Pacifica documentary on Y2K


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    Sept. 18

It seems that many people have been inspired by the news from Arcata which
Paul Cienfuegos sent us. Because of the high interest in that piece, I will
send along another piece Paul sent us, with information on how to order some
excellent-sounding videos from JusticeVision. The person who is behind
JusticeVideo, Ralph Cole, thanks Pacifica stations for their support. The
item below includes a transcript of a documentary on community preparedness
for Y2K from Pacifica Network News.

all the best, Jan

Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 21:48:29 -0300
To: •••@••.•••
From: David Cameron/Nancy Sherwood <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: exciting news from Arcata, CA

Dear Jan, the Arcata piece was brilliant!
here is another California piece from Mike Gurstein in Cape Breton(& now i
know that i am a "y2k community organizer". Identity-crisis over!):

          Pacifica Network News
September 4, 1998
Phillip Babich
phone: (510) 251-1501
pager: (510) 330-7006


        As the year 2000 approaches many institutions are making
preparations for the computer millennium bug known as Y2K.  Programmers are
scanning through millions of lines of code to correct a decades-old practice of
indicating calendar years with 2 digits rather than 4.  As it stands
now, when 1999 rolls over into the year 2000 some computers will think
it's 1900 or will simply crash.  Microprocessors in appliances, cars and
other machinery are also susceptible to Y2K.

        Meanwhile, community organizers across the United States are
leaving nothing to chance, predicting the possibility of wide-spread social
collapse as power grids go off line and the monetary system freezes up.
But looking beyond mere survival tactics, these organizers see the
millennium bug as an opportunity to promote a more sustainable vision
for the future.  Phillip Babich reports.

00.00   AMBIANCE 1

        [SOUND FROM MEETING.  Coordinator asks: "How many think Y2K is
no big deal and it will be handled?  How many don't know what really will

00.11   NARRATION 1 (00.44)

        It's lunch hour and about three dozen people are gathered inside
of a community art gallery in Berkeley, sharing ideas about what do when and
if the Y2K computer bug strikes.  They're not alone.  Across the country
-- from Oregon and California to Massachusetts and Florida -- more and
more groups are meeting to discuss Y2K.  Some tackle nuts-and-bolts
survival issues: how to store water, what dried food to buy.  Others
have more of a visionary bent, looking at Y2K and its potential for
disrupting the systems on which we've all come to rely as a defining
moment for transforming society.

        Mary Ann Gallagher had been working in Silicon Valley as a
computer design manager for ten years.  In February she quit because she
realized that Y2K was going to be a big problem -- an earthquake as she puts its
-- and dedicated all of her time to community preparedness.

00.55   GALLAGHER 1 (00.20)

        ["Most people think in Silicon Valley that it's going to be a
speed bump, don't worry about it.  It seems to be cities like Boulder and
Berkeley and 88 others that have serious groups considering what may be
the alternatives if the infrastructure goes down and we need to draw
together as communities."]

01.15   NARRATION 2 (00.38)

        If food distribution, financial, and telecommunications systems
are down -- as some experts predict -- how can neighborhoods not only cope
but create their own exchange systems that will be insulated from future

        Among the critical areas community organizers are most concerned
about losing in the event of cataclysmic failure are electrical power and
water.  In the San Francisco Bay Area the region's main power supplier,
Pacific Gas and Electric, has been working on the Y2K problem since
1995.  According to spokesperson, Dianna Gapuz, P.G. and E. is on
schedule for making its computer and power distribution systems Y2K

01.53   GAPUZ 1 (00.32)

        ["We expect to complete remediation of the critical software
systems here at P.G. and E. by the end of 1998 and we expect to complete testing
of those systems by the third quarter of 1999.  We just recently
completed our inventory of embedded systems and our schedule calls for
the completion of assessment of all critical embedded systems and
repairing and replacing those by the fourth quarter of next year."]

02.25   NARRATION 3 (00.10)

        As for water...the East Bay Municipal Utilities District is
predicting minimal Y2K impact.  Spokesperson Charles Hardy says that water
should keep flowing to homes and business in the new millennium.

02.35   HARDY 1 (00.18)

        ["A lot of testing is going on and has been going on for months
and I guess that's one reason why I speak with some confidence that we feel
that it's working in all the reports we're getting back from all the
various groups and work groups that have been assigned to it.  Either we
have everything in hand or it's close to being there."]

02.53   NARRATION 4 (00.38)

        Nonetheless, some neighborhoods are bracing themselves for the
worst. Despite a utility company's best efforts Y2K could get them anyway,
according to some Y2K observers.  Virtually every system is dependent on
another system, whether its electricity, telecommunications or
agri-business.  According to some Y2K analysts, if any link within those
systems fails there could be widespread effects.

        In light of this, people like Gallagher are operating on the
assumption that "something" will happen when the year 2000 hits and that no one
knows exactly what that "something" is.  Lois Jones, a former planner
for the City of Berkeley, says preparing for Y2K opens the door for
alternative economic models.

03.31   JONES 1 (00.22)

        ["I think that the Y2K is one excellent opportunity for us to be
looking beyond the year 2000 to create more sustainable local economies
and more sustainable local business practices and neighborhood groups.
The more that we treated it as an opportunity the better prepared we're
going to be."]

03.53   NARRATION 5 (00.25)

        One way to promote local economies, say some organizers, is to
institute a local currency system.  There are already several models in
place in the United States.  The most notable is in Ithaca, New York,
where over $50,000 worth of "Ithaca Hours" are in circulation..
Neighborhood activist Lawrence Schectman is working on a local currency
and barter system in Berkeley.  Participants in the program could
exchange work or material goods using printed currency or an accounting

04.18   SCHECTMAN 1 (00.33)

        ["It's the idea to decentralize your currency down to the city
level. What I've discovered is that decentralizing to the city level is, in
fact, not decentralized enough.  You have to decentralize to the
neighborhoods because in order for people to ask each other for favors
or to interchange with each other they have to know each other; they
have to trust each other.  A skill inventory and a local currency is
very useful to get people who are already in contact with each other
that much closer and that much more useful for each other."]

04.51   NARRATION 6 (00.28)

        Other possibilities include breaking from the power grid and
building alternative energy sources such as solar plants.  Although this sounds
like a massive undertaking, Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute
in Oakland, California, says if resources were dedicated to such a task
experts believe it could be completed.  Atlee, who is working with
groups across the country to prepare for Y2K, also says that cities
could establish farms and gardens that would produce enough food for the

05.19   ATLEE 1 (00.26)

        ["Experts in bio-intensive agriculture and urban gardening say
that if we were to really pull up our boot straps and go for it we could, in
fact, create an entirely alternative agriculture system within cities
and towns where people were growing the food that they needed locally
and that that would be possible in the next year and a half if we really
focussed on it."]

05.45   NARRATION 7 (00.15)

        Cynthia Beal in Eugene, Oregon, has already started on turning
this goal into a reality.  For years Beal has been running the Red Barn
Natural Grocery and supporting  sustainable agriculture.  Now, Y2K has
given her greater incentive to increase her food production.

06.00   BEAL 1 (00.34)

        ["I've been farming and learning what that's like, and building
a relationship with several wonderful farmers and gardeners.  We've opened
up and are getting going a cookery inside the store that is geared to
making more of the foods that are normally processed so that when the
demand comes it will be something that we can service if there's an
interruption.  And if there's not an interruption then we'll simply be a
healthy food manufacturer."]

06.53   NARRATION 8 (00.19)

        Beal's what-have-we-got-to-lose attitude seems to be a common
denominator among Y2K community organizers.  If nothing else, they say,
at least by preparing for the millennium bug you'll get to know your
neighbors.  Or, as one organizer put it: "You don't think your house is
going to burn down, but you still by home insurance."

        For Pacifica Network News, I'm Phillip Babich in Berkeley.
Phillip Babich                  phone: (510) 251-1501
Managing Producer               fax: (510) 251-1342
National Radio Project          •••@••.•••
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Oakland, CA  94612

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