Thursday, February 24, 2011

DMT Scholarship Runner-ups: Tyler

[I courteously request that readers withhold from issuing unconstructive political commentary; I love Tyler’s idea because it is bold and kindhearted—not because of an ideological bent.]

Tyler needed a break from college. So one day he quit and took off to Israel with neither money nor a plan.

I spent over six months wandering and hitchhiking throughout Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon, rolling out my sleeping bag on the floors and roof tops of dozens of new friends, working by their sides and learning about their history, traditions, hopes, and their struggles.

Now, Tyler’s back in school. His home is his car and he lives on $4 a day. He’s determined to graduate from college without debt so he can be free to embark on his adventure to Gaza—a place that he’s already visited, and a place that he feels compelled to return to.

Granted the Near East is plagued by its fair share of problems, none seemed as inhumane and dire as Gaza’s. I quickly learned that Gaza is a land of deficiencies. There is never plenty—not of figs or onions, school notebooks or petrol, water or electricity, cement or medicines. It seemed to me that the only thing there was more than enough of was hospitality and garbage.

Between his empathy for those less fortunate and a newfound sense of self-empowerment, Tyler felt that something had to be done. Hence his master plan:

My dream is to build Earthships in Gaza. For the same cost of the houses that are already being built, families would not be subject to freezing winter nights due to fuel shortages, electricity outages from limited diesel fuel and bombed infrastructure, polluted water from a very dwindling oceanic aquifer, or the inability to afford food in any given month of the year. Families could be free to live with fewer worries and hold their futures in their own hands. Furthermore, their existence would no longer be a burden to their already famished strip of real estate but instead bless and nurture it, doing so by recycling garbage as base building materials, being carbon zero, using water extremely efficiently, safely neutralizing and reusing waste, creating lush, green outdoor microclimates, and alleviating the strain on Gazas outdated systems.

[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]

An earthship is an environment-friendly, easy-to-make home that's made out of used materials (i.e. old tires). Tyler thinks earthships will give its new homeowners comfort, security, and—most of all—dignity.

There is a small group of Palestinians that will be working on this dream with me. Our vision isn’t one of institutionalized hand outs, as so often seen in Gaza and the West Bank. We want to experiment with the Gazans, to design something that will empower them—one family at a time. Our goal is to use as many Gazan produced materials as possible meanwhile making the Earthship as affordable as possible. We are going to start with just one building and go from there. Our hope is that this creation will be like a weed, a weed that spreads and is beautiful and pushes up through the concrete sidewalks of Gaza, evolving as time progresses. I like to think of it as a contained experiment. By the very nature of the 30 foot separation wall, there are thousands of people that are ready to imagine, dream, and create a new way of living with nearly no laws prohibiting them from doing it!

Tyler, this summer, will learn how to build Earthships in New Mexico. He plans to go back to Gaza after graduating in 2012.


mevrouw Duck said...


Meve said...

Great choice! Earthships are our future, as far as I'm concerned. God-speed to the DMT winner!

Meve said...

Whoops, is he another runner-up or the actual winner?

Trish said...

I would love to build one here. Michael Reynolds is one of my heroes. Good Luck to Tyler. I hope he starts a blog so we can follow him.

The winner must be pretty incredible to beat these runner ups

Kayla K said...

Suspence is killing me! Who won?

Diane said...

Hey Tyler,
For the record, I was pulling for you. In my mind, you are a clear winner. Your dream is to create a better reality for people you don't even know. Keep dreaming the dream, and more importantly, keep taking action. I'd happily send a contribution to you directly. Ken?

Ken said...

Diane--The main thing that didn't work for us was that he isn't going on his journey for a while still--and we wanted to fund one that was happening sooner. If you email me (spartanstudent (at), I'd be happy to give him your email address.

Jason Straw said...

The Earthship is a wonderful idea. I wish you the best in yor endevor. I only wish more people thought like you in comming up with creative ways to reuse items instead of just creating waste.