If you’re like me then a small part of you wants to live in the Shire. There’s something very settling about how hobbits live. Tolkien made them very communal beings that didn’t waste much. Everything they took they gave back, and then some. Last year, I was fumbling around on the internet and happened to find a group of people who made real-life habitable hobbit holes. Needless to say, I was instantly intrigued.
They guy behind it all is a man named Simon Dale and he calls his creations “low-impact woodland homes.” For Simon, it’s all about environmental sustainability. He says that we need to start taking real action to cut off our dependence on fossil fuels and he says we can do it by relying on land as we did before the industrial revolution. This, he says, is the answer to the climate change problem. We need to establish self-reliant local networks that operate both mentally and physically closer to the land. He writes, “Climate change is a clear imperative to curtail our fossil fuel use.” He suggests we do this by planting edible perennial food, eating less meat, using wood for fuel by setting up lots for rotational wood harvesting, and learning basic handiwork skills. By doing so, we will create communities sustainable within themselves that take a whole lot less from nature and replace a whole lot more.
To the left is a view from inside one of Simon’s low impact homes. It was made with a hammer, chainsaw and a chisle, cost 3,000 pounds, and took about 1500 man hours. It is 50 square meters in size, which is just under 550 square feet from our point of view. It is heated by a wood burning stove, gets water that flows down the hillside, is naturally lit by a skylight seen in the picture, and has solar panels that provide electricity. You can’t get much more sustainable than that.
I believe this has special relevancy for our class given our focus on the interplay between human life and our planet’s many systems. These low-impact homes, in a way, embody what I believe the take home message from our class to be. Earth is a closed system and we must plug into it. Burning fossil fuels, as well all know, is not a sustainable practice. As it is speculated that we have reached our oil peak, we all have to take a little responsibility in the quest for alternative energy. In the meantime, we need to look at how we’re currently living and examine how much we take that we don’t give back. This is what drove Simon’s work and it needs to drive ours as well.