This summer, Salisbury University is giving students the opportunity to go off the grid. Dr. Ryan Sporer, professor of sociology here at SU, is putting on a class specialized in off-the-grid living.
Sociology of Off-Grid Living is a SOCI 301/ ENVR 495 course. It will be sectioned off into two parts.
Sociology of Off-Grid Living is a class that offers students a unique, hands-on experience that one cannot gain in a regular classroom setting. It introduces students to a minimalist, self-empowering way to live.
The type of off-grid living that the class focuses on are Earthships.
Earthships are homes that are made on of natural and often commonly thrown-away items such as tires and glass beer bottles. The idea of an Earthship was created by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s. Reynolds decided that he could solve homelessness with trash that was lying around, and then Earthships were born.
The class will be held here at SU from July 6 to July 29. In this portion of the course, students will be digging into why people decide to live off the grid and out of the reach of society as well as the impacts it has on culture and the environment.
Sporer highlighted the main concepts of the course as he delved deeper into the mindset of Earthship-living people.
“People that gravitate towards Earthships are less antagonistic with the government, and more feel stuck with no way out,” Sporer said. “You just keep paying bills that keep on going up, and you don’t have over control over anything.”
The second portion of the class is a week stay in Taos, N.M., where students will not only get to build Earthships, but also stay in one.
Other than being an adventure beyond the average study abroad experience, the Sociology of Off-Grid Living course is also very applicable to all students at SU, not just the ones that major in sociology and environmental studies.
Senior Tishina Matthews, who is already signed up for the course, conveyed her reasonings behind her intrigue to take the course.
“I think it applies to everybody,” Mathews said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to be confined by society. With an Earthship, you don’t have to go through the different companies to provide you with water, electricity, etc.”
Matthews talked about how when she first saw the email, she initially wasn’t very interested. She really only started to consider the course while watching American post-apocalyptic horror television series “The Walking Dead” with her friend.
“I hate ‘The Walking Dead,’ but my friend watched it every night, and I was just like, ‘Can you turn this off?’” Matthews said. “But it got me thinking, okay, I’m a bio major, what happens say when war breaks out or an outbreak or something and it causes us to lose all our resources and availability.”
The threat of not having all the modern conveniences that we enjoy on a daily basis is one reason why people decide to live off the grid. They want to be able to provide for themselves. An Earthship has the infrastructure to collect and store water, grow food and capture sunlight for energy.
Sporer stated that he would like to put on this class every summer, but as of right now, he is struggling to get enough students for the trip.
A lack of interest and a low number of student sign-ups poses a problem for the future of the course because the price is dependent on how many students go on the trip.
Sporer explained the setbacks and highlighted his hopes to bring in a larger group of students.
“I will do the trip with five students minimum, but would love if we could have more,” Sporer said.
If you are interested in the course or have questions, contact Sporer at RASPORER@salisbury.edu.