“It used to be so fun to here… what happened?”
Mike bought the land that became greater world back in about 1990. The book Earthship Volume One came out that year. We bought our copy from Amigos Coop, the only health food store in Taos at the time. Mike already had builds around Blueberry Hill Road and out at the Can Castle.
At Greater World, everyone was an owner/builder and there was a sense of camaraderie. In 1994 when Mike created the GWLUA there were already several completed houses. You bought a membership: you didn’t own any land, and you were not expected to make a profit.
Earthships were sold as housing that anybody could build and everybody could afford. I even read an article that said you could build an earthship for absolutely nothing using scrounged materials! Dan and Alan took one of Mike’s earliest classes, and worked on builds at Reach, Star, and Greater World. Dennis Weaver put out a film about his Earthship in Ridgeway Colorado. Earthships were rocking.
The county eventually discovered what was going on and slapped a moratorium on building within the community. That unified the group even further and it was now ‘us against the man,’ with Mike leading the charge. In 1997 the county filed charges against community members who had continued to build. The only people remaining in the community today who were involved in that lawsuit are Phil and Joni. With the exception of Mike, none of the original people who started the community are still here.
Maybe their Earthships didn’t work the way they expected. Maybe the community wasn’t what they expected. Maybe there wasn’t enough rain. Maybe Taos wasn’t what they expected. Maybe they just ran out of money or endurance. Maybe Mike wasn’t what they expected.
Today, greater world is a far different place. The only independent owner builders are Lynne and Steve, neither of whom will likely finish their houses. Some of Mike’s employees are building their own houses, aided with free labor from the Academy, the business that Mike runs where he gets paid by eager unskilled people for the privilege of building his spec homes. (Huckleberry Finn would be proud.) And Ron Sciarillo has one lot left to finish building. Mike is building almost everything. Mike runs everything. It’s Mikeland.
The rest of us are simply buyers. I was told when I purchased my house in 2012 that I was inferior to Mike’s workers because I hadn’t bled and suffered in order to buy my house! That man had no idea that I was paying his paycheck. He had no idea how much I had worked to pay for my house. He had no idea that Dan and I built our own Earthship 20 years earlier or the toll it took on us. That kind of attitude is not conducive with a company that cares about customer relations.
Despite it all, building that house did cement our belief in the value of the Earthship concept. You’re still here because you have that same belief.
When Mike created the GWLUA, he did so unilaterally. Every time he rewrote the rules, he did so unilaterally, entirely on his own, without any community input. Check out the documents: they all contain only two signatures… Mike’s and a notary. There was no community involvement in the creation of policy, as mandated by NMSA 53-10. As the community grew, that realization sank in.
Mike became ‘the man.’ That’s what happened to Greater World.