What is “Home”

“Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.”

-German poet, painter and novelist, Hermann Hesse

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.”

– German poet, Christian Morgenstern

The tiny house movement, its enthusiast’s, founders, builders and advocates may just be my “home”. They get me, they champion me, they help me, they celebrate the sustainable tiny life with me. And more than that, they get, and champion each other. It is an inclusive group, all ages, types, kinds, levels of ability. A sustainable group. They embody the soul of the two quotes above.

Let’s back-up a minute. Growing up in the Midwest in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, my childhood was inculcated with the American Dream of owning one’s own “home” in the nation of “equality, democracy and material prosperity” where upward mobility and pursuing your “bliss” were a “given” that you had succeeded in life.[1] You know the words we were taught in grade school, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Today for millions of Americans, including myself, the American Dream is looking a lot different. The Great Recession affected all of us. Debt is so embedded into the fabric of our society that millions have lost their homes, jobs, retirement, and their financial and social stability.[2] I am sure Wall Street had quite a bit to do with the foreclosure of the American Dream for most of us.

Cliff DuRand, Truth-out columnist, posits that upward mobility is dead:

My favorite slogan from the Occupy movement was “Wake up from the American Dream. Create a livable American reality.” That is the challenge We the People face in the 21st century. And we have to face it with little help from our political elite and none from capital. We have to do it ourselves. It will take social movements and prolonged struggle. It will take courage and bold experimentation. And for starters, it will take speaking the truth: The American Dream is over. For good or ill, history will move on without it.”[3]

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 12.06.18 PMA large number of us nearing retirement, have lost our savings in the recession and can no longer retire. Others of us lost everything paying health bills for chronic illness and cancer due to toxins in our consumer products and the polluted environment.

Yet how can we achieve financial or social stability in a society that thinks the labor force or the older American (over age 50) is “irrelevant”, “of no value”, “unproductive” or “health-cost prohibitive”?

“The flood of “micro-aggressions” towards older employees in the workplace is astounding.”[4] Corporations could engage and educate their workers by fostering an ethic of inclusion (think best sustainable practices) but few do. Are they aware that someday they will be our age too? (You can see more details about my personal experience with this in the 2008-2010 archives on terrabluteams.org).

Surviving ageism in the workplace and discrimination for being a disabled adult, I made the positive future-forward decision in 2008 to find my own solution. I started a customized 5-year plan to recreate and manifest a deeper sustainable tiny life.

Home, to me, is wherever I am. It is an authentic life of integrity, joy and peace. It’s a mindful life in balance with nature and living creatures.

My net zero Silver Bullet tiny house on wheels, when its finished this summer, will be the manifestation of my new “livable American reality”. I believe “The tiny house movement has been growing for a decade and it is the sustainability imperative at work”.[5]

I can hardly wait to take the Silver Bullet on tour across the country to inspire and help others learn about the joy and rewards of living the sustainable tiny life.[6]

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[1] As an environmental and social activist I was considered a “hippie” during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.

[2] Solman, Paul, “Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work for Six Months or More”, 5/3/13

[3] In his article “The American Dream Is Dead; Long Live the New Dream” Cliff DuRand, Truthout columnist, posits that upward mobility is dead.

[4] Solman, Paul, “Brutal Job Search Reality for Older Americans Out of Work for Six Months or More”, 5/3/13

[5] Struck, Vera, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants8/28/13 blog article from tinyhouselistings.com. 38% of tiny house dwellers are over age 50.

[6] You can read all about the joys, rewards and challenges of our founder’s tiny house build and sustainable tiny life journey at silverbullettinyhouse.com.

       

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

An excerpt from the 8/28/13 article, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”, I wrote for my friend, Steven, at tinyhouselistings.com:

“I thought the best way to change minds about global warming, climate change and ecological dysfunction was to get more education; this time, in sustainable management. If I could influence the corporate world to change their design principles and their social/financial responsibility to the communities from which they remove resources and in which they manufacture their goods, I would be doing right by doing good.

I realized the greater challenge is in educating the public about choices and practices so they can influence and raise the sustainable consciousness of their own families, corporations, communities, schools and workplaces with their own voices and pocketbooks. I know, an ambitious idea of mine to think I can help humanity save its resources by changing human behavior.

That’s when I met Deek, Steven, and other tiny house community members last November at a tiny house workshop. That weekend cemented my resolve to build the travelling sustainable “Silver Bullet Tiny House Classroom” I had been dreaming about for the last two years.

EarlyTHdesign

Constructing an affordable off-grid, net zero, eco-friendly “tiny house” that becomes a mobile classroom seemed like a natural part of the evolution of the non-profit organization I started in 2011 after graduating from Presidio.

After all, the tiny house community that has been growing for a decade is the sustainability imperative at work.

I envisioned the Silver Bullet serving as a base where I could work with individuals, families and communities to make smarter consumptive choices to live and learn how to design and build a more sustainable and affordable lifestyle.

I will stand on the shoulders of my sustainable giants Deek Diedricksen, Jay Shafer, Ray Anderson, Dee WilliamsBob Willard, and Bill McKibben to bring sustainable lifestyle practices and design to those who need it.”

You can check out our progress at the silverbulettinyhouse.com.

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Founder and tiny house builder/enthusiast, Vera Struck, celebrates the beginning of the Silver Bullet build in summer 2013 and the completion of her R34 sub-floor on her 8′ x 18′ trailer.

Survival 2100: Can humanity become sustainable?

I apologize, I haven’t posted for awhile, I’ve been busy.

The past three years I have been very busy learning how to live a tinier life and inspire others to do the same. I went to Presidio to learn more about sustainable management, I founded this sustainable education non-profit last year with the 52 week sustainability challenge (now a 501c3) and I retrofit my current dwelling with all manner of sustainable practices, and yet I still felt I needed to take another step closer to the natural world.

This transformation has not been easy in this consumptive American economy. The challenge to my mental, physical and emotional stamina of several resource downsizings, material sheddings, repurposing parties, resource exchanges, and purges has been huge. And totally worth it. It has brought me to a much humbler, happier, mindful and peaceful engagement with the natural world. (BTW, the recycling/repurposing can be viewed at an art gallery starting September 2)

I learned a lot about myself, design, building, gardening, water systems, animals and people.

As an environmental and sustainability advocate I’ve spent several decades decreasing my carbon footprint and spent the last year living on a more humane scale in the woods. The past few weeks, the building of my Net Zero Silver Bullet Tiny House/classroom on wheels has been that next step and will fulfill a decade old dream. I will be chronicling the construction to share how I built this structure from reclaimed, sustainable and green materials;check out my progress here.

Please consider a donation to our Indiegogo Campaign that just went live today!!!

It has been a transformative passage as well. I have shed one kind of community for another. Each day as I get closer to that net zero impact lifestyle my heart feels happier, my mind lighter, and my soul feels not only fed by a moveable feast but free of baggage.

That brings me to what I learned about people this last year when it comes to sustainability.

Many of my students, workshop attendees and readers struggle with what to do in the face of global climate change, diminishing resources, and corporate greed. That often brings us to a discussion about human behavior change, ecological dysfunction and the biases we favor that complicate our adoption of more sustainable choices.

Social scientists suggest the following five biases are responsible:

1. We do what other people do. (the bandwagon effect)

2. We struggle to act on things we cannot see (the Giddens paradox)

3. We demand much more to give up an object (the endowment effect)

4. We prefer immediate pay offs to delayed pay offs (delayed gratification)

5. We ignore obviously negative situations (the Ostrich effect)

In these times, resiliency is an imperative. The sooner we realize the inconvenient truth and take action, the better. During the 2012 – 52 week sustainability challenge I wrote for you, I came face to face with some of these biases. Let us know the effort it took you to transcend them and how it was worth it by responding in the comments section. Thanks.

Deep Dive:

Post Carbon Institute

Whats blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial

Arizona Professor Emeritus Guy McPherson’s talk, “Will the Human Race Survive 2100?”