Movie Review | Garbage Warrior

Garbage Warrior is a rather fascinating documentary centering around the life of Mike Reynolds – a 60-something year old architect who, with his long and gray hippie-like hair, has spent the better part of his career out in the New Mexico desert trying to create a different way to live. Nearly obsessed with the science of sustainable living, Reynolds has made a living (or not) off of attempting to build sustainable homes that require no external utilities such as water, electricity, heating or sewage, and are made almost entirely out of resources that include everything from beer cans to old car tires. He calls them “earth ships” and to an extent, they look almost exactly like you would imagine them to look like.

The film takes us through Reynolds work and the obstacles that naturally come with dedicating a life to building a physical and tangible entity so outside the box that it garners enough enemies in both the private and public sector that have grown accustomed to the norms and comforts of conventional living, to say nothing of being financial beneficiaries of such norms. Reynolds is insistent that the world has been set on a path towards self-destruction, a path fueled largely by ‘us’ and the way ‘we’ choose to live. While living in a home made almost entirely out of “garbage” may sound strange, if not eccentric, Reynolds, over a career spanning at least 30 years, has almost perfected it down to an art form, the result of which is a sustainable home that looks interesting enough for anyone to want to live in. Especially if there’s the advantage of never having to pay another utilities bill in your life again.

From homes, Reynolds moves on to building earth ship communities, helped by a crew of like-minded workers that may be just as eccentric and devoted as he is – begging his wife to liken him to a “freak magnet”. Reynolds, who believes that progress can only come about if mistakes are made, has made many, especially when his main friend and foe seems to be nature itself. And from each mistake a bigger and better earth ship has evolved.

But somewhere near the halfway mark of the documentary, just when the story has finished building on the world-is-coming-to-an-end theme, the plot takes a turn as Reynolds faces his ultimate enemy: politics. Local government seems out to get him, taking away his architect license and forcing him to build according to state code. What this inspires him to do is to essentially spend almost a decade of working within the system to try and change it, mostly lead by his efforts to introduce a bill to the state legislature that allows him to build experimentally on a large plot of land, with no conventional laws to apply.

For what may be the first time in his life, Reynolds is forced to wear a suit and turn his role from a day-dreaming enviro-fringe-architect, into an advocate and political outsider trying desperately to crawl in.

If nothing more, this documentary will grab your attention for its main character – a story of one man’s dedication to creating something so outside-the-box, so against the grain of conventional methods, that it begs tirelessly to be respected. In a world where our future has been often likened in Hollywood movies to consisting of flying cars and floating cities, what Garbage Warriors highlights is a more realistic destiny for the way the human race will end up living; a future saved by architecture.

I highly recommend watching this one.


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