by Tom Atlee
Why the Year 2000 Problem is an Environmental Issue
This article explores how
possible Y2K-triggered disruptions relate to
environmental and sustainability efforts. It finds dangers and
opportunities of immense importance.
(Except for a brief introduction, this article assumes
the reader is basically familiar with Y2K.
If you are not familiar with Y2K, please first read
Rachel's Environment & Health Weekly on Y2K
The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation)
Although the chances are you have heard of the Year 2000 technology problem,
I will summarize it briefly here: Since many computer programs and files
use two digit dates (98 for 1998), many computers will confuse the year
2000 (00) for 1900 (00), and will make mistakes or stop. Billions of dollars
now being spent won't fix them all. Year 2000 problems with mainframes,
PCs and microchips could disturb every facet of life -- from Wall Street
to the water supply, from gas stations to grocery stores, from airplanes
to electricity. Does this add up to inconvenience or catastrophe?
Most experts acknowledge that we can't dependably predict the extent of
Y2K disruption. Most also agree that there is a *possibility* of extreme
disruption -- global economic depression, failure of vital infrastructure
(food, water, transportation, etc.), social unrest, governments folding,
and so on. Some think such worst-case scenarios are highly unlikely, while
others believe that preparing for such serious disruptions is mandatory.
In any case, most experts would agree that a reasonable person could at
least entertain the possibility of a Y2K catastrophe.
The position of this paper is that if there is even a slight possibility
of systemic collapse from Y2K, those of us in the environmental/sustainability
movement should examine the relevance of such a collapse -- and of people's
*expectations* regarding Y2K -- to our movement's many concerns. We may
not be able to predict the future, but we can educate ourselves about the
possibilities in order to respond well to whatever happens.
Thought experiments about social futures are not unlike the mental explorations
we all go through before a camping trip or the purchase of insurance. A
little forethought can go a long way, even when most of the contingencies
we've considered don't happen. This isn't a matter of worrying; it is a
matter of being alert as we move into the future, of making prudent preparations
and wise responses.
The fact that environmentalists have different judgments about the probable
severity of Y2K can actually serve us well collectively, as a movement,
just as biodiversity serves an ecosystem. Whatever happens, there will be
enough diversity of responses among us to ensure that someone will have
plans and resources prepared for what finally ends up happening.
I am writing this article because I consider major disruptions likely. Those
who agree with me will hopefully find my analysis a good starting place
for their own thinking. Those who disagree will at least become more aware
of what motivates their Y2K-concerned colleagues.
In short, this is a call for all of us to pay due attention to Y2K, which
is sure to be a significant event of our era, if only because so many people
believe it will be. Whatever happens, Y2K will shape the context in which
we all do our work. We can't afford to ignore it. It may even -- with our
help -- make a positive difference in the world.
CRISIS = DANGER + OPPORTUNITY
This paper will explore how Y2K disruptions present the environmental/ sustainability
movement with both dangers and opportunities. Any effort to deal with the
dangers or to take advantage of the opportunities will require well-considered,
timely action. The runway to the year 2000 is short, and we would be wise
to keep this in mind as we proceed.
But it isn't just physical time we need. Individually and collectively,
our lives have a certain momentum ('business-as-usual'), a story we believe
we are living, a pattern of habits -- and ego- and goal-investments -- that
make it hard to change. And that's a problem. Because if Y2K challenges
us to do anything, it challenges us to step out of our business-as-usual
-- whatever that may be -- at least long enough to evaluate the extent of
the problem and to notice the increasingly intense voices speaking up about
Those of us who decide that it IS a significant problem face the issue of
finding others to join us in appropriately responding to it. As we attempt
that, we find that everyone else has momentum in *their* lives, as well,
and that engaging them in this giant undertaking is not easy. Hopefully
we will learn ways to expedite people's progress from understanding to active
response -- a challenge in all environmental work, that is particularly
extreme in the case of Y2K.
We will also need to learn how to work together well with people we don't
know well, under considerable pressure. A number of us will be focusing
on this aspect of the problem, but that effort is tangential to the concerns
of this paper, which will start by exploring the opportunities Y2K presents
to us and then explore the dangers, as follows:
1) Conscious interconnectedness
2) Increasing localness
3) Increasing sustainability
4) Transforming the role of technology
5) Focusing on quality of life
6) Social equity
1) Ecosystemic degradation/destruction
2) Environmental toxicity
3) Noise pollution
4) Loss of global environmental research, monitoring
and data distribution capabilities
5) Concentration of wealth/economic power
SOME Y2K OPPORTUNITIES
The vast majority of problems caused by Y2K will come about because
we are artificially connected by and dependent on brittle (unsustainable)
technological and economic systems in which we're embedded. The opportunities
come from a different kind of connectedness -- the natural connectedness
we have to each other and to nature, which awaits our aware, responsible
1) CONSCIOUS INTERCONNECTEDNESS - During the
Y2K era, we can expect increased appreciation for interconnectedness and
increased capacity for systems thinking. Most Americans live under an illusion
of independence. That illusion will be broken to the extent the systemic
supports for that independence are (or threaten to be) undermined. People
who never wondered where their water, food and electricity came from may
be jolted into a recognition that it has been coming from somewhere and
they need to know whether that "somewhere" (grocery story, power
plant, water facility) is Y2K-compliant. They'll wonder what they'll do
if vital systems fail. Where will they get what they need? Some will not
be able to make the shift in thinking and may turn, as our society conditions
us to do, to the government. But the government may well have its hands
full (assuming it is still functioning) and communities may have to do a
good deal by/for themselves. People will have to come home to their connections
to each other and nature, just to meet their basic needs. Even if they flee
to another location, their questions will accompany them.
"Because Y2k, by its nature, forces people to ask basic
their sustainability -- food, shelter, water, power, etc. -- there has
never, in my opinion, been a more important time to mobilize the
knowledge generated by the environmental movement so that people have
options to reach for when they begin to consider their own survival.
Just this last week I received an email from a woman who lives in Tucson
asking a very crucial question: Should she stay in Tucson if Y2k brings
about power disruption. In asking the question she pointed out that
Tucson has only a 48 hour water supply without power. Great
question to have to ask! Although it should have been asked long
ago, there is in the asking a crack in the facade of normalcy which has
weighed so heavily upon our planet's health. Y2K is forcing people
everywhere to ask fundamental questions about their lives and basic
structures in a way that none of us has been able to mobilize before."
-- David LaChapelle, Alaskan environmentalist
This new consciousness, and the urgency with which increasing numbers of
people are asking questions related to their survival suggests that we may
be able to make some rapid progress towards greater sustainability in communities.
In this case, necessity is the mother of sustainability, and it is up to
us to become the midwives.
Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute says that, with the political
will, we could create decentralized micro-grid sources of energy that would
be far more secure from Y2K-related blackouts than our current national
grid. John Jeavons of Ecology Action and Mike Levenston of City Farmer say
that an urban food system could be in place by 2000 that could feed the
cities if the Y2K crisis disrupted centralized food supply systems. Permaculture,
community gardens, bio-intensive mini-farming and community-supported agriculture
could all be promoted more successfully in a Y2K-aware social climate. Bicycles
and barter, co-ops and co-housing, creek restoration and recycling-based
businesses all could flourish. My point is that all these things and hundreds
of others -- all of which are expanding slowly and with difficulty in existing
programs -- could become the hottest options around within months. Are we
prepared to channel people's concern in positive directions? Are we prepared
to meet their demand for goods, services, and information? Are we prepared
to lay the political, educational and entrepreneurial foundations for this
Y2K-triggered breakthrough opportunity for building a sustainable society?
Are we actually ready to invite millions of people into a more satisfying
way of life than industrial civilization could ever give them?
In addition to "increasing consciousness of our interconnectedness"
(noted above), I find it useful to reflect on a number of additional Y2K-related
factors that set the stage for the kind of breakthrough I've described above.
"All sustainable development is local."
-- Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, Inc.
2) INCREASING LOCALNESS - As noted above, if infrastructures
fail, people will have to turn to the people, land and life around them.
They will experience, by necessity, the essence of sustainable community,
of bioregionalism, of indigenous cultures: The Reality of Place. In a Y2K
crisis, many things may have to be done locally because there isn't enough
gas to transport people or goods very far. Organic agriculture may become
more widespread simply because there aren't chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Recycling, reuse and reduced consumption would become more common simply
because goods may be more scarce and precious than they were before. Local
economics and local waste management may become as natural as walking and
biking, all because people don't have any choice. In a broad crisis such
as America's Great Depression or Cuba's embargo shortages, people move naturally
(if reluctantly) towards bioregionalism. If we advocates of sustainability
take the initiative, we can change that reluctant bioregionalism into an
eager, active bioregionalism filled with possibilities. Our initiatives
could provide communities with the means to make "becoming local"
a positive experience -- preparing the knowhow, conditions and resources
needed for people to learn, work and succeed together -- including building
the strong local relationships to which people can turn in a crisis. Now
is a promising time to invoke a nationwide focus on the needs and resources
of local communities.
Interestingly, there is a strong, thoroughly grassroots and self-organized
Y2K community preparedness movement already sprouting up in scores of communities
around the country. Many, but not all of these people, are thinking in terms
of sustainability. Since it is clear to them that individual solutions to
Y2K will not succeed, they're finding ways to work together for community
welfare. They could (and would!) use a lot of what we have to offer, if
we offered it. This is not a time to be hiding our candles under the bushels
of our existing programs, when there are multitudes calling out for our
light. Are we flexible enough to take advantage of this emerging opportunity?
Increased localness would partly come from failed infrastructure in general,
and partly from specific Y2K problems with international trade. Ships, oil
rigs and trains are vulnerable to Y2K failures of embedded chips; Arab countries
and Venezuela are way behind in their Y2K remediation work; and air traffic
control systems and airports are extremely Y2K bugged. It is not unrealistic
to expect that the long-distance trade, exploitation, mining, etc., that
we have struggled against for so long will be severely disrupted -- if not
disabled -- by Y2K. This is one of a number of areas where it may be wise
to shift some of our energies from fighting what we don't like (since some
of that will be done for us by Y2K) towards creating the alternatives that
we do like (since those will be helped by Y2K to the extent we prepare for
it). (I suspect many people will disagree and continue the good fight, and
that is as it should be.)
3) INCREASING SUSTAINABILITY - (See also The
Year 2000 Problem and Sustainability for a more extensive discussion
of this issue.) Already solar power equipment and organic gardening are
popular with the growing ranks of survivalists. Many who are heading to
the country are planning to build eco-communities with friends. The demand
for sustainable technology, understanding and vision will likely increase
rapidly over the next year or two. This is a natural outgrowth of the first
two Y2K opportunities -- people's growing realization of their connectedness
and a need to operate more locally without resources from far away.
Are we prepared to make sustainability a shared vision in every community?
Are we ready to demand it as official policy because
it is a vital part of Y2K readiness at all levels of governance? Laws
need to be changed that block the use of composting toilets, that prevent
keeping of farm animals in cities, that hinder other vital elements of sustainability.
Y2K provides a reason to change those laws. [And the environmental movement's
considerable research and policy capacities could advise which changes would
be best, inadvisable, or highest priority.] Furthermore, prudence dictates
that gardening should be supported along with local storehousing of food,
that solar power should be actively supported along with the Y2K-readiness
of power companies.
Many Y2K community activists speak less of sustainability than of community
resilience (Robert Theobald's term) or of community self-reliance. For our
purposes, all three terms cover basically the same ground, but we need to
stay tuned to the language being used by the grassroots.
4) TRANSFORMING THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY: It seems
that technology has led us further and further out on the limb of unsustainability
-- an impression that has inspired a neo-Luddite reaction. The more people
feel threatened by a serious Y2K calamity, the more intense will become
the debate over the role of technology. We can facilitate dialogues that
help people see that many technologies are useful, but the technological
obsessions and the technical domination of our culture are wrecking our
lives and our world.
There is also an oft-overlooked political dimension to this. Richard Sclove
writes in Democracy and Technology about the undemocratic way
our society makes its decisions about technological development. Technological
progress has so far been dictated by corporate, military and government
decisions in which citizens have little voice. But it is the citizens who
are most profoundly affected. Where are the public forums in which the probable
consequences of technologies can be routinely examined and debated? Why
don't we notice this missing piece of our civic life? Few people know that
in Holland and Denmark -- and now in the U.S. -- citizen technology-evaluation
panels have made radical consensus recommendations about technology policy
-- recommendations acknowledged as valid by government experts. The tools
now exist to bring democracy to our technological decision-making -- and
the time is ripe. Many people are scared, angry and disgusted -- and more
will be so. For the sake of future generations and the Earth, we need to
use that energy to bring ecological and humane values into the process of
5) FOCUSING ON QUALITY OF LIFE: A movement is
afoot to revise our community, national and international measures of success
-- our economic indicators and statistics. The primary global indicator
of healthy economies -- gross domestic product (GDP) -- embodies the reductionist
belief that money is a dependable measure of value. Production that doesn't
involve money -- even vital production like raising one's children, or trees
growing in a forest -- is not included. Meanwhile, activities which involve
money are added to GDP totals even when truly healthy societies wouldn't
even have them -- such as war, cancer operations and oil spills.
In the realm of macro-economics, as in the realm of everyday life, more
people are using the term "quality of life" to indicate what they
find desirable that they want to measure and encourage. Quality of life
statistics measure low crime, good health, and vibrant ecosystems and communities.
Y2K -- which arose out of the blind pursuit of profit, convenience, and
efficiency -- provides a powerful collective "learning moment"
in which to help society reflect on the system in which we live and ask,
with newly opened eyes, "Does this give us the quality of life we are
looking for?" This historic moment is propitious for major change:
In a recent survey on Y2K, 89% of respondents wanted simpler, more decentralized
systems so that their communities could be more self-reliant.
6) SOCIAL EQUITY: If the infrastructure fails, we will
find ourselves very much in each other's company. Now is the time to get
to know our neighbors, to get to know "the other" (whomever that
may be), because we'll be counting on them to help, to work with, and to
not hurt us. Many people are preparing for Y2K with guns, dogs and fences.
If you multiply that out to a whole city, it becomes clear that no one would
want to live like that. But we can't simply maintain all the social inequities
we've preserved for so long with broad middle-class affluence and police
power -- and expect that now, when we're all vulnerable, the have-nots and
abused people will support the wealth, privilege and well-being of those
who have held them down or neglected them. Life in a post-Y2K community
may not be sustainable without real, down-to-earth equity among all members
of that community, and in their relations with the communities around them.
The fact that this can be so readily demonstrated makes Y2K a great context
in which to promote rapid progress towards real social equity NOW.
7) SPIRITUALITY: Whether we're talking human
compassion or deep ecology, spirituality will be a major factor in the unfolding
story of Y2K. As Y2K impinges on our lives, we will be challenged in many
ways -- to share, to let go, to connect, to change, to transcend ourselves
and our habitual patterns of thought and response. More than ever, those
with a profound faith or spiritual practice will stand out as positive models
for the rest, for we will all be beset by the intrinsic and radical uncertainty
of Y2K. The ability to take positive action in the face of that uncertainty
will be a big asset, and that capacity will usually be grounded in spirituality.
The failure of materialist systems and comforts may also throw us creatively
towards the spiritual life.
Y2K won't guarantee the spiritual growth of any particular person, of course,
but it does create a hotbed in which spiritual seeds can be productively
planted, and spiritual lives and communities can flourish. Although spirituality
isn't explicitly an "environmental" issue, I include it because
it forms the foundation for so much environmental and sustainability activism
and I suspect it will be playing an increasing role in that activism in
the coming years -- especially if Y2K brings serious disruptions.
And now let us turn to the dark side -- the dangers that Y2K poses for environmentalists
and sustainability activists.
SOME Y2K ENVIRONMENTAL DANGERS
I am sure there are more possible Y2K environmental threats than I know,
and much more that could be said about each one that I've listed here. I
offer this list only as an introduction to this issue:
1) ECOSYSTEMIC DEGRADATION/DESTRUCTION - Already
many people are "heading to the hills" from the cities because
of Y2K (who wants to be in New York or Chicago in the dead of winter without
electricity, heat, food, water, income, police...?). This is happening now,
and is accelerating thanks to people's belief in the danger of Y2K. This
increased population in rural/wilderness areas will likely stress local
ecosystems -- wetlands, forests, grasslands, etc. -- through housing development,
sewage, roads, even pets.
If the crisis lasts, further ecological impact may happen from the increasing
use of trees for fuel and land for gardening; hunting and gathering activities
that lead to extinctions of native species; war over resources (war is always
ecologically devastating); and many other environmentally damaging efforts
2) ENVIRONMENTAL TOXICITY - There is visible concern
among relevant professionals about the Y2K-vulnerability of toxic-control
systems -- from nuclear power plants to chemical factories to toxic waste
dumps -- which are heavily computer dependent and dependent on
outside systems (electricity, police, government regulation, etc.) which
are themselves dependent on computers and computerized systems. Y2K malfunctions
in any of these areas could lead toxic releases that would be unthinkable
in ordinary times.
Of particular concern are the microprocessors embedded in pumps and valves,
monitoring devices, automated security and measuring equipment, etc. Although
only a tiny percentage of these "embedded chips" are Y2K sensitive,
they are often hard to identify among the billions of other chips in use.
Some of them have hidden date functions, the documentation for which has
long since been lost.
Any increases in environmental toxicity could be exacerbated or spread by
flooding (due to Y2K-fallable dams) and weather extremes from global warming.
And all these toxic dangers are multiplied in most other countries, who
are even less Y2K-prepared than the U.S., and from whose toxics the U.S.
is not immune.
Toxic-related Y2K concerns include:
a) Toxic releases by oversight. Reduced regulation and monitoring by government
-- or reduced funding and/or alertness by companies distracted by other
Y2K problems -- could result in releases simply by oversight. In particular,
in a national emergency, governments may relax environmental regulations
on vital industries, who would then become negligent in their handling of
b) Terrorism: The federal government is already preparing for the likelihood
of increased terrorist activity due to known US vulnerabilities during the
Y2K period. Terrorist attacks could easily involve the use of toxics or
have toxic releases as a side effect.
c) Urban fires may be both more likely (if electricity goes out, many people
will create heat and light with flammables; some may also hoard gasoline)
and more difficult to control (if there are Y2K problems with water supplies
or firefighting equipment). Urban fires are notoriously toxic, especially
(but not only) in industrial areas.
d) Accumulations of uncontrolled, untreated sewage, garbage and other toxic
substances, due to a collapse of the systems that remove, contain and/or
e) Nuclear incidents -- including a non-trivial chance of nuclear war --
including accidental nuclear war from the Y2K-malfunctioning of strategic
early warning systems. (The US military is already talking to the Russians
about Y2K-vulnerable Russian early warning systems. The Norwegians are currently
trying to get wait-and-see Russian nuclear power officials to ensure the
Y2K compliance of their nuclear power plants near Norway.)
3) NOISE POLLUTION - Many people are getting generators
to use in case of loss of electricity. In cities the noise could become
unbearable. In rural and wilderness areas it could be disruptive of wildlife
and ecological consciousness. ("Cultivating ecological consciousness
is a process of learning to appreciate silence and solitude and rediscovering
how to listen." -- Bill Devall & George Sessions, Deep Ecology
) Renewable energy, especially solar, provides a definite alternative
4) LOSS OF GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, MONITORING
AND DATA DISTRIBUTION: Our increasing populations and technologies have
resulted in vastly expanded human impact on regional ecosystems and the
global biosphere (ozone depletion, species extinction, global warming, etc.).
Our sophisticated civilization is capable of tracking and publicizing those
impacts. There could be a significant loss of the infrastructure (or political
will or economic wherewithal) to continue that tracking and publicizing
function (including the gathering and analysis of global statistics), while
many of the environmentally degrading factors would continue or grow worse
under Y2K conditions. (E.g., although there may be fewer cars driving, there
may be more urban fires.) We would be left to deal with things at a local
level, unable to track or influence the degradations and threats happening
further away. The ability to muster broad public opposition/support campaigns
may be undermined by the loss of mass media (or loss of the political responsiveness
of mass media), depowering grassroots work beyond local communities.
5) CONCENTRATION OF WEALTH/ECONOMIC POWER -
The concentration of wealth is an environmental issue. As most environmental
activists know, affluence can buy independence from the consequences of
one's acts - increasing the likelihood of human and environmental abuse.
The pursuit of profit in a techno-consumerist culture naturally results
in a level of environmental abuse, since the environment is seen only as
raw material or context for economic activity. Increasing economic power
provides corporations with increasing wherewithal to influence political
systems and shape the marketplace to support the further concentration of
economic power, usually to the detriment of the environment and efforts
to build sustainable businesses and communities.
While there are possible extreme levels of Y2K collapse which would undermine
the infrastructure needed for centralized control (including multinational
market control), more probable scenarios involve serious but non-devastating
disruptions in which large businesses would have the resources to navigate
better than small and medium-sized businesses, which they would then replace.
This could result in an unprecedented concentration of economic power, leading
to further concentration and corporatization of political power and even
military power. The natural outcome of that could be the separation of artificially
pure environments for the use of the rich and the thorough exploitive degradation
of the majority of the planet.
These are not necessarily things we can prevent, but ignoring them won't
help matters. Alert attention, education, political pressure and preparations
could ameliorate many of them. There are organizations working on virtually
every one of these issues in their pre-Y2K forms. Hopefully this paper will
give those organizations reason to at least add some Y2K-related activity
to their programs,
THE THORNY ISSUE OF GOVERNMENTAL POWER
Most of us want governmental power to devolve towards bioregions, and yet
we depend on centralized governments to counter the power of corporations
and extremists -- even sometimes the unwise majority. Central governments
may well declare martial law if Y2K conditions get bad enough. If centralized
control is undermined, we stand to gain (through greater local control)
and to lose (if the local powers are mafia or militia or corporations).
We need to reflect on this and figure out where we stand before events have
made our perspectives passe.
I have found a way of clarifying for myself the challenge we face. Perhaps
it will calarify things for you, as well. It involves a two-axis scenario
chart which I cannot draw here. You may wish to draw one of your own for
reflection, based on the following description.
I mark the high end of the vertical axis "active public education and
empowerment" and the low end "little public education and empowerment."
I intend this axis to represent how actively progressive forces are utilizing
Y2K to further environmental awareness and sustainability.
On the horizontal axis I write "scattered Y2K disruptions" on
the left and "collapse of centralized infrastructure" on the right.
I mean this to indicate the range of possible Y2K impacts from mild to serious.
Here's how the four possible combinations of these factors translate into
An inactive movement doing little public education and empowerment would,
in the presence of only scattered Y2K disruptions, leave the status quo
pretty much intact -- except with a greater concentration of power in the
hands of multinationals. So I write "An Empowered Status Quo"
in the lower left quadrant.
An inactive movement providing little public preparation would, in the presence
of widespread infrastructure collapse, result in social chaos -- which may
ultimately get herded into order by mafia-like neo-medieval forces. I find
it descriptive to write "A Real Ugly Mess" in the lower right
quadrant. (I could also write "Social Chaos.")
So what difference would it make if an engaged movement used Y2K to do good
public education and empowerment towards sustainability? The chart is pretty
clear on this point:
If there were only scattered Y2K disruptions, most people would probably
return to business as usual -- with an important difference. Millions of
people would be left with understandings and capacities we'd given them
which they would not have gotten had not the catalyst (carrier wave) of
Y2K come along. Chances are, they'd be more ready to face the next crisis
and more inclined to change because of it. So I write in the upper left
quadrant "A More Conscious Population." Such a population may
even be conscious enough to instigate radical changes before the next mega-crisis.
For the upper right quadrant, I imagine the centralized infrastructure collapsing
around an educated, empowered population. What would they do? It seems likely
they'd create resilient communities. We'd see rapid cultural transformation
into something more locally sustainable. So I write "A Transformed
Culture" in the upper right quadrant.
The chart is full. Those are the options I see.
"An Empowered Status Quo"
The difference between the first two and the second two is us, the environmental
and sustainability movements.
"Social Chaos" (aka "A Real Ugly Mess")
"A More Conscious Population"
"A Transformed Culture"
We have before us a gigantic carrot, and a gigantic stick. If the worst
Y2K scenarios unfold, we can rest assured there will be profound changes.
What we do now will have a profound effect on whether those changes will
be benign or disastrous. Even if the changes are mild, the work we do in
the next year could subtly turn the rudder of America so it will not return
to its unsustainable business-as-usual.
The rub is that actions we take later may have little effect. Today is the
day to act. Action now, while the political and social realities around
Y2K are still fluid and forming, will have incredibly greater impact than
action later in 1999. I realize that acting now is difficult, because the
facts of the matter are so uncertain and our current projects are so compelling.
But I urge you to study this problem soon (a good place to start is http://www.co-intelligence.org/Y2K.html
) and figure out what actions you judge to be justified. If you are interested
in dialogue and possible collaborations with other sustainability/environmental
groups or activists, feel free to contact me. I will do my best, working
with colleagues, to arrange timely, productive meetings among those interested.
I think of Y2K as a large wave. I didn't create it, and I may not want it.
But if I try to either ignore it or fight it, it will probably just knock
me off my feet, and grind me over the gravel and sand. If I ride it, however,
I'll have a better chance of staying drier and getting carried ashore by
forces larger than myself. I won't have to work nearly as hard to do certain
things as I would have, had this wave not come along.
Y2K has arrived to give us a hand, before it is too late, shifting our culture
towards sustainability. I pray we can make good use of it.
Tom Atlee is the President of the Co-Intelligence Institute which maintains
the leading website for Y2K-related social change and transformational issues
). He is a lifelong activist who spent a year on the board of Berkeley's
Ecology Center before going to Czechoslovakia in 1991 at the invitation
of the Czechoslovakian Environmental Ministry to disseminate sustainability
ideas, visions and technologies. He co-organized the Who's Counting Project
promoting the film "Who's Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and
Global Economics." He instigated and facilitated an open space conference
on The Natural Step in November, 1997, and facilitated an open space conference
on Local Currencies in January, 1998. He is co-author of Awakening:
The Upside of Y2K.
For further environmental implications of Y2K, see notes from Cynthia
Beal and John Seed.