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Appalachian innovator.

When Kentucky native AL Fritsch moved back home--deep in a hollow in one of Appalachia's most depressed areas--the cleric/author/scientist began to visualize ways to help his neighbors. He settled on alternative technologies and set about making his vision a reality.

That same year, in 1977, Fritsch bought several acres of rocky land for $50 an acre and, with only a handful of volunteers, established the riverside institute Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest (ASH). Today, anyone willing to drive a couple of miles up a mountain hollow can see the institute's composting toilet, solar greenhouse, home built from recycled wood, and other energy-efficient paraphernalia. Better yet, they can learn how to make their own.

"Our challenge is to reform our own lives simultaneously as we renew our Earth," says Fritsch, author of 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle, Household Pollutants Guide, and Environmental Ethics. From his home near Livingston, he channels his innovative ideas into a continuing stream of books, magazine and newsletter essays, and informal and formal talks.

The fees from his workshops and lectures, the sale of note cards and calendars, and about 20 different grant sources fund the institute, which helps Fritsch alert others to environmental issues and show them how to get involved.

While maintaining a simple lifestyle and a rootedness to the mountains that surround him, Fritsch, along with ASPI volunteers, doggedly fights local environmental battles. Presently, ASPI is crusading against off-road-vehicle abuse of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Fritsch brings to these battles a varied background of experience. He earned a Ph.D ). in chemistry from Fordham University in It)64. Four years later he was ordained as a Jesuit priest at Loyola University, and in the early 70's, he and a friend worked as science consultants in Washington DC.

When he decided to abandon his high-profile, hectic life, Fritsch brought home with him the belief that science has a special obligation to people needing help. And that's what ASPI is trying to do--"make science and technology responsive to the needs of low-income people."

Despite his own expertise, Fritsch says perhaps the greatest problem with the environmental movement today is its "professionalism." "We don't need a handful of gurus," he says. "We need people able to do a multitude of things to bring the environment back in shape."

Fritsch the Jesuit priest sees today's worldwide environmental crisis as one of the most serious spiritual challenges yet to confront humankind. He considers environmental activism a means by which people can experience the Trinity's compassion for the suffering earth. He adds, "No generation has had such power to harm--and such power to renew and rebuild the earth--as this one."

Whether Fritsch speaks as a scientist or clergyman, his holistic concern for the environment echoes through the valleys of Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. His neighbors and colleagues know his words well, and with each lecture, or essay, or personal crusade, the resounding waves increase and the echo is heard from farther away.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Forests
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Earthkeepers; cleric and scientist Al Fritsch
Author:Condrad, Jim
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:The Yew Tree.
Next Article:Fighting fire with new ideas.

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