Awakening - the Upside of Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

"Awakening - the Upside of Y2K" Edited by Judy Laddon, Tom Atlee & Larry Shook Available on line at

Printed copies available for $10 plus $2 postage from:

The Printed Word 4327 S. Perry Spokane WA 99203 (509) 624-3177 call for bulk pricing

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Review by Susan Kleihauer, Earth Light (magazine), Fall 1998

In my first phase of dealing with the systemic implications of the Year 2000 Computer Problem, I had spiraled down into terror and despair. From conversations with others, I knew I was far from alone. I finally resurfaced after reflecting on how I would live if these were my last days, or the planet's last days, and how I would live if I thought the way I lived could change the outcome. In a funny way, after confronting death, I was no longer terrified and felt a renewed vigor for doing things I care about. But I also noticed I was holding new information about Y2K crises at arm's length, for fear I would spiral back down into the darkness. It wasn't really denial, because Y2K now provided the context for my thinking about everything, but a disturbing kind of apathy. Then I was given the page proofs of this book and took them on a camping trip to Lassen National Volcanic Park. At the campsite, I found myself eagerly reading the essays, fascinated with the stories of lead editor Judy Laddon and others who, unlike me, had galvanized into action when they grasped the spiritual and cultural significance of Y2K.

Laddon conceived of this book three days after her epiphany, which came in the course of her work as communications director for the Environmental Forum for Business. Twelve days later, this book, inspired by Tom Atlee's extensive website ( which focuses on the transformational opportunities in Y2K, was ready for the printers. The book was self-published to get it out quickly. Its community-building solutions need time to pull together, and the months before January 1, 2000 seem to be slipping away. Instead of the technical advice or strategies to protect me and mine offered by other books, Awakening leads into a more compassionate vision of working with neighbors and building community resilience. This book covers everything from community contingency plans and local sustainability to psychological and spiritual survival in trying times. I found the survival suggestions offered by psychotherapist Kent Hoffman particularly helpful. Other essays include:

* The commentary, "The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?" by John Peterson, Margaret Wheatley, and Myron Kellner-Rogers, which has been pivotal in helping many people who admire Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers' organizational work grasp the seriousness of Y2K.

* Several insightful pieces by Atlee, president of the Co-Intelligence Institute: on determining whether Y2K is real, thinking about Y2K, looking at why community-based responses make more sense than individual preparedness, and finding one's unique role in addressing the issue.

* Natural foods grocer and farmer Cynthia Beal's reflections on finding each other in hard times. She observes that the risk in actively raising our communities' awareness on Y2K is mostly a risk of looking like fools if we're successful enough in raising mitigative awareness so that no damage results anywhere in the world.

* Articles by William McDonough, sustainable systems designer; Paul Glover of the Ithaca (New York) Hours local money system; futurist Robert Theobald; Unitarian minister Dacia Reid; and Washington, D.C. based psychologist and corporate consultant Douglass Carmichael (

Awakening is a powerful and affordable antidote to the survivalist energy growing around Y2K. I highly recommend it for faith-based and other community groups, as well as individuals, who are seeking higher ground in dealing with this issue.


Review by Mark Robinowitz (

Imagine a decade from now looking back at the end of the twentieth century - the most destructive to humans and all other species in our history. Think about ways that the Year 2000 (Y2K) global computer crash prompted transformations in industrial society toward local self-reliance using more sustainable technologies. How was Y2K the impetus to create new ways of living closer to the natural world?

The recent book "Awakening: The Upside of Y2K" is the single best resource anywhere that presents visions of how "this time of danger can also be one of the greatest eras of social reinvention in history." This compilation includes the leading visionaries of the Y2K community organizing movement, who argue that surviving Y2K will require much more than individual efforts to ensure food and water - but rather community based, collective responses to build resilience and reduce dependence on distant automated systems.

An introductory essay notes that:

"The new millennium heralds the greatest change to modern society we have yet to face as a planetary community. Whether we experience this as chaos or social transformation will be influenced by what we do immediately."

In "Who will do what and when will they do it?" psychologist Douglass Carmichael constructs a series of potential scenarios based on the extent of technical and social breakdowns. Extreme technological and social malfunctions would be the worst case, millennial apocalypse situation, with widespread famine and techno-fascism. A more hopeful scenario would be where interconnected technological failures occur yet community responses enable people to survive and even thrive.

"A Big Grocer's Y2K Nightmare" describes the looming disaster for a large grocery store chain. Even with their backup generator, they would be out of business without electric power or telecommunications. If Y2K is more than a day-long blip, providing basic foodstuffs to large populations could get extremely difficult. Community gardens, Food not Bombs soup kitchens, municipal food storage warehouses, and diverting grains from animal agriculture to feeding people will all be needed.

Several articles address the unique psychological stresses of Y2K. Even for environmentalists used to contemplating mass extinction, thinking about the worst case possibilities is truly sobering - especially because the deadline is immediate and immovable.

To date, most discussion of the crisis has focused on the technical aspects, or debates about how bad Y2K failures will or will not be. But little attention has been paid to the nascent efforts by communities to prepare (as much as possible) to cooperate in the middle of infrastructure failure, to use Y2K as the catalyst for a new society. The Earth Island Journal notes that "We've built a society that is so vulnerable to glitches that two digits can bring it down."

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Now, like no other moment in human history, the future of our species probably depends upon how well we can use our intellect and cooperative abilities to mitigate the damage caused by the twentieth century's insanities. We probably won't get another chance if we screw up next year.

Society is dependent upon the institutions that gave us nuclear waste and global warming to fix Y2K, and coordinating repairs in the power industry has happened at a turtle pace up to now. While the power grid is ultimately antithetical to survival, the irony is that a sudden collapse could hasten, not slow down, extinctions. A millennial apocalypse would probably bring about numerous Chernobyl and Bhopal type toxic accidents and trigger eco-cidal wars over dwindling resources.

Perhaps the contingency planning to separate the power grid into discrete segments can prevent massive failures in electric power. Maybe the community organizing underway will enable cities to avoid the nightmare scenarios. But even if the various efforts to mitigate the impacts of Y2K are successful -- and it is merely nasty, not catastrophic -- the fact that this doomsday timebomb was (unwittingly?) created is reminiscent of the stockpiling of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that were never exploded. It's nice that we have not had nuclear wars, but that is small consolation to the countless radiation victims of nuclear weapons testing and production -- and the stress to humanity of living for decades under the threat of self-induced instantaneous extinction.

If there's anything positive about the Y2K chaos, it is the possibility of finally being forced into more sustainable ways of living. The 2000 crash could spell the end of multinational corporations, GATT, NAFTA, the World Bank, IMF austerity policies, the newly created World Trade Organization, and other parts of the global economy  but whether Y2K is an opportunity for local selfreliance or will be the final eco-apocalypse, whether the millennium will ushur in a Great Depression or the Third World War, remains unknowable. One positive development is the creation of "Y2K" citizen groups in different communities to prepare citizens for the inevitable problems that we will all be forced to cope with. These groups aren't militia type organizations, but community efforts to increase cooperation in the event of disruptions in the industrial social network that we are all dependent upon. If there is hope, it is not that computer companies will invent a mythical "silver bullet" but that communities can organize to survive Y2K in a humane way.

Y2K websites (Read "Awakening" on line) (individual preparations, public health concerns, community responses) (scenarios, psychology) (Y2K and environmentalism) (Fall 1998 issue of Earth Island Journal has a front page article) (Y2KO: Knock Out for industrial civilization or merely a global depression?)

-- Mark Robinowitz (, December 10, 1998


I've read probably close to a dozen Y2K books by now, and this certainly fills a unique niche. I liked some essays in it (local currencies), but it's so tilted towards the environmental-green-left-wing view of the world that I didn't get much from it. I'd have to give it a thumbs-down, and recommend other books like Don Tiggre's instead.

-- Declan McCullagh (, December 11, 1998.

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