Mars College

The Tribes of Mars
09 Oct 2021 back to blog

The march of life moves towards complexity through cell division and specialization. This year communal effort on Mars subdivides and mutates into the elemental tribes of Earth, Air, Fire & Water.

Tribes of Mars.

The march of life moves towards complexity through cell division and specialization. While we can opine from the sidelines the greater and lesser merits of simplicity, the flow in a healthy eco-system seems clear. This year communal effort on Mars subdivides and mutates into the elemental tribes of Earth, Air, Fire & Water. Like homeroom in school, new Martians find their way into one of these tribes, and that smaller community helps them settle into the rhythm of life on Mars.

Each tribe has a private area on discord, and a variety of responsibilities to the larger community. These responsibilities include managing physical space including the wings of Chiba, RV and Tent camping areas, and tribe specific spaces like the wood-shop or showers. There are also some social expectations of the tribes like hosting meals for the larger Martian community. And finally these tribes have specific responsibilities outlined below taking care of core infrastructure.

Not everyone needs to be an expert in their tribe’s specialty. Tribes need people to cook and clean, make space, organize activities and generally care for its members. How members of a tribe organize is very much up to them. Within a small group of people with clear tasks hopefully it is easy to find ways to contribute meaningfully.


Earth includes shelter, compost, trash and recycling, furniture and the wood shop. Shelter begins with sketchup, modeling Chiba and laying out our Urban Plan, moves on to plant the first stake on Mars, flag the locations of the structures and trailers and camping areas and erect the pallet racks until Chiba stands as a mighty citadel in the desert.

Compost everything this year. Compost our food waste, compost our human waste. The Renegade Burn convinced me that pooping in buckets was comfortable and easy. Bob Wells’ videos have shown bucket toilets as the common solution for van dwellers, and the Humanure Handbook details simple plans for managing the compost. Composting also leads to this beautiful story of human’s living in nature at some scale and leaving trees as our primary output. Everyone manages their own buckets, but Earth Tribe keeps the communal compost piles healthy and cover material available. We also need to set up a ‘public’ composting toilet which is basically a toilet seat positioned directly over a compost pile.

Trash & Recycling The rest of our waste needs to be sorted and brought to the dump or recycling centers in neighboring towns.

Wood Shop Earth Tribe are makers in the visceral physical sense. They construct Chiba from dreams and plywood, torx screws and cordless tools. With time and inspiration they also make custom furniture to pad the shelter, large art to boggle the mind and van conversions to coddle the humans. Communal workshops tend to disarray. Earth Tribe care, discipline and occasional cantankerousness keep shared building resources functioning, organized and available.


Fire includes electricity generally including solar, batteries, generators & lighting. Fire people also deliver propane for the kitchens, and white gas for the fire spinners. Electric Unicycles also run on fire.

Right now the intention is to set up independent 1kw - 2kw solar systems on the roof of each of the four wings of Chiba. This seems like a reasonable scale solar system for people learning about solar for their own #VanLife or off-grid projects. It should be sufficient for running lights, charging devices (including unicycles) and running tv’s or projectors. There may be occasional night time activities that require a generator, but for our daily routine this should be sufficient. Beyond generating electricity Fire team needs to distribute it through our structure and to the needy where they need it.

The Fire Tribe and Unicycle Gang share a workshop for fixing, charging and modding unicycles, batteries, solar panels or other high power electronics devices.


Our water comes from town which has good city water and an expensive water filter installed on Venus. We can fill 5 gallon bottles with filtered drinking water and deliver these to the wings of Mars. We also have a 300 gallon IBC tank we use to fill fresh water tanks in the trailers and kitchens and a large tank we use for showers, and hand laundry.

Water Tribe also gets the distinct glory of designing and managing our gray water systems. We feed gray water to plants we arrange in felt grow bags at the gray water output points.


Internet is the final element in our mix. We have fiber coming from ATT to a mobile home in Bombay. Our first priority is to beam that to Mars to provide strong wifi in all of our live and work spaces. We distribute that with long range antenna and local repeaters to all of the houses on Mars. Air tribe also works to get a media center TV / projector set up in each of the screening areas. Ideally we get a number of TV + Raspberry Pi installations installed around the space. Air is the most technical of our physical elements. It would be great to integrate cameras, sensors and control systems so we can see and manage what is going on with our space at large. Air presides over an electronics lab where we do our physical computing tinkering. The drone league shares space in the electronics lab.

As we get comfortable with installing and managing our network we can work to provide Internet to the surrounding community in Bombay Beach, up at the spas, and eventually Niland and Slab City.

posted by: Chatsubo Z