Evil Resource Hogs is Hogwash

I follow a blog called “Tiny House Blog” and they recently did a post advertising their tiny house building seminar where you can go and learn how to build a tiny strawbale house. It’s a 2 week course. I was very interested until I saw the price ($1600).

Anyway, in the process of building up their seminar, they chose to tear down anyone that doesn’t make the same decision to live in a tiny house. They are by no means the only tiny house movement blog that does that. Almost all of them do it and there’s nothing that gets me more riled up than when I see that liberal holier-than-thou attitude coming from the “permaculture” movement. Permaculture is cool because it’s self-reliant, not because I’m wasting less than my fellow man so I’m somehow better than they are.

My comment on their blog speaks for itself, so I’ll copy and paste it here for your enjoyment.

Let me first say, I am a BIG fan of the tiny house movement and we’re actually building a 384 sq ft cabin on our off-the-grid land and we’re moving there to live for a year for the experience.

But I currently live in a 5100 sq ft house and yes it’s quite pricey to maintain. But it’s my choice to live like that. Demonizing other people’s choices when they don’t match your own desires, isn’t really the best solution for recruiting others to the tiny house movement. You can point out the downsides, that’s fine and should be done as there are lots of downsides to living in a big home. And yes, I realize we’ll save $80K a year by moving to a small home, off the grid. I get that. But please don’t elevate your choices of living simpler by telling those that don’t choose that, that they’re making the wrong choice and there’s somehow a moral imperative that they not “waste” so much resources. That’s when you lose people like me who think it’s really cool that one can live simple and people choose to do that…etc. But it’s just a choice and no better of one than someone else’s choice. You’re not somehow holier or a better person because you choose to live in a smaller home. That’s just nonsense. And you may not mean to say that, but the tone of your post leads people to that conclusion.

I greatly admire those that can live in a small home and indeed, I’m going to do it for a year, too. Can’t wait, actually. But I’ll be going back to my larger home not because it’s a status symbol but because I like my kids being able to bring people over and enjoying the pool and the huge play areas. I like having 30 people over and everyone can enjoy themselves in comfort. If I’m evil because of that… well, I guess I’m evil.

Incidentally, we moved away from Oregon to get away from this kind of judgmental attitude. I’ll call them the “Birkenstock” crowd. Tolerant until someone doesn’t agree with them, then it gets personal and the other party is “evil” or somehow lessor of a human being because they don’t agree with them. 😦

2 thoughts on “Evil Resource Hogs is Hogwash

  1. So, I followed your link to your blog over from this particular post that you mentioned. Not trying to creep on ya or anything (but I assume that’s why you included the link back here?), just interested in your off-grid adventure. But, your response got me thinking, so just bear with me.

    I do think that your summation of the post regarding the straw-bale workshop is unfair (though I do understand where you are coming from). First, that post wasn’t written by the owner of the Tiny House Blog; it was a guest post from a guy, Andrew, who makes his living teaching about building using the straw bale technique (he posts his own website address a couple of times). I’m guessing this assumption was just a misunderstanding. Kent (the owner of Tiny House Blog) often features guest posts like that from many different people in the tiny house community, from builders to teachers to people like yourself with their own independent experiences. I’ve been following the Tiny House Blog since 2008, and I feel that Kent has always done an excellent job of presenting a variety of opinions, techniques and personalities from across the spectrum and is not what I would consider a liberal (considering that he posts Bible verse everyday on his Facebook) or a member of the permaculture movement.

    Second, I guess I honestly just didn’t get the “holier-than-thou” hippie vibe from the writer that you did (and I read your comment on the post before I read the actual post, so I was definitely looking for it). Granted, there’s a inherent assumption that Andrew, the writer, believes in this technique that he’s teaching about (hopefully!) enough to make it his life’s work. I think that much of his post was directed more towards someone who wants to live in a small (maybe not tiny and not on a trailer) house that doesn’t cost them a monetary fortune. He mentions cost over and over, for example at the end of the second paragraph, “You’ll likely be shocked to know just how much each hour you spend awake in your home actually costs!” Then he talks about foreclosures, and how people end up not being able to afford their homes, following that with an estimate of straw bale building costs, saying, “That means that most of the people who have recently lost their homes could actually have paid cash for a tiny home.” When he gets into calculating how much time people spend in their homes, he admits that he’s “going to make some assumptions about how people spend their day”. After all these calculations about time and money, he decides for himself, saying, “I would much prefer to have a house that fits my needs, is super efficient to maintain and clean, and that I own outright.” He then asks a question of the reader (which is, I think, the entire premise of the tiny house movement), “what do you REALLY need out of your home?” Everything he writes afterward is all details about the workshop itself. The only times he mentions hippie, tree-hugger stuff is when he says in the beginning, “The amount of resources necessary to build and maintain these homes is immense and the impacts, both environmentally and financially, are huge.” Only once does he mention the environmental cost, which is hardly jumping up and waving the flag of the permaculture movement. His main line of reasoning used in the post seems to be the financial savings/freedom that can come from building a smaller house of straw bale.

    I think you immediately took issue with his comment that owning a large home is “insanity”. Perhaps this was a strong word choice on his part, yet consider again that the writer does this for a living and is (again, hopefully!) convinced based on his own experience and research that smaller straw bale houses are some of the most financially efficient homes to build (again noting that his line of reasoning for considering them “insane” is because they cost more money than a straw bale house, not because they are killing the Mother Earth Goddess or whatever). His questions about what we really “need” from our homes is also relevant; you yourself made the distinction in your comment about different people’s different desires. Where do we draw the line between things we have because we need and things we have because we want/desire/feel more comfortable with them? It’s not a bad question to ask and I’m not saying any one person has the answer (different desires, right?), nor I am I interested in making black and white statements. I am interested in letting that question hanging out there in order for each person to be honest with themselves about their needs and desires.

    Of course you’re not evil for having a pool and a house that you enjoy entertaining people with! You’ve already made the distinction between your motives (sharing and creating a sense of community, which are honest and generous motives) and the motives that the writer disparages (status, compensating for insecurity, following the status quo, which are self-defeating and deceptive motives). When we set the motives side by side, we see that what matters isn’t the size of the house, but rather why and what you do with it. 🙂

    So perhaps you can see why I’m think your comments are unfair. I’ve looked through your posts and noticed the latent hostility towards “hippie” types and disparaging remarks about their lifestyle choices and convictions (yet much of your comment here is about wanting respect for your lifestyle and convictions). For example, your comment about permaculture is frustrating; “Permaculture is cool because it’s self-reliant, not because I’m wasting less than my fellow man so I’m somehow better than they are.” I completely agree that the point of a system like permaculture has nothing to do with being better than other people, but can we not be drawn to the idea of permaculture for different reasons? I’d like to go out on a limb and say that the writer might agree and rephrase your statement to say, “Small straw bale houses are cool because they’re less expensive than big houses, not because I’m wasting less than my fellow man so I’m somehow better than they are.” I’ll agree that there are people out there (including but not limited to; hippies, car salesmen, politicians, fast food workers, and stay-at-home-moms) who do things purely because it makes them feel superior to other people. There are also people who do things because they think it’s the best thing to do, regardless of where it puts them on the totem pole of righteousness. It all goes back to the motives. Of course not everyone who lives in a big house does so to prove something to someone (like yourself). And not every person who advocates earth building techniques (or tiny houses, or permaculture, or wearing Birkenstocks, or whatever) is a self-righteous liberal. Some people are just trying to do the best they can and help others do they best they can. I think, and just hear me out, that your reaction to the post on the Tiny House Blog had more to do with how defensive of your lifestyle you feel than with how demonizing Andrew actually intended to be. I understand you’ve had some negative experiences with people who you call the “Birkenstock crowd”. I’d urge you to not let that color all of your interactions with “those kind” of people. Stop the cycle and all that. 😉 I don’t always agree with everything that people write on the Tiny House Blog, but instead of perceiving it as a personal insult, I try rather to think about how that person may have come to that conclusion and move on.

    Sorry to ramble. I hope my stream-of-consciousness reply has been useful in some way!

    • Hi Abi,

      I very much appreciate your thoughtful response to my comment. I enjoyed every word of it. If you are part of the “hippie” crowd I so often rant about, you should be the poster person for the way you treat those with a different opinion. Bravo. 🙂

      Let me address each of your points, if I can tease them out individually.

      Yes, I actually did consciously know the blog is hosted by someone else. I might have forgotten that when I did my comment. So, I might owe the blog owner an apology if I belabored my point against him instead of the author of the post. I actually love the blog. Still follow it.

      My rant was brought to a head after reading Andrew’s article, but it was directed in the general direction of those that feel they have to pass judgement on people who choose to water their expansive lawns or, God forbid, use 3 gallons of perfectly potable water to flush their waste. You see… I have this really, really intense interest in permaculture, but my motivations come from a different part of the brain (or however you want to characterize it). So, it drives me BANANAS when I am constantly reading these leftist rants about ruining earth and they are “saving” earth from certain destruction by being “green”…etc…etc. Yes, I rant about their rants, but my rants are not about their decisions or their motivations. If you want to go off grid because you feel you’re saving mother earth, by all means. Have fun. My problem is when you cast dispersions on others for not making that same leap as you and somehow I’m guilty of raping earth because I poop in potable water. That’s the onus for my rants.

      You said this:

      Where do we draw the line between things we have because we need and things we have because we want/desire/feel more comfortable with them? It’s not a bad question to ask and I’m not saying any one person has the answer (different desires, right?), nor I am I interested in making black and white statements. I am interested in letting that question hanging out there in order for each person to be honest with themselves about their needs and desires.

      I don’t mind having that question asked, either. And I don’t mind letting it hang out there. But it’s almost never framed like that. Invariably, it’s almost always framed in such a way that if your decision is to live a “wasteful” life, then that is the wrong decision. And it simply is NOT the wrong decision. It is simply a decision. Neither right or wrong.

      Another quote:

      Of course you’re not evil for having a pool and a house that you enjoy entertaining people with! You’ve already made the distinction between your motives (sharing and creating a sense of community, which are honest and generous motives) and the motives that the writer disparages (status, compensating for insecurity, following the status quo, which are self-defeating and deceptive motives). When we set the motives side by side, we see that what matters isn’t the size of the house, but rather why and what you do with it.

      I think my point got lost here… I actually don’t believe in judging one’s motives, either way. If they want to have a status symbol, let them have their status symbol. Again, that’s neither right or wrong, in my book. You say yourself that Andrew was disparaging certain motives and that’s what I was getting upset about. I think it’s perfectly fine to point out alternative ways of looking at life, but to say your way is the better way (or even inferring it) is simply frustrating to read. Again, hence my little rant.

      Quote:

      So perhaps you can see why I’m think your comments are unfair. I’ve looked through your posts and noticed the latent hostility towards “hippie” types and disparaging remarks about their lifestyle choices and convictions (yet much of your comment here is about wanting respect for your lifestyle and convictions). For example, your comment about permaculture is frustrating; “Permaculture is cool because it’s self-reliant, not because I’m wasting less than my fellow man so I’m somehow better than they are.”

      I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with your assessment here, Abi. I have absolutely no hostility towards “hippie” types. My beef is with the holier than thou attitude they assume when describing their life choices. They look down their noses at “wasteful” living as if that is morally inferior to their own choices. That is the part that I get acerbic about. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, when it comes to life choices like where one wants to live and what one wants to do with their poop…etc. I cast no judgement on decisions within that realm. And I don’t see anywhere in my blog postings where I show any animosity towards decisions… just attitudes.

      I think you probably get the gist of where I’m coming from here. If I were to meet Andrew on the street, I would give him a big hug and a handshake and apologize if I offended him and ask him to promise to not denigrate my choices and I’ll promise to not call him a hippie. And we’ll live happily ever after, in my book.

      Thanks again, Abi. I have a ton of respect for your post. Classy!

      Cheers!
      Dan

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