Session 2 -- Ecological & Social Implications
At some point, our increase in population
and production will overstrain ecological systems.
The argument about when this happens is not yet settled, but this statement is unarguable. (Robert Theobold)
Y2K and other volatility impacts
on the community may increase pressure on large corporations
to liquidate resource assets (forests, mines, etc.) in order to meet financial obligations. (Cynthia Beal)
Ömaybe the Year 2000 problem
provides us with the impetus to go into the next century with
an entirely different relationship of our two [Russian & U.S.] nuclear forces. (Sergey Rogov,
advisor to Russian Duma on Y2K)
Examining the potential social and ecological threats and opportunities of Y2K.
Reflecting on actions we could take to
reduce the social/ecological impact of Y2K.
"The Year 2000 Problem: An Environmental Impact Report," Earth Island Journal, Fall 1998.
"Nuclear Power and Y2K," Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
"Surviving Y2K Will Mean Reinventing Society," Cynthia Beal, Earth Island Journal, Fall 1998.
"Y2K and 'Survival Equity,'" Gar Smith, Earth Island Journal, Winter/Spring 1999.
"Alternative Scenarios for Y2K," Robert Theobold.
"Why Community-Based Responses Make More Sense," Tom Atlee.
"Some Y2K Opportunities," (selection from "Why the Year 2000 Problem Is an Environmental Issue") Tom Atlee.
"Turning to One Another: The Possibilities of Y2K," Margaret Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers.
"The Nature of Our Power" (selection), Joanna Macy,
Coming Back to Life, New Society Publishers, 1998.
The prospect of Y2K-related technical failures raises the question of how these breakdowns might affect the social and ecological fabric where we live. Could significant disruption result in the release of toxic substances? Could we expect suspension of environmental protection laws? What could happen to the social fabric of our cities and towns? Will we respond to Y2K in a way that forgets the poor? Are the possible effects of Y2K an early warning of the inevitable ecological crises that our society seems so capable of denying?
In Earth Island Journal, Chris Clarke describes a range of potential threats to the environment and warns of the impact of a run-away survivalist reaction. It also suggests that it would be a mistake to relax our concern for natural and social ecosystems if 2000 dawns with no major problems or if a quick fix is found. Nuclear Information and Resource Services (NIRS) warns that the safety of nuclear reactors could be threatened if the electrical grid breaks down.
Cynthia Beal predicts that if theY2K glitch is rough, competition for resources will increase, driving communities, corporations and countries to riskier behavior in order to survive. She says the year 2000 problem may present an opportunity for finding the collective self-interest among environmentalists and corporations.
Will the year 2000 problem further concentrate wealth, political influence, and access to food and other resources in the hands of the rich? Gar Smith poses hard questions about the social injustice and ecological unsustainability of our present path.
Robert Theobald believes that if Y2K doesn't challenge the stability and wealth we have enjoyed, something else will, requiring unprecedented transformation in human thought and action. Tom Atlee compares individualistic and community-oriented approaches, and concludes that the year 2000 problem could be a gift if we choose community. He goes on to identify some of the opportunities which could be the silver lining in the looming Y2K cloud.
Y2K represents the prospect of complex systems failure, a phenomenon we can expect to experience with increasing frequency, according to Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers. It also offers the possibility of genuine transformation through collaboration, which may help us develop the capacity to face an unknown future.
Joanna Macyís keen insight helps
us understand both why we find ourselves and our world threatened
by unresilient technology and how to begin to find a path into
deeper, life-giving connections.
OPENING THE CIRCLE
ENTERING THE CONVERSATION (Each person responds)
What in your social or natural environment could be most threatened by Y2K failures?
QUESTIONS TO DEEPEN THE STUDY
1. Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers ask what
is worth sustaining and what is possible. How would you respond
in terms of
your own lifestyle and your neighborhood/community?
2. Who are "Those People" and what could we learn by including them in transforming our communities?
3. Theobold says "Öevidence is all around us: we are confronted by signs of economic, social, moral and ecological
crisis." What signs do you see around you?
4. Do you think that looking realistically at the worst-case scenarios for Y2K would raise trust in your community?
5. What skills could you imagine bringing to your community to help prepare for Y2K?
6. Atlee suggests that a new way of living may come out of the year 2000 problem. How do you think you might end up
changing how you live in a more permanent way?
7. What would "collaboration, participation, openness, and inclusion" mean, in concrete terms, in your
own neighborhood or community?
WHAT ACTION COULD BE TAKEN?
REFLECTING ON THE CONVERSATION (Each person responds)
What are you considering as your next step with respect to Y2K?
CLOSING THE CIRCLE OR RITUAL
Resources" at the beginning of
RESOURCES & LINKS
Coming Back to Life: Practices to
Reconnect Our Lives, Our World, Joanna
Macy, with Molly Young Brown, New Society Publishers, 1998.
Waking Up In Time, Peter Russell, Associated Publishers Group, 1998.
Resurgence, "An international forum for ecological and spiritual thinking" Rocksea Farmhouse, St. Mabyn, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 3BR, UK; www.gn.apc.org/resurgence
The Ecologist (journal), c/o Cissbury House, Furze View, Five Oaks Road, Slinfold, West Sussex RH13 7RH, UK.
Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World, Alan Weisman, Chelsea Green, 1998.
Deep Ecology and Related Topics, Northwest Earth Institute (available from NCEI, 415-785-1056.)
Bioregional Perspective -- Discovering Your Natural Community, Northwest Earth Institute (available from NCEI).