Saturday, May 3, 2008

Join the Neo-Amish Movement

No disrespect at all intended. The idea "Neo-Amish" came to me when I was thinking about what our ultimate goal(s) must be if we are to work towards a sufficient "renewable energy technology" in the future. I fully understand that there is a critical spiritual element of Amish & Mennonite faiths. "Neo-Amish" is intended only to refer to the essential "green" aspect of the lifestyle which (according to the Wikipedia entry) has been a direct result of their avoidance of "worldly" things.

On the surface, it appears that Amish morality shuns extensive use of energy as a form of vanity. If this is so, our Western energy-consuming lifestyle could really use an overhaul. If we called it "sin," we would all find ourselves contemplating suicide as the best way to reduce the burden on the planet. I cannot make a move without acknowledging overuse of energy! Our predicament reminds me of Nikos Kazantzakis' St. Francis. In the story, St. Francis "saves" an entire village of people, who all renounce the world and wish to follow a contemplative life. However, there is no one to do any of the daily tasks that make the village go, so he has to tell everyone a new angle on salvation. As I recall, they all get mad at him and drive him out of town.

We cannot let this wall of habit keep us from making some changes as soon as possible, and at least trying some more things.

We have so many conveniences (not the least of which is the computer I am typing on and the one you are reading from) which are "convenient" at a fairly significant energy cost. A few weeks ago, I was reading an article about computer time donations to "Folding@home," a major grid supercomputing effort, that talked about having ~1 million PS3s donating 8 hours per day at about 220 watts. Something like 1.6 billion watt-hours per day are required to make inroads against protein-folding related diseases! Perhaps, for my daily work, I can use the One-Laptop Per Child unit, which runs at a LOT lower energy cost, and is hand-cranked. I think that organization has a new, valid market for the OLPC that should not be overlooked.

As I look at every aspect of my own lifestyle, I realize what a long way I have to go. I need to put up a clothesline, begin to wash dishes by hand in lukewarm water, do a MAJOR planning effort into how & when we use the family autos, make sure all lights in the house are LED or fluorescent, cook less, bathe less, turn more things off, walk more, turn up the thermostat in summer (and turn it down in the winter), watch less TV/video DVD, break out the old Monopoly and jigsaw puzzles, learn how to play cards with real cards again, the list goes ON and On and on.

I bet the Amish don't play cards. But, they drive horse & buggy for local transport and usually don't use phones (the heart clutches in fear at the thought). We are not going to get 300 million Americans back to a farm/subsistence lifestyle. We can turn off a few million streetlights, go to a four-day work week, and try to get to know our neighbors better.

Some technology ought to save energy. I think cell phones are essential, and the internet must be cheaper than driving, is it not? I gotta re-think those 1.6 BILLION watt-hours per day on a single project, though, don't I?

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