Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Lorax Hall of Shame: IN DOT

The second Lorax Hall of Shame award for the day goes to clones of the previous winners - the Indiana Department of Transportation! I don't know if this road was built or not.

First, the background:

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, situated on the edge of the congested Eastern seabord and increasingly functioning as a suburb of Philadelphia and Baltimore lost, during the 1980s, 3,617 acres of farmland per year to residential and commercial development, and in the first half-decade of the 1990s, the annual loss doubled to 7,855 acres. Farm prices have skyrocketed, reaching $10,000 an acre, or $1 million for a typical 100-acre farm which would have cost $30,000 in the 1940s. Parents do not have excess land or enough money to buy it, and young families are not anxious to begin their lives with such a crushing burden of debt. Thus, the Amish have turned increasingly to emigration or off-farm employment in factories. (Rick Huber)

Indiana has been a prime destination for Amish seeking enough land to continue living as they see fit. From the 1998 press release:
Nearly 700 Sign Petition Imploring Governor O’Bannon Not to Split Their Community

In an unusual public act, an Old Order Amish settlement in Daviess County is pleading with Governor O’Bannon not to divide their century-old community by building the proposed new Interstate 69 highway through it.

In a handwritten petition to the Governor with 692 signatures, the Amish state that the proposed new I-69 highway "would bisect Amish farms and church districts, and cut off members of our community from each other. Many of us would have to drive for miles by horse and buggy to attend church services or visit with our neighbors and families." Bishops in the Amish community mailed the petition to the Governor on Friday.

The petition is highly unusual for the Amish. The Amish live in their own settlements without electricity or modern conveniences, use horses and buggies for transportation, and avoid involvement in government or politics.

"This highway is a great threat to our community," said Harold Lengacher, an Amish bishop whose church district the highway would split. "We are asking the Governor not to damage our community and our way of life."

As currently proposed, the highway would bisect the Amish settlement, which is located near Montgomery, outside of Washington, Indiana. The settlement is one of the largest Amish communities in Indiana, and is known nationwide for breeding "pulling horses," which pull farm implements such as plows. ...

The leading alternative to a new highway is to use existing four-lane roadways instead – upgrading US 41 to an interstate highway between Evansville and Terre Haute, and connecting to existing Interstate 70 between Terre Haute and Indianapolis.

Compared to a new highway, US 41/I-70 would save taxpayers more than $600 million and preserve thousands of acres of farms and forests, according to Andy Knott, air and energy policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. It would also avoid harming the Amish.

According to studies by the Indiana Department of Transportation, US 41/I-70 would result in a route between Evansville and Indianapolis only 10 miles longer than the new highway, Knott said.

Somebody already asked me, so:
Who Are the Amish?
"Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (II Corinthians 6:17)

For three centuries, a small Christian sect known as the Amish has spurned all modern conveniences in the belief that followers of Christ are called to be separate from the world. In their never-ending efforts to avoid "worldliness" and the corruption and sin which inevitably follow, they have drawn strict boundaries between themselves and the outside: they do not use electricity or telephones, they do not drive cars, they wear plain, homemade clothing without makeup or jewelry, they hold their services in German and encourage the propagation of their dialect (known as Pennsylvania Dutch, from the German word Deutsch, or German), and they rely on animals to farm their land.

Throughout the North American Amish diaspora, demography has been pushing young families off of the farm. Traditionally, the expectation was that each family would be able to provide a workable farm for each son. But you can only sub-divide a plot for so many generations, especially when families have an average of 6 to 7 children, before further division becomes impossible.(Rick Huber)

The first part of this article is here.

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At 8:48 AM, Blogger kenju said...

I recently completed a series of 4 books (fiction) set in PA Amish areas. Before that, I knew very little about the Amish, but now I am in sympathy with them and their troubles with the "English". They should be protected and their lands preserved as much as possible.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous ilona said...

The Amish arose out of the Mennonite group by way of both coming from the Anabaptist movement. They had a conflict over the use of "shunning"; the Amish, desiring to be the more strict, separated from their Mennonite brethren.

They are pacifist and highly value the agricultural life. They retain use of their German dialect.

There are intermediate groups of Amish-Mennonite which have variable rules of strictness.

They are simply one form of Christian (like the Hassidic are one form of Judaism).

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Are the Amish recognized as a 'minority'?

If not, they ought to seek that legal designation. With it come certain rights and, for lack of a better word, 'priviledges' that might prove beneficial to the Amish.

While I understand they eschew political involvement, sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Mamacita said...

Your post is fascinating to me. I live in southern Indiana and I drive past yard signs and business signs and billboards daily, protesting the I-69 highway. Yet I had never heard anything, not one word, about the Amish involvement. Most people are flat-out against the new highway, but big business and Evansville are all for it, so you can bet who's going to win. How awesome is your blog. . . wow. WOW. I feel like I've struck gold. (The Amish are everywhere in this area; they built our house, even! Such lovely people. I have lots of good Amish stories.)

At 8:10 PM, Anonymous ilona said...

The Amish wouldn't go that route (ahem, excuse the pun). They aren't a racial group, but a religious one.
The sad thing is that the way eminent domain is presently being interpreted- there really is not much hope that they will stop the "progress". Although I hope they do. There are so many issues in this sort of thing.

What we need is some leash on the eminent domain laws.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Natsthename said...

There is that nasty eminent domain rearing its ugly head again!

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Tam_Gu_Ja said...

The amish are not all hardworking goodness and light. As in most things, there is a little bit of shadow in the light. Check this out-

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Margaret Schaut said...

I would like to mention a new candidate for your Lorax Hall of Shame, relative to the Amish. It is the National Security Administration, in concert with the USDA and all 50 States who have instituted a 'voluntary' RFID chipping program for small farmers and animal owners.

The Amish, of course, are resisting this new requirement of radio chips for their animals, because it violates their deepest principles. However, the governments have daily fines of $1000 to $5000 PER DAY for non-compliance. Who knows how long the Amish can afford to hold out?

In the event their animals are chipped, the effects would be terrible for small farmers all over the country, but especially the Amish. They would be required to obtain permits EVERY TIME AN ANIMAL IS MOVED. They cannot do so as conveniently as other farmers might. Their horses are used for transportation, which means they would need permits to go to the market, to a neighbor's, to a funeral, to a church. Their every move could be monitored by anyone with a radio frequency reader. The Amish farmers have asked me to help any way that I can, and I am doing so. If you are interested, you can follow along with our progress (or lack thereof) at Amish & RFID Chips

I fear the lack of cooperation will cost the Amish dearly, and their very way of life will be ending soon.


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