Public dialogue on the year 2000 problem has centered around its potential impact on businesses and government and 'the economy.' Little attention has been paid to the potential impact on communities--which are, after all, where we live--and on what preparations would be prudent to support communities (that's us!).
Please use these questions. If enough of us ask them in public forums, we can trigger vital community-oriented public dialogue and public policy on Y2K. And please, today, share them with your friends and associates. The sooner these questions get asked by lots of people, the faster we'll get creative responses. Feel free to print, publish, broadcast, distribute, or use this material in any way that you think will stimulate positive approaches to Y2K.
Now is the time for us to demonstrate to politicians and officials at all levels that citizens are aware and concerned about Y2K. Our representatives should be educated about what needs to be done to prepare for potential disruptions. We have designed the following questions to lift Y2K into the political dialogue. Before each question, we provide an opening background statement questioners may use to inform their audience and the politician or official. Then we give the question, phrased to get politicians and officials to say how they will handle the Y2K issue being raised.
Government officials may be asked these questions any time, especially at public meetings. If they're asked these questions repeatedly, we'll probably see coordinated government responses to Y2K rising to the top of everyone's agenda. We suggest you have your local groups attend public meetings, call in to radio and TV talk shows, write letters and ask these questions. Together we can launch our constructive Y2K agenda into the national consciousness. We can push officials to:
? help us get more information about basic infrastructure readiness,
? address how Y2K will affect communities, and
? encourage communities to work together to prepare for disruptions.
We could also send these questions to the offices of public officials, saying that we're spreading them by e-mail. We can suggest that the official prepare answers. We might even provide a website that has all the answers (our answers) on it. (Unless they do their own research and come up with their own answers, which is also fine.)
Statement l: The year 2000 problem may just be a big inconvenience, or it could really mess up our lives and communities. I want to know how the important institutions we depend on are doing in fixing their computer systems and embedded microchips. Most companies and governments are holding back information. They don't answer our questions--or they give us PR responses or legalese that doesn't tell us where they're at. They leave us no choice but to prepare for the worst, because we have to assume that they're really behind and are going to fail in January 2000. We should be able to know what is really going on; or at least they could tell us that they don't really know what will happen in January 2000.Question 1: What will you do to make it easier for citizens to get real information about how companies, utilities and agencies are doing in their preparations for Y2K?
Statement 2: Lots of people are getting pretty scared about what might happen on January 1, 2000, when some computers and microchips break down. Already there are signs that thousands of them are heading for the hills, stocking up on dried food and planning to take all their money out of the banks. This sort of stuff will probably get worse during the next year.
Question 2: What will you do to prevent widespread panic and dangerous runs on banks and stores, without impeding people's ability to prepare for Y2K?
Statement 3: Last July President Clinton cited a Wells Fargo survey that showed that of the small businesses that even know about the year 2000 problem, roughly half intend to do nothing about it. Most of the jobs in our economy come from small businesses. They make parts and provide services that are vital to the operations of big businesses. If lots of small businesses fold, our economy is done for.
Question 3: What could you do to make sure that the small businesses in your constituency are well prepared?
Statement 4: The North American Electrical Readiness Council stated in a September 1998 report that 64 percent of electrical utilities in the U.S. are only 30 percent through their Y2K repairs, and 36 percent of utilities have no plan at all. Many people think there is just not enough time for them to complete this work. It is also likely that nuclear plants, (which are 20 percent of our generating capacity) will have to be shut down because their safety cannot be guaranteed. If we lose our electrical grid we will have severe infrastructure and supply problems.
Question 4: What will you do to ensure that the United States (or your local region) has electricity (or backup systems) in January 2000? In particular, do you support the establishment of local micro-grids and government incentives for sustainable, locally self-reliant energy systems like solar and wind power?
Statement 5: Many people who live in urban areas are very concerned that even if they prepare by storing food and water, large populations of poor or unprepared people could lead to widespread social unrest. We could face severe social disruptions and even violence if basic services and supplies are unavailable. Proposals have been made that the federal or state government establish warehouses of food and supplies in the inner cities to prevent this scenario. We could use schools for shelters and involve churches and businesses. There are all sorts of things we could do.Question 5: What will you do to help us work together to prepare our whole community for Y2K? (This can be asked even if it is a state or national official, because state and national policies can help or hinder community collaborations.)
Question 5A: What would you do to ease racial and class differences during the period of intense stress we'll probably experience with Y2K?
Statement 6: A significant number of people are moving to the country because of the year 2000 computer problem. If these migrations become large, or if computer failures release toxics or radioactive substances (which the EPA has publicly expressed concern about) or if governments and businesses just get too distracted by Y2K work to pay attention to the environment, the environment could be hurt pretty badly.
Question 6: What are you going to do to ensure that we don't have toxic leaks or nuclear accidents because of Y2K? What do you propose to do to protect the environment from Y2K-related damage?
Statement 7: A lot of experts are saying that hospitals are threatened by the year 2000 problem--that some of their equipment has embedded microchips that might fail, or that computers might not be able to do important calculations with patient records. And the agency that handles Medicare payments is not ready for the year 2000. Furthermore, some medicines might become hard to get. I've heard that 70 percent of the world's insulin is produced by one company in Europe.
Question 7: Do you know how they're progressing on their Y2K preparations? What would you do to ensure we have adequate health care in January 2000?
Statement 8: The media likes to play games with the year 2000 problem. One day they'll say that it isn't a problem, and the next day they'll publish some scary millennial survivalist story. They paint pictures of how divided people are about Y2K and they seldom actually investigate what's behind the claims of officials, corporations, and fear-mongers. And a lot of good stuff that's going on--like concerned citizens getting together to prepare their communities--never gets reported. The Internet is filled with good analysis and documentation, but also with wild doomsday rantings and false reassurances.
Question 8: What will you do to get the media to give us the useful information, inspirational stories and good guidance we need to get our communities ready for the year 2000? We can't really do it without their help.
Statement 9: Many people are concerned that our entire infrastructure could be threatened, especially if the electrical grid goes down, because the entire system is completely interdependent and a failure by telecommunications could bring down the electrical grid, all banking, and emergency services.
Question 9: What will you do to ensure that the basic, vital infrastructure we all depend on will function well into the year 2000, at least in our area?
Question 9A: What will you do to ensure we have water, sewage disposal, waste disposal, basic energy supplies, food, public security, health care, care for the poor, elderly and infirm, adequate public transportation, a functioning local economy, a functioning justice and prison system, increased self-reliance and resilience as a community?
Tom Atlee, president of The Co-Intelligence Institute, believes Y2K is an opportunity to improve and transform ourselves and our culture. His website (www.co-intelligence.org) and the book Awakening: The Upside of Y2K(1998, The Printed Word), coedited with Judy Laddon and Larry Shook, have inspired hundreds of people to engage creatively with Y2K. Awakening is available from 509/747-8776 or Amazon.com.
This document is also available on the Web at: www.co-intelligence.org/y2k_politicianQs.html