First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological Architecture

First Earth: Uncompromising Ecological ArchitectureFirst Earth is a documentary about the movement towards a massive paradigm shift for shelter - building healthy houses in the old ways, out of the very earth itself, and living together like in the old days, by recreating villages.

It is a sprawling film, shot on location from the West Coast to West Africa. An audiovisual manifesto filmed over the course of 4 years and 4 continents, First Earth makes the case that earthen homes are the healthiest housing in the world; and that since it still takes a village to raise a healthy child, it is incumbent upon us to transform our suburban sprawl into eco-villages, a new North American dream.

First Earth is not a how-to film; rather, it's a why-to film. It establishes the appropriateness of earthen building in every cultural context, under all socio-economic conditions, from third-world communities to first-world countrysides, from Arabian deserts to American urban jungles.

In the age of environmental and economic collapse, peak oil and other converging emergencies, the solution to many of our ills might just be getting back to basics, focusing on food, clothes, and shelter. We need to think differently about house and home, for material and for spiritual reasons, both the personal and the political.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 1 hour, 27 minutes).
You can buy the DVD at PM Press.

Ratings: 7.63/10 from 24 users.

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53 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Clint E

    Love it!

  2. wald0

    Every once and a while you see a documentary that really inspires you, that really connects with your reality- this is definitely one of those. This is by far the most practical and effective movement of its kind that I have ever had knowledge of. I have been searching for alternative means of constructing a home for about five years now, this is it. The structures are beautiful, modern, sustainable, eco-friendly, user friendly, as well as simple and cheap to build. All I need is more info. on wiring and plumbing this kind of structure. I think they should concentrate more on the practical stuff when trying to sell this idea, the spiritual stuff scares some people away. They think its just more pseudo-scientific new age b.s. Besides if they learn the technique and get people to help them build it will all take care of itself, its kind of inevitable. Working in a creative setting like this, so close to materials you are so comfortable with and techniques so simple and unintrusive to your senses, you can't help but start conversations and develop relationships with those around you.

    I love it, this is what I want to be involved in. I have worked on political issues and with political groups for so long I am sick of it. It just makes no difference in the end, you can't seem to ever get through to anyone, all you do is argue constantly and try to keep your cool so you don't break down into insults and temper tantrums. This makes so much sense and is so down to earth and practical, yet it could bring about a whole new way of living, a whole new way of thinking. Its not reverting to the past, it is learning how to carry forward in a sustainable yet modern and sensible way. I am sold!!

  3. SaintNarcissus

    Man, I find myself wanting to watch this for the information but having a hard time sticking with it because it is so subculturally specific. I have absolutely no problem with hippies or new-agers or whatever, but the persistent bad music, and the super smoked out vibes just make it hard to concentrate on the content. I'll finish it sometime. But not today. :)

  4. Greg Cox

    BOOTS RILEY!!! - SSSC in the hizzy!

  5. Jack1952

    It may well be a great idea and I was quite eager to watch this but after an hour I started to get bored. Having worked in construction for many years, I am probably hard wired to look for the hows and not just the whys. It came across as a new age infomercial especially with the references to the workshops.

    I also had the feeling that I should light some candles, smoke a little weed and sit in a lotus position while watching this; or maybe call in a masseuse. A little too spiritually oriented for my taste. I want to build a solid practical home, not become a guru and change my handle to Earthchild1952.

    I would love to see a more substantive film on this subject. If there is one, let me know.

  6. Jack_Burton

    We will have Fusion power by the time oil gets low....
    Pretty much endless supply of energy.

  7. bbga

    Wow...I enjoyed this. I am planning on building a home so this is giving me some really great inspiration.

  8. q_bit

    @Jack_Burton Yeah, and they'll have a cure by the time those cigarettes give you cancer.

  9. q_bit

    @Jack1952 Don't knock it till you've tried it ;)

  10. marcosanthonytoledo

    A wonderful documentary that told me things I didn't know and open my eyes to the wide area's of the Earth that these type of buildings could be built. Also to the in powering of ordinary people to control their lives and in helping create communities that work and enrich their environment for the better and the documentary was not boring.

  11. Dillan Boutin

    You seem very confident in your opinion. I am not as optimistic about the future of fusion energy. While I believe it's possible, I don't believe that something that provides a cheap endless amount of energy to people could be allowed by our current leaders. It would simply be too efficient.

  12. stevenbhow

    Great film and very inspiring, but I thought Garbage Warrior was a little better. Cob seems like a great building material, but they mentioned that the houses they built in the U.K. cost $2 million, so I wonder how cost effective it really is.

  13. alans

    Relax, Bro. Light some candles, smoke a little weed, and sit in a lotus position. Everything will be alright.

  14. Jack1952

    @ Q_bit

    I'm not knocking it....except for the lotus position. It hurts too much. I like the idea of a masseuse better.

  15. Jack1952

    @ alans

    The lotus position is too painful.

    I feel that people will get the idea that this is just another one of those weird, hippy things; which is too bad because they may have something there.

  16. Earthwinger

    Those houses in the UK, were sited in some of the country's most beautiful countryside, where due to a rigorous policy of protecting greenbelt land, plots for which planning permission has been granted, are at a premium. So it's not the actual builds themselves that cost those vast sums, rather it's the land on which they're built.

  17. stevenbhow

    Thanks for the info. I thought maybe it might be the property and not the houses.

  18. ZarathustraSpeaks

    Once again I'm commenting on a doc I have no intention of watching but my first reaction to this is my usual cynical attitude of "whats the point of this approch to the problem" when its NEVER going to make a difference simply because most people are not going to change their lifestyle until they are forced to. You can have well intentioned ideas that really could make a difference but getting the "masses" to get on board voluntarily is a pipe dream. The vast majority of people in the world are just trying to make the monthly payments and will always follow the path of least resistance in their lives. Authoritarian rule is the only way this could ever take place on a large enough scale to make a difference so the cure is worse than the problem. We will "get back to basics" only when and if the apocalypse comes and have no other choice.

  19. ZarathustraSpeaks

    I think we'll need a clever pyramid scheme to sell the other 6.8 billion (and counting) on it (most of which are illiterate)(and the ones that are literate just want to argue the politics)

  20. Clint E

    Good grief, you are the biggest pessimist on the internet I think. I especially like your all caps use of the word "NEVER". Even if this film only changes the mind of one person, then you can not say that it will "NEVER" make a difference, because it changed the path of one person. That being said, I think it will change the minds of many more than just one person, and I think if you watched the documentary before you start commenting you would see that it offers a way to escape the cycle of just trying to make montly payments on a mortgage. If we had more professional architects promoting and perfecting these designs, and friendly building codes, I see no reason why this couldn't be the mainstream in ten years. This is actually a great place for activists to start because building an earth home gives you finacial freedom, and to get the permits you only have to deal with local governments where one person really can make a difference. If you are unhappy with the way things are going in this world, then stop being a depressing pessimist and go do something positive.

  21. ZarathustraSpeaks

    Yes I am a pessimist about most subjects that require behavior modification by a large group of people coming from a wide diversity of experiences. I dont doubt this shift is possible, I just dont see reason for optimism that change on a large enough scale to be relevant is likely. Waldo talked about his frustration with the political approach to solving problems. I agree but everything becomes political because our nature as humans seems to want to be "right" in all things we have an opinion on. As soon as any movement gets "traction" and starts to grow the personal opinions on how to proceed always seem to drown out the bigger picture. I would be glad to be wrong on this subject if people coming together for a "common cause' was real but I just dont see it. Any other method requires a top down approach from the ruling authority which is a trap in itself. To me population growth is the biggest threat to the world as all of our other problems are more manageable when held constant at least. We can decrease our carbon output as individuals but any decrease will be offset by more people on the planet. It may be that we are no different than any other animals that control their populations by overpopulation and starvation. Why do we deserve better?

  22. wald0

    So what, we should just give up? Even if things have to get much worse before they get better we have to invent the technologies and techniques of making do with less now, not after it all comes to head and people are running willy nilly in the streets. I can sympathize with your pessimism, but there is no excuse for just giving up. Even if you don't want to pursue activism or engage in debate, this is simply a pleasant rewarding way to live. Do it for yourself, and you might be surprise how your example inspires others, If it doesn't- well, at least you have built a beautiful and efficient home for yourself, at a very cheap cost. As far as your statement that you had never experienced people coming together for a common cause without personal ego getting in the way and destroying the effort, I have. They were smaller more local movements, but they worked just fine and no ones ego ruined it. Complete consensus is of course a dream, everyone will never agree on any one issue at the same time. But, all you need is a majority, not complete consensus. Besides, this is movement that actually lets the activist do something for themselves while making a point at the same time. If no one gets the point you still have your home and no mortgage. Even if you think the apocalypse is inevitable, wouldn't you like to know how to do this when it happens?

  23. leonardobdas

    I highly recommend all of James Howard Kunstler's books, about the fiasco of suburbia and the american way of assembling themselves on the landscape. A good movie is called the end of suburbia (its on youtube, it tells the story of how it really happened. Another one is Kusntler's TED talk which is very amusing. Another one is the story of sprawl, for sale online.

    this movie was awesome, highly inspirational. it reminded me of the eartships which I had the pleasure to participate in the building of one once. Unfortunately it is very hard to have either of these and keep a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Also it is very complicated to get used to human waste composting and other hippy ways of living.

    Also, I have seen amazing cob constructions in NZ, one particular home was shaped like a dragon and was one of 30 odd homes layed out overlooking a beautiful day, all shared land where basically all families build each others homes and live there quite well. Very isolated, but well.

  24. bbga

    I'm proof for your response to Zara! I was going to cut trees down on my property for a cabin I want to build. Instead, I'm giving this some serious consideration.

    I spent some time abroad and cob homes are not a new concept at all. Many of the charming cottages everyone talks about in England, Ireland and Wales are made of cob.


    Yes everything you say is true, long term and in your mind but so what. I for one would love to see the oil run out, that will speed up the process and the necessary changes- hence the apocalypse you speak of Zarathustra. Of course there will be a lot of suffering some will live some will die, lets just label it the mass transition period. What do you think Zarathustra? I saw a profound message on a T shirt not long ago, "I Am Not Going To Tip Toe Through Life In Order To Wind Up Safely At Death", or words to that effect. I think we need to shake the sedentary cowards up now. Another thing lets run the "Deficit", up to a hundred gazilian and shove it right down the Money Punks Throat", What a bunch of Horse Sh#t, we don't even know we're alive collectively speaking.

  26. leonardobdas

    As I think about the little I think I know about econometrics, I see a reason why building takes a certain ammount of time and people make certain wages and materials cost a certain price. It is so the economy moves at a certain pace that can be measured. If it wasn't for these systems that split the pie in a sort of fair way, there would be no middle class, for the system has to make room for people to afford the homes by having jobs that pay enough and keep that fire on. I personally think it is brilliant, and an example that a 100% free market economy is not really free from systems. The alternative currently works beautully under Kim Il-sung necro-presidency...

  27. Clint E

    @bbga, I am currently building an earth building to live in, and would recommend checking out earth bag building. Its more structural than cob, easier to produce than adobe, and can be done with dirt from the site. There are companies online that sell bulk orders of sandbags, which work perfectly. As long as you do the labor yourself, you can build a safe, enclosed space to live for about $1 per square foot. Compare that to the $110 average cost per square foot to build a new "custom" home in Texas and that gives you roughly $109 per square foot to spend truely making your home custom, pay off debt, pay for a bigger lot (ie. more garden space), or invest for the future.

  28. Maddox 1414

    I agree that this is a way better way to make buildings. But in the sake of understanding of why we should do this, we have to understand the reprocussions. Acting like earth is an everlasting resource is equally dumb as acting like oil is. If 7 billion people made their houses out of the earth we grow our crops with, how will we feed ourselves? True there's a lot of soil out there, but in 1700 there was a lot of coal out there. I think this skates the real problem of humanity, reproduce and conquer. And if you think about it its not even a human problem, its a life problem. Deer would take over the planet if they could. If we wish humans to be better than the other organisms that we share the planet with, we need to be better. And the only way we can be better than animals, is to learn self control with a taste of the big picture.

  29. Clint E

    Well yes, this can't be the only measure we take. Learning to control reproduction is an important part of the overall solution as well. One of the things that separates dirt from oil is that we can produce new high quality compost (dirt) in a year or two that can be used as topsoil on our property, wheras oil takes millions of years to form. Also, building with earth does not require you to use topsoil. In fact it is better to use the clay rich soil that is below the topsoil. This is why people in the middle east and Africa are able to construct buildings where no vegetation will grow. Yes, earth is finite, and if everyone in the world built an earth house there would be less of it, but as of right now there is an absolutely staggeringly huge amount of it, especially when compared to our other building materials. Also, when an earth building is no longer needed, it can simply be returned to the earth as there are no toxic or non-biodegradeable elements. I wish humans would behave in ecologically beneficial ways as well, and I think this is one very good place to start.

  30. bb

    most of WHOM are illiterate

  31. Norm

    I absolutely loved this one !
    I live in Metro Phoenix AZ and even though I'm on the outskirts (my backyard is just desert as far as you can see) suburbia is creeping in even with the housing market in shambles. Contractors are allowed to put 8 houses on an acre and the result is a large subdivision with people living on top of each other and not even knowing the name of the persons living 15 ft away. And of course, the Wal-marts and convenience stores have already staked their claim to the land directly around the new suburb. This is a non-stop combination of cities encompassing over 16,500 sq miles, and I mean non-stop. The only way to tell if you are in another city is to know the street names change at the city limits. Some people spend 4 hrs a day commuting. The concrete and asphalt jungle increases the already 100 plus temp another 10 to 15 degrees. Yesterday a substation went down and 150,000 homes and businesses lost power creating an "emergency" that authorities scrambled to contain. This valley is a horror movie in real life and people are so busy pursuing the "dream" that they either don't even see it or they feel trapped and helpless.

    Everyone can't be helped and I for one am getting tired of trying to make a difference in this self-centered, greedy, more based society.

    That brings me to the dilemma of whether to continue trying to make a difference as Wald0 stated or to look out for myself, create my own piece of paradise and hope the example will influence someone.

    I don't know. Maybe time to pound some mud and contemplate.

  32. Kelly Mitchell

    not right - earth is the stuff of the entire planet. You can't seriously compare earth used in cob building (which does not go away) to oil which is about 1 trillionth the amount of earth. All wood - comes from earth. All metal - comes from earth. All building comes from earth anyway. What the heck are you even saying? Should we build houses from air? or water? Your objection makes no sense.

  33. Kelly Mitchell

    You based this on about, um, 2 minutes of content. You lose - sorry. The section on Yemen was worth the entire movie. But a lot more was great - and not really new age-ish. I don't know why several people wrote that. Enjoy living in your cube.

  34. Epicurean_Logic

    So glad you posted this Vlatko. Thanks

    I just followed the trail to some English cob builders in Belgium and they are building a house for their neighbours for free in August which conveniently fits in with my holiday. I am so excited to report that after a couple of e-mails they have invited me out to help build as they always need more workers. Unlike other courses of study where there is a £600 cost for a weeks course these guys are teaching the skills in exchange for labour.

    I now just have to learn how to set up a tent. Have a nice summers ladies and gents.

  35. wpsmithjr

    Actually, technology will be the answer. That, and education. Most people have no idea what we're doing to our environment.

    Nuclear power is the best answer we have. Before you scoff, you need to understand that all the reactors built up until now have NOT been thorium pebble bed reactors.

    Google it.

    Can't melt down. Just can't.

  36. Ðaniel Çurtis

    only way to change how it is done thesedayz is to kill off a very large number of people,cause if not,they will never change till its to late to late now you say,am sure if it was they would start killing more,and more people,to lower the number of people into the millions...thats a long way off cause were at like what 7 or 8 billion till then nothing is going to change unless its made to

  37. Celine Finzinger

    Hi Epicurean_Logic - English cob builders in Belgium?? would it be possible to get some more info ? building site? association involved? town planning regulation reg. cob houses… I’m settled in Belgium and would be very interested to hear some more as it is not that popular here. Thanx !!

  38. Davy Kustermans

    Hi Celine, cob houses aren't popular here at all. Must be against regulations/building code, i'm looking for more info on this subject too.

  39. Joffy Sherlock

    When did we as a human race start thinking that unless we could get everyone to do the same thing, we shouldn't do it at all? That we can't make a difference without a mass collective? You don't have to go out and convince everyone why you're way of living is the "right way". Just live it, see what it does to you, and others will see the change in you. They may even be attracted to the change and wonder what it is that caused it. We can't change the world unless we change ourselves. "I'm just one person" is just a ******* cop out.We can't change people by "telling" them why they should change.

  40. Xbow

    Well said and I am sure they will conquer the degradation of materials under heavy neutron bombardment rather quickly if a bit of money is spent on it. I am in favor of Thorium reactors and as you said they don't need a containment vessel for a reason.

  41. Carl Craven

    Fusion, what do you mean exactly, what is fusion?

    Any 'new' source of energy needs to be in place before the oil disappears because with out oil, we pretty much cannot do anything.

    I see the dim ages approaching.

  42. clairabow

    This film has convinced me that I want my next home to be cobb construction. Unfortunately, I was not able to finish watching the film. I found the repetitive background music most annoying and will probably be playing it in my mind until I drift off to sleep tonight.

  43. Bentruijens

    agreed, but if you don't know (I don't) how to impact the people that have the power/money to actually make a change this doc is just like another ad

  44. Sara

    "call the ancestors in and let them guide our hands...".. WTF.
    Otherwise, informative.

  45. Lovro Šari? Kora?evi?

    EVERYONE FAMILIAR WITH THE TERM KITSCH: watch the first part for the info... (Actually it wont tell you anything you don't know but that's the part where you still think "wow great docu") and than just google Anna Heringer because she is the only good architect working with earth I know of but at least it's a name you can start your search for others with. Cheers!

  46. Marc Derosa

    everyone can make a change, it starts in your mind with your ideas then it becomes actions

  47. SearchTheFacts

    Great film!

    Tried looking up cob homes / workshops in Colorado and Denver but came up with nothing.

  48. George Alex

    well those mud houses are ok for a warm climat, warm winters and so... but what about Europe climate, whare is the heat cooming from for the winter? It's in our nature to self-destruct ourselves , an nothing can be done about it.

  49. Gilson Baptista

    I fully agree with the idea established, we must invest in sustainable buildings pronlogando helping the planet and the lives of our children and grandchildren. So we recycle to have a great future ahead and clean.

  50. mike

    Please check out the garbage warrior, my favorite building natural documentory

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