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Nepal’s First Earthship

vendredi, 6 octobre 2017   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Patrick Lunt (LGB '96)
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Patrick Lunt graduated from LGB in 1996, and went on to get an MSc in Environment and Development from the University of Manchester. He collaborates with Earthship Biotecture, a global company offering sustainable design and construction services worldwide. In 2006, he co-directed Ethical Studios, a web design company specialised in creating websites for NGOs and international organisations, including the IUCN and the United Nations. Patrick's work with Ethical Studios was highlighted in our "Ecolint Entrepreneurs" section. In this blog entry, Patrick shares about his most recent project and adventure. 


A 5th grade dream

The trajectory of the dream I am in the midst of was probably set in motion sometime during 5th grade in Caroline Craggs' class. I will always remember sitting in the main assembly hall listening to Bruno Manser who spoke to us about his experience of living in the Bornean rainforest for 6 years. I certainly don't have such a dramatic story to share but it does relate to a part of Ecolint's history: building a school in Nepal. 

This Earthship builds on the spaghetti of Ecolint ethea that has existed since the very early days: giving back, believing in a better tomorrow, recognising a world community, participating in change, taking action, recognizing that we are one... Having fun! During my time in the late 80s and early 90s the yearly Student Day Fair raised funds for schools and orphanages around the world including in Chile and Nepal. Visiting the Kharikhola school in Nepal in ’96 brought home how many little actions can result in something beautiful: a gift that keeps giving. 


What’s an Earthship?

From 16 November to 6 December we're building Nepal’s first Earthship. What in heaven’s name is an Earthship, you ask? It’s a radically self-sustaining house that needs no life support system from the outside. It self-heats and self-cools, generates its own power, collects its own water, treats its own sewage and is built using re-appropriated waste materials such as tyres, glass bottles and cans. 

The building will have food growing inside it in an internal year-round greenhouse, providing both nutrition and a space to experiment. We are also building a biodigestor to generate cooking gas (methane) from organic waste, helping to reduce the pressures on the few trees that are left in the area.

It is a house that cradles (cradle to) its occupants. Having a rain-water shower waters the plants in the living room, providing clean water for the toilet which, when flushed, sends (clean!) water to the garden. Each drop of water is used four times. The house is comfortable too. Even in the extreme temperatures of New Mexico (-30C to 40C) the living spaces remain a cosy or refreshing 21C to 26C - at no financial or environmental cost, and without financing war.

This particular Earthship will be an earthquake-resistant home for 16 young teachers to be. The young women who will call it home come from villages throughout the Makalu Valley and are studying at the Himalayan Education Centre (HEC) to become primary and middle school teachers.

An inspiring story: from cowshed to community leader

The Himalayan Education Centre is run by one if its first students: Sunita Gurung. Her story has inspired this project. She was born in April 1988 in the small village of Lingam, near the Tibetan border. Everyday she would walk the two hours to school and back, as though her life depended on it. In many ways it did.

One day when she was 13, just after being told she must give up her studies, she got a lucky break. She was selected for the Education Centre hostel.  After graduating, Sunita started to help the coordinator but the economic situation was dire. There was no money for tuition fees, food, school supplies, uniforms or rent. The students ended up having to leave the hostel. Sunita promised herself, saying ‘I will do something for girls and for the village.’ They sent a proposal to the Educate The Children organization and funding started to arrive.

In 2008 Sunita made contact with Ten Friends, an organization that seeks to assist and empower vulnerable communities in Nepal. With their help, she learned to speak English in six months, and was able to read her first English book: Three Cups of Tea. She decided to start a library.

It was to be the first of 32... and counting! Now, nine years later, Sunita is the leader of the Himalaya Education Centre and teaching 11 students. Sixteen students are teaching in their own village after finishing their studies and the snowball is beginning to roll.

Teachers as catalysts for change

As teachers the young women will have key organizational roles in daily community life. They will be in an ideal position to affect change in villages where lack of opportunity often leads locals to look for work further afield.

This project will demonstrate simple sustainable technologies that can help people to stay with their families while still providing for them. Local masons and carpenters will be involved so they can pass this knowledge on. The diffusion of simple and relatively inexpensive technologies like compost toilets can benefit the entire community.

The low maintenance costs (less than 60 USD a year) and inexistent bills will provide security over the long term, avoiding the fragility and dependence on economic and political systems that can change without notice.


We live in a fragile world

These issues are not exclusive to the majority world. After four days of no flights due to the Eyjafjallajökull eruption there were no fresh vegetables in many of Britain’s supermarkets! Health and freedom in the world is susceptible to extreme weather, political unrest, computer glitches and war.

Offgrid homes (homes that are not on life support: no water pipes coming in, no connection to the electric grid, nor to the sewage system) increase quality of life, resilience, security and liberty. The knowledge of offgrid techniques can be passed on to generations of children. The low maintenance costs allow funds to be directed to constructing a building each year. The HEC Earthship design is even resistant to earthquakes ensuring that women are able to keep learning and giving back to their community.

Can you help?

There are a few things you can do if you would like to help:

1. Join us in Nepal;
2. Donate - your money will go towards materials and staff;
3. Forward this post so friends can sign up;
4. Share this post on social media.

Let’s get girls to follow in Sunita’s footsteps!


Shahnaz Radjy says...
Posted mercredi, 8 novembre 2017
Hi Patrick, loved reading about this. This kind of project is exactly what the world needs, on so many levels! Do you have a blog or Instagram account I can check out so as to follow your progress? Although we won't be going for an earthship persay, my husband and I are about to buy property in Portugal where we will rebuild ruins and set up a farm & ecotourism project using as many natural and recycled materials as possible. It would therefore be great to connect and hear more about what you do and see if we can collaborate in any way.

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