The beauty of this fall day in this charming village prompts me to suggest to all of you that we say a prayer of thanks—to the Earth, to the goddess Gaia, who has provided it all for us. I am not unmindful, of course, of the fact that we are here in a church, a Congregational church, a building dedicated to quite another and different God, and one not much enamored of the Greek goddesses and pagan deities who celebrate nature. But I am trusting that we are safe, for a few minutes, in sending a prayer of thanks for this glorious day to the holy, precious Earth herself.
All of which reminds me of that story about Sinclair Lewis who, once in the 1920s, decided he would disprove the existence of God, and he said at one of his lectures, If there is a God, I challenge him to declare me dead on the spot at this moment. Nothing happened. To which The Chicago Tribune the next day responded, “The interest of Mr. Lewis in God is a great deal more than that of God’s interest in Mr. Lewis.” So I have no fear that we are about to be stricken if we say a small prayer to the goddess Earth, who has provided us with this occasion.
Continuing in somewhat the same vein, the text for this afternoon’s sermon is taken from the gospel according to St. Fritz. It is his book, Small Is Beautiful, and he speaks here, as elsewhere, on the issue of technology:
. . . technology, although of course the product of man, tends to develop by its own laws and principles, and these are very different from those of human nature or of living nature in general. Nature always, so to speak, knows where and when to stop. Greater even than the mystery of natural growth is the mystery of the natural cessation of growth. There is measure in all natural things–in their size, speed, or violence. As a result, the system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology, or perhaps I should say: Not so with man dominated by technology and specialization. Technology recognizes no self-limiting principle–in terms , for instance, of size, speed, or violence. It therefore does not possess the virtues of being self-balancing, self-adjusting, and self-cleansing. In the subtle system of nature, technology and in particular the super-technology of the modern world, acts like a foreign body. And there are now numerous signs of rejection. . . . First, human nature revolts against inhuman technological, organizational, and political patterns, which it experiences as suffocating and debilitating; second, the living environment which supports human life aches and groans and gives signs of partial breakdown; and, third, it is clear to anyone fully knowledgeable in the subject matter that the inroads being made into the world’s non-renewable resources, particularly those of fossil fuels, are such that serious bottlenecks and virtual exhaustion loom ahead in the quite foreseeable future.
So sayeth St. Fritz.
The idea of an alternative to this modern megatechnology was important in Fritz’s life, and he called it appropriate technology, intermediate technology, democratic technology, people’s technology, or—the title of the chapter from which I just read—technology with a human face. Well, this is a crucial issue of our age, the question of the technology that we should be living with, and for the past twenty years Bill Ellis has been the guiding spirit of those who would champion an alternative technology. As you know, he is the man who for years has put out TRANET, which stands for “transnational network about alternative technology,” and it is appropriate that for most of this time it came out of the little town of Rangeley, Maine, where Bill spent the first twenty years of his life and has spent the past twenty. In between he had a rather peripatetic career from Scotland to Hawaii as a science adviser on the state, national, and international levels. He is a trained physicist, a man of science, and hence he is trained in assessing and judging the technology he is advocating.
It is an honor for us today to have this man address us, and I want us not merely to welcome him but to honor him as the grand old man who has been in charge of our fondest dreams for the past twenty years: Bill Ellis.