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Posts Tagged ‘career’

A lot of people agree that the current system is broken and in need of new solutions, whether it’s the educational system, government or how to obtain affordable, decent housing. Inspired by sites such as UnCollege, and alternative systems such as distance learning, mentoring, apprenticeships, WWOOF, internships and volunteering, I’m exploring how to create the next generation of natural designers and builders without incurring massive debt.

The current educational system turns out millions of students who can’t find jobs, even after spending years in the classroom and taking on enormous debt they may never be able to pay off. With insufficient job prospects, many students continue through the system to obtain graduate degrees and even more debt, and still can’t find meaningful work.

There are many ways to achieve success, whatever your definition of that word may be, as documented in books such as The Education of Millionaires that profiles dozens of successful business people who have no university education. I’m not saying a university education is bad, just pointing out the need for thinking outside the box.

From the UnCollege website: “UnCollege isn’t just an idea or a website. It’s a movement. It’s a lifestyle. We believe that college isn’t the only path to success. We empower students to hack their education through resources, writing, workshops, and community.”

Alternatives to conventional education such as the Thiel Foundation Fellows program are emerging to challenge current thinking. Are programs like this only for the exceptional or are they forerunners of a new educational paradigm?

In addition to the sad state of affairs in education, the current housing system is definitely broken – big time – even though affordable housing is a basic human right. For one, government regulatory bodies have been hijacked by big industry. This includes the use of various forms of building codes that were written by the steel, concrete, timber and insurance industries to maximize their profits. They don’t care a whit about affordable housing, homelessness or protecting the environment. No, these are the same industries that are largely to blame for the waste and destruction of the planet’s resources, and exploitation of workers.

It’s way paste time to unplug from the current unsustainable system and ways of thinking that got us into the mess we’re in. You can see the rising tide of anger in protests such as Occupy Wall Street. People are fed up and ready to face down the source of the problems. Let’s hope movements like this don’t get co-opted by those who caused the problems in the first place. That could easily happen due to the complexity of the problems.

So anyway, I don’t have a one size fits all solution (there probably isn’t one). Instead, I encourage students to forge their own educational/career path based on their needs, skills and interests. This is a new era. More from the UnCollege site: “Hacking your education means deciding how, where, and what you want to learn. Hacking your education means bending institutions to your reality. Hacking your education means making the most of the best years of your life. Hacking your education does not require dropping out of college. We believe that whether or not you attend college, success in the 21st century requires passion, hustle, and contrarianism.”

Perhaps this way of thinking could lead to a loosely knit group of natural builders who mentor and train students. It also could lead to new online courses and programs. Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts at strawhouses [at] yahoo.com.

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From time to time we answer reader’s questions.
Chase: After much research, I am really interested in pursuing a career in natural building, in earthbags, and many other means. I’m not entirely sure where to start, especially since I’m just starting and don’t know much about construction or buying land, but I can’t resist the idea of natural building. Any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated, as in projects I could start to get in some practice, that are simple, easy, and can be done at home.

Owen: You can learn almost everything in your backyard practically for free. Our websites explain most everything you need. Here’s the main Step-by-Step Earthbag Building article to get you started.

There’s a big difference between reading about something and really understanding it through experience, so I encourage you to build sample corners, test bags, arches, etc. in your backyard. Even temporary ones are okay. You can practice every step of construction on a small scale using recycled bags from farmers. Test various soil mixtures. Cut the bags open when they’re dry and look at the results. Did they turn into a hard brick-like mass? Or did they fall apart due to lack of clay? Practice plastering with earth. Gradually accumulate good tools. If you have space, try to build a tool shed or similar small structure. Buy my upcoming earthbag book that should be finished very soon. (It’s in the final editing stage.) Consider taking a workshop from one of the companies featured on our sites. At some point you could consider helping on some international projects to gain greater experience. Places like Haiti and Mexico are really booming. You’d learn a lot and help a lot of people. In addition, you could help on projects near you much like old fashioned barn raisings. Check out our bulletin board at EarthbagBuilding.com to locate projects.

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