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Y2K Street Volunteers

Here's another great approach to Y2K community organizing. Contact the author for details. -- Tom

From: (Guy Dauncey)
Subject: Y2K Street Volunteers

Dear friends,

This is the cover story of the February EcoNews, about the local Y2K Street
Volunteers initiative which we are launching here in Victoria, British
Columbia. Please feel free to circulate as you see fit.

best wishes,

No. 80 Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community FEBRUARY 1999


A few years ago, while organizing a local get-together, an elderly
neighbour told me this story. She had woken up one morning to see a
furniture truck parked opposite her house, with lots of comings and goings.
Full of good intentions, she went across the road, and welcomed the new
arrivals to the neighbourhood. "Oh," the woman said, "that's very kind of
you - but actually, we've been living here for seven years - we're just
moving out."

For millions of years, we have lived in clans, communities and families.
Except in the rarest of situations, we lived surrounded by people we knew
fairly intimately. We joked, teased, played, co-operated, argued, worked
and even fought together - both against our enemies and among ourselves.
When a crisis hit, such as a child dying or some other kind of disaster, we
would be there for each other. We shared in the births, marriages and
deaths - and all the wonderful chatter that accompanied them.

It is only in the last 50 years that we have begun to lose this sense of
connectedness. The change began with the coming of the motorcar. As long
as we were walking around, we met our neighbours regularly - but once we
started driving to and from our homes, no longer meeting at a neighbourhood
pub or café, we started ignoring them.

The instinct to look out for each other is so strong that once we have met
someone, it is almost impossible to walk past them without saying hello.
But if we never formally meet, we can go for years without acknowledging
their existence.

Here's how it happens. A new person arrives on your street. During the
first 3 weeks, you have an opportunity to go over and introduce yourself.
If you miss that opportunity, however, the unspoken assumption is
established that you don't speak to each other. To the ancient self, they
are still 'strangers'.

The instinct for neighbourly support is still there, however. When the big
blizzard struck Victoria two years ago, people on many streets
spontaneously worked together to shovel driveways, clear roofs and fetch
shopping for each other.

Now we face a new crisis, called Y2K, which stems from the inability of the
world's computers to understand '2000'. Since most were programmed to read
two digits for the date of the year, '99' is followed by '00' - and all
over the world, date-sensitive microchips which have not been changed or
upgraded in everything from nuclear missiles to wristwatches to traffic
lights to offshore oil platforms will not know what to do. By one
estimate, if only 5 out of every 10,000 microchips fail because of Y2K, the
result could be 12.5 million to 35 million critical computer failures
worldwide. (Utne Reader Y2K Citizens Action Guide).

On Kauai, the beautiful Garden Island in Hawaii, the Mayor's Task Force on
Y2K is advising everyone to lay in one month's food supply, as a sensible
precaution. At a meeting I attended, representatives from Safeway, the
hotel industry and the food bank shared their ideas on how to ensure that
there would be enough food on the island, if critical supply lines break
down. (Like Vancouver Island, they import 89% of their food). They are also
looking into the security of their oil-fired power utility, and other

Here's the situation. On January 1st, 2000, there is going to be an
earthquake, metaphorically speaking. What we don't know is whether it will
be a 2.5 or an 8.5 magnitude - whether the Y2K bug will produce a few
inconvenient disruptions, or a major breakdown of our food and power
supplies, followed by economic confusion.

In response to this looming concern, a new initiative is being launched in
Victoria and the CRD called the Street Volunteers, as a program of United
Way. We will train people to become street volunteers on the streets or in
the apartments where you live, giving you the skills and support you need
to set up a local street circle, so that you and your neighbours can work
together to prepare for whatever Y2K might bring. (Details inside)

But the Street Volunteers program is about much more than Y2K: it is about
reviving the old instinct for community in general. It is about holding
street parties, and sharing skills and knowledge. It is about working
together to look into things such as traffic calming, backyard gardening,
community parks, neighbourhood wildlife programs, creek restoration,
children's activities, caring for the elderly, supporting single parents
and helping neighbours with disabilities - whatever is relevant on your

We see the Street Volunteers as a wonderful birthday gift to the new
millennium - a way to reclaim our instinct for self-help and co-operation,
a way to build a more healthy, sustainable community - and a way to turn
this strange little millennium bug into a beautiful butterfly.

Guy Dauncey


Would you like to become a Street Volunteer in Victoria, (see cover story)
and set up a Street Circle on the street or in the apartment where you live
? We will be running 6 Study Circles in March, and are looking for 72
people to train as Street Volunteers to set up your own Street Circles in
April. Are you
interested ? If some go on to lead Study Circles, we'll be able to run 18
Study Circles in April, 45 in May, and go on all year long. This is the way
to build a dream ! To find out more about the Y2K concerns, come to the
government's Town Hall meeting on Feb 17th, and the Street Volunteers
meeting on Feb 25th. Whether Y2K turns out to be a mouse or a monster, the
Street Volunteers will live on as a permanent new level of community
participation, and a wonderful birthday gift to the new millennium. For
details, call me, Guy Dauncey, Street Volunteers Director, (250) 592-4473.

Guy Dauncey, 2069 Kings Rd, Victoria, B.C. V8R 2P6, Canada
Sustainable Communities Consultancy
Tel/Fax (250) 592-4473 work (250) 592-4472 home

Publisher, EcoNews,
Author, 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
Victoria Green Pages :