Architect Mike Reynolds is the Garbage Warrior, in a documentary about his drive and determination to save planet earth from human destruction. He invents dwellings he calls earth ships in the area of Taos, New Mexico. He believes architecture is not addressing our serious planetary issues. He succeeds in making sustainable housing that functions completely off the grid.

Mike Reynolds believes that in order to learn how to make the kind of buildings we need, architects must be free to experiment by doing, not by dreaming. His experimentation sometimes leads to admitted failures but his successes have given birth to homes that need no heat source other than the sun, not a trivial feat in the high desert where winter temperatures can hit -30°F.

He literally uses garbage in his buildings, such as tires pounded full of sand, bricks made from beer cans, beer cans themselves, plastic bottles, holding this stuff together with cement, or earth, or both. He has attracted a band of loyal teammates to work on his projects.

He also has attracted resistance from the status quo folks, mainly county and state governments, and the architectural establishment. If you don’t resent bureaucracy’s stumbling, bumbling rule-making process now, you will likely resent it after seeing this movie.

Reynolds fought with the county over building regulations and spent seven years complying with the rules to get his development established as a subdivision, requirements that he referred to as horseshit. I couldn’t agree more.

He lost his architect’s license. He wrote legislation himself, and lobbied for it, in an attempt to make experimental architecture legal. The community that had formed around him fell apart.

Mike’s visionary approach to building was appreciated in India’s Andaman Islands after the Tsunami of 2005. The wells on the islands were contaminated with sea water. Mike, his group, and eager indigent volunteers built a rain water catch so that the residents would never have to rely on water wells again.

After having lent his skills in the aftermath of hurricane Rita, he observed that when people are desperate they are more likely to accept innovation. Otherwise, as with the bureaucrats of New Mexico, they will resist creative solutions.

This movie tells a great story about a man who is a hero, and in my opinion, a genius, whose patience is remarkable in dealing with folks who just can’t see the significance of the great work he is doing. It makes for a great movie.