty good candidates for “interview a witch for the Halloween edition of the school paper.” It happened every year. While I wasn’t exactly out at work, between my regular appearance in the university’s school newspaper and occasional mentions in the city’s paper for being on various Pagan-related discussion panels, I wasn’t exactly hiding my religion, either. Five minutes on Google would have told my employers everything they wanted to know about it. I don’t think it even occurred to them to check.

Unfortunately, I took this lack of interest in my religious affairs for granted when we moved to a tiny town in New Mexico and I got a job at the local (much smaller) university in the admissions office. We also tried to help revive the campus Pagan student group which had been prominently featured in the local paper a year earlier, when every Baptist minister in the county denounced its existence (which should have been a clue to me to keep my flapping mouth shut) . Connections were made among the students, and next thing I knew it was two weeks before Samhain and the editor of the school paper was interviewing me. It was a good, well-written article, and no one in my office said a word about the fact that I’d just outed myself to the entire campus. I didn’t think any more about it.

Until I realized that my immediate supervisor was quietly and subtly going out of her way to make my workday a living hell – and had been since the article appeared in the paper.

For example, whatever I did wrong was discussed loudly and in public, while my co-worker, a Catholic, got a bit of quiet privacy when her errors were pointed out (We started the same day and did the exact same job) . I mentioned it to my boss and was told it was all my imagination and that I was “too sensitive.”

Eventually I quit; I’m convinced that if I hadn’t, I would have been fired. Was it because of the article? I’ll never know for sure, but in retrospect my decision to come out of the broom closet was, in this instance, a pretty poor one.

Sometimes, though, the decision of whether or not to come out as Pagan is not so obvious. Family and close friends, for example, are the people you most want to accept this part of you, and as a result your prediction of their reaction to your news may be skewed; you so very much need them to be happy for you that you could project the reaction you want onto them.

I’ve asked around, and a lot of my friends suggest telling a close sibling, aunt or uncle and see how they react before having the “Big Talk” with Mom and Dad. But – and this is hard – telling your nearest and dearest may not only be a bad idea, you may not know it’s a bad idea until it’s too late.

Back in the mid 1980s when I first realized I was Pagan, I told my parents. I had plenty of solid, valid reasons for doing so: 1) I was about to be divorced by my first husband over my Paganism and I thought they deserved to know the truth. 2) I had a strong feeling, even in the early days, that my spiritual path was going to be a major part of my life (turns out I was right) and I couldn’t see cutting my parents out of that much of my world (we were a lot closer back then) . 3) My parents are highly educated people with five college degrees between the two of them, have been professional performers most their lives (i.e. used to odd, artistic, fringe folk) , and are reasonably liberal in their personal and political views. In other words, if there are (or were) two Christians (Episcopalians) more likely to accept their daughter’s new spiritual path with open-mindedness and grace, I don’t know them.

At first it looked like I made a good decision to come out to my folks. My father, a college librarian, found a copy of Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance on my recommendation and read it. He said that while he’d never be a Pagan, he was struck by how “poetic it is.”

Fast forward a decade or so. In the intervening years my religion has been referred to as “that Pagan b*llsh*t” more than once. I’ve been told, “We’re just so relieved you’ve managed to stay away from the drugs” (What drugs? Did I miss the memo on rampant drug use in the Pagan community?) , and treated to this day like a not-quite-bright teenager by – you guessed it – my intellectual, liberal parents.

Was coming out to my parents a good idea? Probably not.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it today? No.

The decision to tell or not to tell someone you’re Pagan is a deeply personal one, and not in any way something you should be pressured into. Coming out as Pagan is not “cool” or something to do for the shock it might cause the listener. Although it’s true that the more of a presence we are in society the less “other” we become, and the more our faith is accepted in the world.

But we need to be aware that sharing our religious choice with anyone or everyone is not always the best solution. We no longer need to worry about witchfinders, hangings and other historically dire consequences for openly celebrating our faith, but we do need to think very hard about our livelihoods, our children and the feelings of the one we’re outing ourselves to before we choose to share this most personal information.