The term "earthship" was coined by Taos-based architect Mike Reynolds
to describe his particular brand of environmentally sustainable
architecture. As such, the phrase is virtually synonymous with
the thermal mass, off-grid, earth-rammed tire and aluminum can-based
"U-room" constructions that Reynolds has made famous on the Taos mesa.
While the meaning of "earth" in this term may be self-explanatory,
the "ship" part is richer in meaning and much less obvious.
On one level, the rolling sea-green sage-covered Taos mesa
which many earthships now populate easily becomes a metaphor for the
ocean (an ironic one at that). One might speculate that this was part
of what conspired to birth the phrase. The most solid origins of the
term however are in the earthship's very character and philosophy.
In contrast to the conventional utilities-fed dwelling, an
earthship requires the much more active participation and alertness of
its occupant in order for the dwelling to achieve optimal performance.
In this regard, an earthship occupant is more of a pilot or sailboat
captain than a neutral passenger. He or she must remain casually
attentive to his changing environmental conditions in order to respond
appropriately and derive peak levels of control and utility from his
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