rn: comments on “collapse scenario”


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,  Aug. 8   

We have had several interesting comments on Sviatoslav Zabelin's call to
action and the "collapse scenario" idea, enough actually that this message
will be unwieldy if I include them all in their entirety.

The first one, below, from Greg Guma, editor of _Toward Freedom, is an
excerpt from a column he wrote on the Y2K problem. 

From: <•••@••.•••>
Date: Tue, 4 Aug 1998 19:59:07 EDT
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: hand pumps!

Maybe I've missed something in this dialogue, but it seems to me that the most
plausible collapse scenario relates to the technological meltdown that could
occur on 1/1/00. That it coincides with other millenarian predictions may or
may not be coincidence, but I believe that we ignore the possibility at our
peril. I'm all for grass roots organizing, but I don't think that technology
provides a reliable or sufficient vehicle. Even if Internet activists are
still hooked up in the next century, they'll be an elite group hoping to
"airlift" change onto communities. How can a technological vanguard hope to
compete with the people who invented and still control the system? And what
about the billions who aren't part of this process?  

Anyway, here are a few of my thought about the possibilities of collapse, from
my Maverick Chronicles column. It's for a general audience and perhaps a bit
elementary, but the point may be relevant in this debate. 

Big Trouble in the Year 00

We're just over 500 days from the most spectacular, positively global
bash ever. In New York's Times Square, the fun officially begins at 7
a.m. on December 31, 1999, as the year 2000 dawns in the South
Pacific. Throughout the next 24 hours, revelers will watch giant TV
screens flash images of people around the world, all greeting the new
century in their respective times zones. In Southern California, the
festivities will be well underway by then -- a three-day blow out called
Party 2000. Expected to draw an estimated 2.5 million people, it's
being billed as the biggest New Years Eve celebration ever held on
planet Earth. 


Just moments after the cheers, however, expect to experience just
what that word -- interdependence -- really means. Here's how it could

When their internal clocks fail to roll over, many computer systems --
both large and small --begin to crash. Power companies experience
outages, brownouts, and power surges that wreak havoc on entire
regions. If you're vacationing, forget that return flight: Most airlines
aren't operating, waiting to check the integrity of air traffic control

Since the new millennium begins on a weekend, the full effects aren't
felt until January 3 -- the first business day. At that point, affected
banks begin informing customers that their account and payroll
information has been temporarily lost. The day's top news story: Major
industries and parts of the federal government are shut down. Will the
IRS still be able to process tax information? Will Social Security and
other agencies have the capacity to issue checks? Who knows. 

Even though only twenty percent of business and government
computers crashed at the same time, the impacts are immense. Due to
failures in the supply chain, manufacturing slows to the crawl. For
many businesses, billing systems become unusable. With ground and
rail transport disrupted, food shortages are quickly felt in major cities.
Faced with medical equipment failures and lost shipments, some
hospitals must deny non-essential treatment. In some places, they
struggle to provide basic care in pre-technical ways. The rolling wave
of failures continues to cascade around the world, touching people who
never imagined they were so linked to one another. 

Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it? Yet, this may only be the
beginning of what to expect as the world experiences the impacts of
Y2K -- also known as the Millennium Bug. 


Fixing such problems will be incredibly expensive. Just repairing the
Department of Veterans Affairs health care system is expected to cost
over $50 million. The total price tag for the US government -- that's
just federal agencies -- will be at least $4 billion, says the Office of
Budget and Management. But that estimate is way low, since more has
already been spent and most agencies are behind schedule.
Worldwide, the direct costs could reach $600 billion. When
subsequent lawsuits over everything from stalled elevators to
malfunctioning nuclear plants are added, we're talking trillions.

Still, the real problem isn't money. Even with unlimited funds, it just
won't be possible to locate all the chips and reprogram all the
computers before this non-negotiable deadline arrives. That's why
companies that can afford it are already spending hundreds of millions
to replace entire computer systems. While this would seem to solve
their internal problems, however, it won't protect them -- or us -- from
the impacts of technological interdependence. As the crash of Asian
markets recently illustrated, failure in one part of a complex system
usually exposes previously ignored levels of interconnection. 


Apocalypse or Renewal?

The probable impacts of the millennium bug have been hot topics on
the Internet for more than a year. Yet, so far the general public has
been led to believe that it's just some minor technical glitch,
exaggerated by the paranoid and those who believe that the end of
civilization is just around the corner. At the recent congressional
hearing, Senator Christopher Dodd went as far as any political leader.
"It's serious," he said. But then he added the predictable clarification --
no one will die -- and warned that "we ought not to be putting people
in a sense of panic.'' 


Of course, the scenario most leaders and large organizations prefer --
despite mounting evidence to the contrary -- is that technical failures
will be isolated and public panic controlled. Basically, nothing much
will happen. But that "official future" is the least likely of all. A much
more devastating possibility is that a massive technical breakdown will
spark worldwide social disruption. It's the latest version of the
"apocalypse" scenario so familiar from movies and books. 


Fortunately, there's yet another scenario. Call it the "renewal" or
"unity" option. In this one, we realize that the solution isn't a technical
fix but instead a creative, global collaboration that breaks down the
artificial barriers between us. Rather than struggling in vain to isolate
problems, while competing for resources and protecting our personal
turf, we truly acknowledge our interdependence and create a
worldwide, cooperative network before it's too late. This means
replacing secrecy with full disclosure, thus reducing distrust and the
tendency to withdraw into various forms of survivalism. In
communities, it requires broad participation in the development of
contingency plans that deal with the expected disruption of services.
But if it's going to work, business behavior also must change;
competition just doesn't cut it when the issues are how to maintain
power grids or keep the food distribution system functioning. 

Some people may still decide to break away. In South Dakota, for
example, hundreds of families are creating a self-sufficiency
community called Heritage Farms 2000, a so-called "safe haven" based
on independence from outside energy sources. According to founder
Russ Voorhees, we need such model communities because "our
economy is on a collision course with a destiny that creates a high
likelihood of severe fiscal depression at millennium end." While the
notion that post-modern pioneers can avoid the impacts of Y2K may be
naive, their emphasis on building community, helping neighbors, and
shifting toward a barter-based economy has considerable merit.

Despite what some fundamentalists claim, the world isn't likely to end
as all those computer chips go to 00. But just as 1500 was a turning
point in European history -- a painful emergence from the Middle
Ages and the opening of that period of intellectual rebirth known as the
Renaissance -- the year 2000 will bring on profound changes that alter
many aspects of our lives. The main challenge is to learn the lesson of
our impending millennial meltdown before it happens; that is, the
futility of clinging to obsolete boundaries in an interconnected world.
Ready or not, we're all in this together. And the possibilities? Well, we
still have about 500 days to figure that out.

Greg Guma is the editor of Toward Freedom. Maverick Chronicles appears weekly
in the Vermont Times, To contact him, read other Maverick articles, or browse
TF, visit the magazine's website at www.towardfreedom.com


Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 1998 14:23:21 -0300
To: •••@••.•••
From: David Cameron/Nancy Sherwood <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Preparing for the "collapse scenario"

>>snip Key crew members
>on the ship Titanic failed to heed the warnings given to them."

Indeed. It feels somehow silly to be "building an ark" as it were, when
everyone around me is busy getting on with life as usual.snip<<

The Titanic, the Ark, how apt.
And I know what the hand-pump person meant by "feeling silly". And indeed,
the next days postings on the subject has people telling him & us how
inappropriate, pointless, etc. it is to act on our survival instinct, cry
wolf, try to get others to WAKE UP and take collective action.
On other lists I am having my quest for collective understanding and action
on this issue stifled on the basis that its not germaine to the lists.
"Excuse me, the power may go off unexpectedly!"

When indeed the boat is sinking or at least tilting precariously, we don't
need a wait & see admonition, or to be told that since there aren't enough
life-boats for all, we should continue to look for grander, more inclusive,

I suggest we walk on 2 legs. It is clear both inside & outside this list
that the problem is real and the ramifications range from "mild
disruption"(whatever that means) of short-term duration, to a possible
"return to the dark ages"(somewhat more graphic at least).

So look after yourself and the ones dependent on you-lay in the appropriate
short-term emergancy supplies, food, water, flashlights, garbage bags, 1st
aid, blankets, tent(even in the city),etc., and TEN good friends.

The second "leg" is for telling people what you know/think may happen and
help make it safe to be silly(ie, prepared). Tell your local political reps
and your friend that is inside the welfare system, or the friend who knows
a guy who assigns the story ideas at the local paper. Find out how well
supplied the food banks in your area are & volunteer a bit more. Keep on
doing this good work & start identifying the natural sensible leaders
locally-where I live the volunteer fire dept chief is probably our best bet
for cool-headed and able leadership in any real emergency. Have a
conversation on this subject with such people. Attend local meetings & see
where & how local democratic processes could be made more truly democratic.
In any conversation, try to link the perceived emergency to the overarching
global context that it is a symptom of. This is very important and furthers
the work of this list.



Box 95 Riverport
NS  Canada BOJ 2WO
902 766 4129
Date: Tue, 04 Aug 1998 15:09:02
To: •••@••.•••
From: Elinor Mosher <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Collapse Scenario

Re: suggestions --              

1.    - assist the development of all forms of local democratic
>self-government, mutually beneficial, self-sufficient local economies,


2.  -      - enhance the access of essential life-affirming information and
>develop the spread of environmental education, 

I think there is a great deal of this going on now, certainly on the internet.
Example: the proposed linkup between Monsanto and the Grameen banks was
apparently forestalled by wide protests to the Grameen people. The fear was
of the damage done to poor farmers, because of the prevention by Monsanto of
seed-saving and the cost of seed to these people.

Two places I find useful info: World Watch magazine and yearly summary, and
<www.dieoff.org> chiefly concerned about oil/energy depletion.    

2. Just looked up the subscription to World WAtch magazine:

" Subscriptions to World Watch are $20 per year (6 issues) in N. America.
  To subscribe, send payment with name, address and phone number to WORLD
  Box   879, Oxon Hill, MD, USA 20750-0879"  That's in American dollars, so it
  isn't cheap, but it is very good. They have a website at<www.worldwatch.org>


I am not a professional person. I am a retired grandmother living in the
valley, learning what I can on my own. However, I am concerned. (I do write a
weekly column for an American online paper, the American Reporter.) 

 You can read American Reporter at <www.american-reporter.com>
   My columns aren't about political or financial matters. I don't feel
qualified to  write on those things. They are miscellaneous items. I try to
get across the idea  that the value of life is in ordinary living, not in
overdone, "glamorous" type of faraway activities, looking off in the
distance. (And I am pretty hard on the advertisers!)