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What can I do about Y2K?

Important Note: The Y2K scene is constantly changing. I have chosen to focus on finding and creating materials to help people use Y2K for personal and social transformation. I have found that trying to keep general Y2K pages like this one updated takes a tremendous amount of time. Since there are dozens of sites that do that job better than I ever could, I've decided to refer you to them and to spend my time on what I do best -- collecting materials on transformation. Good sites to keep up with current genral Y2K information include: Wild2K, Douglass Carmichael's site (see especially his archived weekly newsletter), the Napa Valley, CA community group's site, Alan Lewis' Y2K Pages: Y2-KO or Y2-OK?, Larry Sanger's Daily links to and intelligent summaries of 6-10 top news stories about Y2K, Westergaard, Peter de Jager's site and the comprehensive news source Y2Ktoday. The most current information related to community preparedness will be found at sites such as Y2K Community, The Cassandra Project, Coalition 2000 and Robert Theobald's website on community resilience. You may also want to track some personal preparedness sites. This page probably won't be revised much, but many of the pages referenced at the beginning (immediately below) will. I wish you good luck in your explorations. -- Tom Atlee

There are literally hundreds of things you can do, and dozens of sites that tell you about them. Most other web sites tell you things you can do more or less on your own. (For a fun family preparedness approach see Y2K Scavenger Hunt.) Some contain guidance for corporate survival, investments or Y2K technical remediation.

This site is different.

This page is about taking action in your community

(For quick ideas about what you can do, check out Nancy Schimmel's thoughts.)
(For a good summer 1998 focus, check out Tom Atlee's two realms of Y2K action.)

Below are two articles that propose answers to the question "What can I do about Y2K?" -- plus some suggestions on how to talk with other citizens and officials about Y2K. We will post other "what to do" ideas as they are created over the coming months. (Click at the end of this sentence to read John L. Petersen, Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers' ideas about what leaders, organizations, and communities can do about Y2K.) (For a detailed community plan, take a look at Santa Cruz County's Y2K Community Planning Document.) (For community-related political action see Y2K Questions for Campaigning Politicians and Elected Government Officials.) See also: Neighborhood plans as a Town [a model]

A list of things you can do about Y2K,
starting now, right where you live and work.

This list was compiled by
Ian Wells (,
Karen Mercer (
Tom Atlee (

  1. Keep notes. Keep a diary. Write to friends about what you're thinking, feeling, and doing. (Check out some of remarkable examples of this.) Keep files of significant articles and other documents. This is a historic time. Use your notes to help understand the changes in yourself and others, and in the world around you, and to communicate better with others. You'll notice other people going through many of the same stages you went through, as they come to terms with this issue, and you can help.
  2. Begin exploring Y2K with the people and groups in your life. Talk about it in your spiritual or religious community, neighborhood, organizations, businesses, media, all levels of government -- anyone you are in relationship with. Discover who else in your world is thinking about it, and who is open to thinking about it in the ways that feel constructive to you. If you need to "convince" people, consider using material from the compilation Is this Y2K problem for real?. (See additional suggestions on outreach, below.) (If you want to help businesses prepare, use the Small Business-Owners Year 2000 Readiness Checklist.)
  3. Be aware of and honor emotional reactions -- your own and others'. It isn't easy trying to think about something of this magnitude. Be patient. Find ways to process emotions -- your own and others'.
  4. Gather and integrate useful information. You want information that will help you and those your are connected with think and respond constructively. You want information that will help you utilize your particular gifts and inclinations. You want information that will support your ability to strengthen your community, prepare for eventualities, and make a lasting difference towards a more sustainable culture. Ironically, the most dynamic and thoughtful big-picture information seems to be available online. (A good web site to start with is the Co-Intelligence Institute's Y2K-breakthrough site, the one you're in now.) If you are not computer literate, find a friend who is. If you don't have Web access at home or work, most libraries now offer it free.
  5. When encountering information in the established media, be aware of the lack of systems thinking... the unasked questions... the limitations of space (or air time)... the absence of critical analysis, implications, understanding, meaning... possible conflicts of interest... as well as how genuinely complex this issue is.
  6. Trust your own sense of things. Use your capacity for critical and creative thinking.
  7. Use and enhance any spiritual or body/mind practices that are customary or appealing to you. Use meditation, prayer, vitamins, exercise, music -- anything that helps you feel stronger and more connected to your deepest self and the spiritual dimension of Life. Any work you do on the Year 2000 problem will be a challenge, and it is good to have some added strength and resilience.
  8. Build community in all the ways you can imagine. Hold a block party: If things get tough, it's good to have met your neighbors under less trying situations. Create a Y2K committee in your local neighborhood; having a group name helps in all sorts of ways to talk to others. Rendezvous at a local diner, informally sharing ideas with others who want to act on Y2K. Brainstorm. Seed the idea of Y2K preparedness into local earthquake or flood preparedness or neighborhood crime watch groups. (For examples of how other communities are doing this sort of thing, click here.)
  9. Write to government officials at all levels encouraging them to focus on preparing the key infrastructure you and your community will need to carry on. (Harlan Smith tells how this might be done and provides guidance for you to alert your representatives and government agencies.)
  10. Organize community self-reliance. This includes whatever will help your community (and those around it) to supply its own food, water, waste management, transportation, health care, public safety, shelter, energy, currency, communications, decision-making, statistical indicators, etc. The goal is not community self-sufficiency (off the grid independence) but an increased capacity to rely on each other and the community-as-a-whole that will enhance your community's ability to manage whatever comes up. Things like renewable energy, community gardening and composting, community supported agriculture, biopurification of water, local currency and trading systems, block organizations -- the sorts of things you may have been wanting in your community all along. (For a taste of the kind of issues that may come up during a significant breakdown, click here.)
  11. Investigate areas of risk, and focus on helping people do their jobs. For example, a concerned Massachusetts citizen discovered that his local water department wanted an emergency generator in case the power went out. Once he knew the situation, he was happy to lobby for them.
  12. Work with the Red Cross to prepare emergency shelters at your school, church, etc.

If you need a one-page handout to introduce people to Y2K,
I recommend The Year 2000 Fact Sheet compiled by Kay Hagan and Cathy Hope -
the best one-page summary I've found so far (other nominees welcomed!)

Here's some additional advice on outreach efforts:

Robert Mangus wrote to Ed Alpern:

Could you please elaborate your approach to getting the serious attention of local "authorities?" Asking direct Y2K readiness questions sets up immediate defensive responses to the query. My interpretation: It's denial of the issues. Your insight and success could prove helpful in breaking this wall.

Ed Alpern responded:

My approach at least initially, and I hope continuously is one of seeking to
collaborate and support local officials. I have had some success in bringing
to their attention professionally oriented web sites such as "Industry Forum"
for electric players on Rick Cowles site; or information of potential
solutions etc. These are offered with the hope that it will ease their work
load as well as motivate them to pick up the ball and run with it. If at least
half of the time I can't imagine even remotely why the "recipient" of my
communique would want to hear from me then I know that I am doing too
much prodding and not enough supporting.

Some of my guiding principles: Make a human connection to the person(s) I am
with in person, on the phone, and by email. Some times I have a newspaper
photo of them and will have that out as I communicate with them. There are
times that I feel frustrated with some public official but I attempt to
drop/work through that before communicating. I certainly would not want their
job and at least make an attempt to imagine walking in their shoes. I am not
always successful doing the above but when I do it does seem to help.

Sound communication is a key and starting out where the person is at and
matching them so that there can be some place of common ground and rapport
seems almost essential before attempting to lead in a particular direction.
Then looking/listening for their response and sensing where to go. Finding
something I agree with in what they say and acknowledging that and then going
on or simply pausing and savoring that. I doubt that this is anything new to
all of you, yet I find that I need to remind myself of it frequently.

Patience is tough for me but also seems to have its rewards as what I am after
is really building relationships and piercing through some of the denial and
hanging out in the uncomfortableness of what is known and what is not is for
me best sustained in the context of relationship. My context here is probably
a great advantage in that I live in a town of 18,000 with a larger city of
60,000 15 minutes away. I love my town and take pride in it as is true
of many that choose to live here. Often I can use that place of common ground to
build from. I also can use at times the common ground that all I touch have
families and all have what they care about and love that they wish to
sustain and protect.

So unfortunately I don't have any magical approach to suggest and really so
far can not claim any vast successes. Some seeds are being planted and
nourished. They are still tender and fragile and it is tough knowing that they
may not mature in the time that remains for us all individually and
collectively to take action. As in so many other things it is a delicate

Edward Alpern (

To which Chris Apgar responded:

Good write up! I have a couple of added suggestions:

* If you community publishes a newsletter (county, city, etc.),
run an article explaining the problem, current status and what citizens,
local businesses, etc., can do to address the problem.

* Include a "solution" or course of action when making any
presentation regarding Y2K. People tend to go into denial faster or
move to the panic phase (leading to inertia) faster if no solutions are
provided. [Consider Harlan Smith's approaches, noted above.]

* Contact local radio stations & request an interview (if you
become known in your community, more than likely they will come looking
for you).

* Form partnerships - strong partnerships take time but are
essential to successfully addressing interface, supply chain, etc.
issues. Also, if you build a strong coalition and you need to apply
political pressure to obtain resources to address your community's Y2K
problem, you are more likely to be successful if you are a member of a
strong coalition.

* Schedule town hall meetings to discuss Y2K, especially inviting
small to medium sized businesses (per Gartner Group and the federal
government, the group at greatest risk of failure).

* Encourage citizens through various forums to question retailers
when purchasing a new product (VCR, home fax machine, PC, etc.). Every
time the question is asked, awareness increases. [Better yet, get people to
give retailers the Small Business-Owners Year 2000 Readiness Checklist.)

Chris Apgar, Year 2000 Project Manager
Multnomah County, OR

See also: Community Preparedness: Phase One by Larry Victor and Santa Cruz County's Y2K Community Planning Document.

For what it's like for a city official to try tackling Y2K without support, read this writeup of the history of the Y2K problem in a mid-sized midwestern town (North Platte) and the problems in getting it solved. (You have to scroll down to the article on this linked page; it isn't obviously there.) A full case study can be purchased on line for $15.

The excellent 120 page Utne Reader Y2K Citizens Action Guide is available on line free or in a lovely orange booklet for purchase ($4.95 each at bookstores or 50 copies for $57.50 ppd. from Utne)

Things You Can Do About The Year 2000 Problem

by Norman Kurland

This article is lifted from the Millennium Salons Q&A Forum. You can contribute your own answers to the question "What can People Do about The Year 2000 Problem" at that site.

1. Ask governments at all levels, particularly your local government, what is being done to address the Y2k problem. Ask them what contingency planning they are doing to prepare for any serious problems that may arise after December 31, 1999. Urge them to adopt measures to insure that basic infrastructure (electricity, water, food, medical and emergency services, and communication) will function. Seek out opportunities to help either professionally or as a volunteer. [Again, Harlan Smith's approach can be useful in this.] [See also How to push for Utilities' Y2K readiness and Grassroots and Governments Collaborate to Prepare Their Communities for Y2K]

2. Ask candidates for office what they will do to address Y2k problems. [If they aren't familiar with the issue, or don't take it seriously, use Is this Y2K problem for real? and other materials on this site to tell them about it.]

3. Ask your employer what it is doing. If the answer is nothing or not enough, urge -- no, demand -- that action be taken immediately. Your job is at stake. Offer your assistance even if you are not a programmer. As 2000 approaches there will be many non-technical tasks to be done such as developing alternatives to computer-dependent services.

4. Use only banks, credit card and insurance companies that guarantee that they will be 2000 compliant. Have in writing all financial records before the end of December 1999. Pay all bills due in January 2000 by mid-December, 1999.

5. Check to be sure that every device you own that may contain a computer chip (computers, fax machines, programmable thermostats, microwaves, VCRs, autos) will function after the turn of the millennium. Do not do any testing unless you know how and take proper precautions, such as backing up all data. Check your computers and software for Y2k compliance. Don't buy any electronic device or software that is not guaranteed to be 2000 compliant.

6. Don't travel, particularly by plane, over the transition week-end. Try to avoid hospitalization during January 2000.

7. If you are a business owner, manager or director be sure that your firm is addressing the problem and that employees have the resources necessary to do the job on time. Be sure that all your suppliers and any others with whom you do business will be functioning properly after December 31, 1999. (See the Small Business-Owners Year 2000 Readiness Checklist.)

8. Invest only in companies that are working on the problem now and that will be fully compliant by 2000 (or, even better, by January 1, 1999, so they will have a full year to test their systems.) Check to be sure they are assessing the Y2k status of suppliers, customers, and others on whose viability their profitability depends.

9. Select investments that will retain value if there is a Y2k-induced recession. [Note from Tom Atlee: For the breakthrough-oriented investor, this would include all forms of sustainable technology such as renewable energy, local recycling operations, organic detoxification and purification systems, etc., as well as sustainability/breakthrough books and other information sources. Survivalist-type food and gear might also be a good investment. If you are extremely socially conscious, you might maximize the social -- rather than monetary -- return on your investment and consider directly supporting community- and breakthrough-activists.]

10. Develop contingency plans for your family, your neighborhood and business in case there are electrical power outages in early 2000 and shortages of water, food and other essentials. During 1999 gradually build up a supply of non-perishable food and other essentials. That includes cash to meet basic expenses in case your bank is closed or pay or pension checks do not arrive in time.

11. Do not panic. Wild rumors will be rampant as the millennium approaches. Check them out. If the community works together and takes reasonable precautions, everyone will survive.

Thanks to the many people whose ideas helped in formulating this list.

Norman Kurland Listserv Moderator: Y2k and Social Responsibility Sponored by CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility) To subscribe send a message to In the body of the message, write: subscribe cpsr-y2k yourfirstname yourlastname Web site For list Archive