I have long maintained that given self-determination, our Indigenous Nations will do amazing things with common sense when it comes to the Earth ! Here is a piece from the Friends Committee on National Legislation newsletter:
Inez Steigerwald, FCNL's Program Assistant on Native American Affairs, spoke with Bob Gough on May 2, 2010. Bob Gough is the Secretary for the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.Efficiency First
Before you get to generating a single megawatt of electricity, become
energy efficient first. We just spent this whole week on a building
project on Rosebud, a pilot project of a straw bale house. You build the
walls out of packed straw bales and they're about 18 inches across.
You've now got the perfect combination of mass of the earthen plaster on
the walls and insulation from the straw sandwiched in the middle, and
you get an R40 [insulation] value, which is double anything 6 inch
fiberglass insulation will give you. It's sequestering carbon in the
form of straw, which is a waste material
. Instead of burning it, put it
into housing walls, make them far more efficient; then you need less
energy to heat it in the winter and cool it in the summer.
There are many straw bale buildings constructed in the early years of the last century still occupied and holding up very well.
How Can Congress Help?
There's now a whole wave of training grants; just through the Department of Labor we can get a whole lot of money to train people, and we'd love to train them to build straw bale houses.
[With] one grant from a given department you can get training funds but can't get stipends or buy a whole lot of straw bales to build houses. "No, this is a training grant, this isn't a housing grant." If you're going to train somebody to paint you've got to buy them paint. You've got to be able to get enough straw bales to train in construction techniques it means you've got to get the Department of Agriculture working with the Department of Labor and with the Department of Energy, and with the Department of the Interior. You need them all laying together.
Why Indian Country?
Tribes and tribal governments are very different from cities and counties, because so much more of the housing on an Indian reservation is low-income, public assistance housing, because that's the population, these are America's poorest communities. Cities don't have programmatic control over all the residential buildings in their jurisdiction the way tribes do-or the way tribes can. Tribes have a greater opportunity to really make a difference; tribes can programmatically address their housing needs and address their unemployment needs and at the same time address their energy needs. If we could meet the present need for new homes and replace a good deal of the existing Indian housing in the next 20 or 30 years with energy efficient homes, these reservations would hum as models, as islands of sustainability, as shining stars of passive and efficient survivability.