Technology Leaders: The Amish?

While I was away at college in Michigan, my family began a mass defection from Long Island to Lancaster County, PA, home to the second largest concentration of Amish in the U.S. (Ohio has the the first, lucky them). I’ve visited Lancaster (accent on the first syllable, unlike the California city of the same name, which stresses the second) several times, and I’ve watched as other out-of-towners gape at the horse-and-buggy brigade like archaeologists finding a living Yeti. Sometimes, when I get close to an Amish, I too find myself giving them a quick once-over, checking to make sure they’re obeying their God-fearing ways and haven’t slipped a zipper onto their clothing somewhere.

But the Amish don’t eschew all technology. There are certain rules around what new advances they’ll adopt, and how it will be adopted. For example, many — if not most — Amish have used a phone; they just don’t have one in their homes, but rather share a communal phone. They’ve been known to rollerblade. And I even have a picture of a buggy stopped outside my mom’s house while the driver consulted a Hagstrom map.

So, they’re just a bit behind, you say. Kind of like the entire state of Idaho. Not so. According to Wired, Ohio’s Amish community has the highest per-capita use of solar energy in the state. Considering I can’t even get my condo to recycle, I’d say that’s pretty progressive — and smart.

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