Matt Yglesias has an interesting critique of the “earthship” movement over at his new Atlantic blog:
Mostly, they seem to be completely ignoring the environmental impact of living in such a sprawling fashion. A low-density compound of people living 15 miles outside of Taos, New Mexico is either going to result in a ton of driving, or else is going to be curbing its environmental footprint primarily through its residents never going anywhere or buying anything. This is fine, perhaps, when you’re talking about people with total commitment to the cause, but it’s not really pointing in the direction of a systemic solution. My understanding is that it’s much better to encourage people to live in relatively small apartments where they can walk to the grocery store and take mass transit to work than it is to get everyone to stick solar panels on the roofs of big exurban houses.
In other words, we should all cue up the Wombats and move to New York. Now, I just made the move myself, and I think it’s safe to say that, though there are certainly a number of people who love the crowded, bustling city life, it’s not for everybody–or even most people. Trying to make the major metro areas in the lower half of the U.S.–Atlanta, Houston, Austin, Phoenix, etc.–look and live like the Big Apple is probably only slightly less plausible than convincing everyone to put solar panels on their roofs.