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Special Ministries Section

Group seeks ways to live in harmony with earth

Mount Vernon, Ky.

Appalachia Science in the Public Interest serves central Appalachia, which includes parts of Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia. It works in four primary areas: publications, resource assessment services, appropriate technology demonstrations and the sustainable forestry initiative, of which the ginseng work is a part.

Publications and other media outreach deliver information about how to live in a way that is in harmony with the earth and God’s creation. The group recently received a grant to duplicate tapes of its television show, “Earth Healing,” to be offered as public service broadcasts. A grant will also allow the television station that airs the show, WOBZ in London, Ky., to become a solar-equipped station.

The Resource Assessment Service has taken staff members and others they have trained to more than 150 properties in 30 states, as well as three foreign countries. These property and land assessments provide suggestions for how to best use resources to become self-sustaining. The assessment includes examination of areas such as energy use, waste management, indoor environment, transportation, land use, community relations and more.

The demonstration projects show alternative technologies that use renewable resources. Examples include composting toilets that don’t use water, a solar house, a solar greenhouse, artificial wetlands and low-cost housing.

Jesuit Fr. Al Fritsch, the group’s founder and director, has a favorite demonstration project in the parking lot for his office here. It is an intensive, organic, raised-bed garden. “We’re getting very high yields on very little land,” Fritsch said. The abundant vegetables have drawn attention not only from neighbors but also from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Fritsch wants to move the garden a step farther this spring by making it decorative. “That’s my hope, that we could intersperse that [garden] with enough flowers that it could be looked at from a distance and be thought of as a floral garden, yet it would be a highly productive garden at the same time. That’s my dream.”

-- Beth Dotson

National Catholic Reporter, January 22, 1999