There is nothing funny about millions of people losing grid power, but when I saw the Amish meme going around since Sandy hit, I had a bit of a chuckle. Those Amish are obviously on to something.
Amish members live simple lives and tend to be wary of modern day conveniences. They live by the rules of the church, (outlined in the Ordnung, which means 'order'), which regulate day to day living. Among other things, the Ordnung includes prohibitions on the use of things like cars, telephones, and grid electricity.
There are restrictions against grid electricity because the Amish wish to be disconnected from the greater society and modern values that are inconsistent with their teachings. Connecting to the grid would allow worldly influences to enter their homes, and could spark a competition for what they call 'status goods'.
Trying to think like the Amish, I came up with a possible scenario:
Grid power = TV/radio/computer = exposure to advertising = manufactured desire for goods and the status they confer = competition = discordance in the community.
This is certainly the scene played out endlessly in the consumer world by which the Amish are surrounded. Unlike the outside world, I doubt that Amish kids beat each other up in order to steal trendy sneakers, or ball caps, or coats, or ipods, or any other status item.
The Amish aren't against electricity however, and do make their own moderate amounts of power using generators, solar panels, and other technologies that allow them to be self-sufficient. It is enough power to do certain limited things, but not enough to be used indiscriminately and wastefully.
The Amish are not afraid of manual labour, and consider it to be character building. Therefore, labour saving devices hold little appeal for them, although you might find a washing machine hooked up to a generator in some communities. These simple living folks may seem backward, but they aren't stupid (not that it is stupid to wash clothes by hand, it is just really difficult, especially if you have 7 kids).
The Amish are indeed on to something, and that is - use electricity (and modern conveniences) selectively, and only if they are powered by self-generated electricity. Living more simply allows them to use less power, be energy self-sufficient, and enjoy the benefits of good old manual labour. Green on green on green, Amish style.
The Amish Action Plan
- Take a page from the Ordnung regarding electricity use.
- Read it by candle light.
- Get rid of most of your power hungry appliances and electronics.
- Set up your solar panels/wind generator and say goodbye to the power grid.
- Be gentle on the earth, live well, and be prepared for the next extreme weather event.