community contingency planning: not for the faint of heart : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

We all have a well founded sense that no one is in charge of fixing this problem. Because no one is in charge, it does *not* follow that we must look after our own and run away someplace.

There are many alternatives in the space of taking charge by working together in our communities. This strikes me as a solvable problem.

I am sure we have all had the experience of seeing something that must be done and stepping forward and doing it. That is the opportunity of y2k. There is an immense amount to be done to enable us to live successfully with the Millennium bug. Us geeks have advance knowledge of this problem because we know technology. That gives geeks the chance to start earlier to create neighborhood contingency plans.

Public awareness is increasing. Four months ago, when I contacted local officials, I was surprised to find I was the one informing them about the effects of the Millennium Bug.

Now when I call new people, people are familiar with the problem and its risks, but they don't know what to do. People know its not their job. But they do want to help if they just knew how. I get the feeling that there is a lot of collective energy waiting to emerge to help each other.

Why don't we know what to do? The situation is without historical precedent and no one knows what will happen. We have no models yet for success.

It is most challenging to warn before something unprecedented occurs. The truth is in the numbers and I wonder how to convey this to action. In the 70's I worked with fisheries officers who looked at catch data and predicted the collapse of the NE fisheries. They were scorned by their government bosses. In the 80's I heard projections of the Internet boom based on exponential growth data for new sites. Both these groups of people looked at data and believed the data to predict the future. That is the situation we are in now and our challenge is to make that data real.

One way to visualize success is to imagine the plot of the Sept 99 y2k disaster movie. (ignoring the irony) This movie will have heros. And the heros will not be folks who run off to their cabins and get in fire fights with their neighbors. Heros will be heros as they have always been, those who go beyond their self to help others. Myths will arise from actions of heros. So right now y2k presents immeasurable opportunities, each of the readers of this email right now has the chance to define what a y2k hero is. There will be heros. They could be you. How often does one get such a chance in their life?

Bravery is well defined for a sea captain, a soldier, an environmentalist, a mountaineer. There has never been a y2k before to set precedents. We are just at the beginning of defining bravery and heroism for y2k disruptions. y2k is not for the faint of heart but presents a decision point for us all.

What will be the characteristics of the brave, of the heros who will certainly emerge being to meet y2k challenges? What will you do now?

And as soon as heros do appear, the press coverage that we need to increase awareness and concern will appear. Why should the press play up fear when readers want to hear about bravery and action that stretch beyond ourselves?

Actually a strange thing about y2k so far is that it is really a geek thing. I mean, I feel a little alone without artists around to help me feel the situation. There are no songs of heroics or songs of despair or of concern. There are not even any movies. This is part of the surrealness of the situation - we know there will be problems, but we have not communicated our feelings. And from feeling comes action. But life around us goes on.

What actions can we take? y2k is not any person's fault or even anyone's job to solve. It's a system thing. Similar to the environmental awareness/action change that occurred 20 years ago. We cannot wait for the government to take action. Because their computer systems are too slow to be converted, they may be part of the problem, not the solution. Change is most effective through grass roots organizing. I will assume we can not really run away from this. What I am counting on being most effective is grass roots organizing to understand the risks and then act on minimizing them as a community. Many people working together for the common good can be amazingly effective. We see this in many ways everyday.

My local neighborhood group, the Belvidere Neighborhood Association, was formed to drive drug traffickers out. They did it, not by calling the police in alarm , but by watching drug houses, keeping notes, and when they knew the pattern, telling the police where to go when. The neighborhood group was effective because they initiated locally something very important to them, and provided the information to others so they could do their job. Others would not initiate, the neighborhood group could not enact. An interesting model for y2k contingency planning.

I talk with many people in local government or doing y2k work. There is a lot of concern about what to do for their own families. A neighborhood y2k group can become a place to initiate action which is acted on by others who will not be told by their boss to do this. My city councillor is very pleased that we have formed a y2k committee because he cannot move pro-y2k legislation without a voice from citizens.

Grass roots organizing is not the only way that we will learn to live with the millennium bug. We are also in an amazingly entrepreneurial society. Exactly where can I buy a solar powered battery charger? How can I equip my house to be self sufficient in energy and food production? Demand will create supply.

The y2k problem spans many dimensions. To understand how to deal with it effectively, we will be figuring out how to work together in new ways. Perhaps the Internet has come along at the right time.

Finally, here are some easy actions to take, towards the goal of grass roots organizing.

1) Keep notes. Keep a diary.This is a historic time. Use your notes to help understand the changes. 2) rendezvous at a local diner, (7am Thursday at the Owl diner is what we do) , informally share ideas with others who want to act on y2k. brainstorm. 3) investigate areas of risk, and focus on helping people do their jobs. For example, our local water department wants an emergency generator in case the power goes out; I am glad to lobby for them, once I knew the situation. 4) create a web page, of course (hmm, still have to do that) pass on what you know ASAP 5) create a y2k committee in your local neighborhood group, having a group name helps in all sorts of ways to talk to others 6) hold a block party, if times will be tough, its good to have met your neighbors under less trying situation. And if y2k is a bust, you had a nice party! 7) Work with the red cross to prepare emergency shelters at your school, church, etc. Great for ice storms too.

Besides, I wonder where you would run away to, given everyone else is doing the same thing. I am betting on preparation and depending on others.



-- Ian Wells (, May 22, 1998


Ian, I agree.

A Christian group, of which I belong to, has been preparing for some time. We have 240 acres of land, complete facilities with power, water, and personal food supplies. We have just decided to expand our preparation to include as many displaced individuals as possible and will be doing so through a new ministry named "The Agape Group". At this time we are working on security issues and would love some feed back. We feel that the Lord will protect his own by steering most undesirables away from us, and the one's he doesn't... We are located in the southeastern United States and I will be monitoring this site. If you want to talk, leave your message here.


Brother David

-- David (notgiving@this.time), May 28, 1998.

Ian, I'm very glad I found your inspiring message! As a great granny, living in HUD housing for low income seniors, I have been feeling very concerned for and about my neighbors. There are some 165 apartments in a complex of 11 two-story buildings, plus the office and manager's apartment building. I have been dipping into my savings to prepare for Y2K, and feel very, very blessed by God to have such funds. But what about my neighbors, who either do not have the money, or don't know, or are in denial? In addition, some 15 apartments are rented to elderly Russian immigrants--a total of at least 25 people. Some of the folk here are very resentful that they receive SSI though they have never paid into the US tax coffers. But, I know some of the immigrants are of the same faith as I, and some have suffered more than we US citizens ever have. So, I am concerned about them, and about ALL my neighbors here. I've asked myself: If I were to give even the smallest amount of my "stash" to a hungry neighbor, when the time comes, would I have dozens of them banging on my door? Reading your statement above, has helped me start formulating some ideas for taking action. One of the first: help the manager here get on the Net, which she has asked me to do as soon as she (very busy lady) has some spare time. I'll bring her into this site first off! Secondly, I'll talk to her about getting a committee together of the more active folk in this complex, and setting up a plan of action. We can put out printed information to everyone, set up meetings in our Activity Room to answer questions and present information (from this source, Ed's book, etc.,) to help neighbors understand this is for REAL! Most of the folk here have family nearby, or elsewhere in the State or States--family who love them and would want to help them get ready. At least, I surely hope so! (Even as I write this, I'm getting these ideas! Isn't that great!) One thing for certain: since the federal government's fiscal year begins October 1, we may very well not receive our Social Security checks after that date next year. If my neighbors aren't convinced of the the truth of all this, that should do it. And I'm not trying to be humorous. I will appreciate yours and anyone's further sugesstions. How thankful I am to Ed Yourdon for this web site, and for all of you! Holly

-- Holly Allen (, May 29, 1998.

Dear Mrs. Holly:

I have a good idea of what it must be like for you. It does not matter what age your neighbors are, folks just don't want to believe that things could get worse than what they are. You said it yourself in your message. Wait until the fiscal years begin. I think that the state of New York will be among the first in April of 1999. Wait until then to really start banging the drum. I am afraid that many will not even believe you then.

-- Bill Solorzano (, May 30, 1998.

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