The lead front page story in this morning's USA TODAY (2/25/99) echoes the grave warnings of Y2K's dangers recently sounded by Senators Robert Bennett and Christopher Dodd. The story summarizes significant international challenges and ends this way:
"A separate, special Senate committee on the Y2K problem is finishing a draft report that says the United States is likely to experience some disruptions in health care, electric power and food distribution."
While every aspect of Y2K's challenge is serious, food is unique and deserves special attention because of the long production time involved. Again, I urge us to think of Y2K's food uncertainties as though we were floating a river and heard an ominous roar up ahead. Do rapids or a great waterfall await us? We don't want to wait until we're past the takeout point to find out. In this case, the takeout point is fast approaching - it's this spring.
This nation MUST, IMMEDIATELY, mobilize a national Y2K food emergency plan.
This plan should:
1. Inventory America's entire food store, plan emergency food distribution as a cushion against Y2K food disruptions, and announce this initiative to the public without delay in order to curb panic. It's time for America's leaders to stop scolding the public for worrying and instead take decisive, responsible steps that make worry unnecessary.
2. Launch a massive "Restoration Agriculture" effort that will enable America's cities and towns to once again feed themselves with food grown locally by a revitalized small farm sector. Presently, America's ability to feed itself is dependent on the vagaries of the global economy, a fragile technological system that makes Rube Goldberg contraptions look robust by comparison, and a handful of agribusiness giants. This represents an untenable compromise of America's national security, surely a departure from the self reliance envisioned by the nation's founders.
Steve Moore, director of The Center for Sustainable Living at Pennsylvania's Wilson College, says the food security of American cities could be restored in three years with a concerted effort. (He notes Havana, Cuba just accomplished this in about two years.) Mr. Moore pledges his organization to assist in this effort. He may be reached at (717) 264-4141, ext. 3247, firstname.lastname@example.org. Andy Fisher, coordinator of the National Food Security Coalition, agrees with Mr. Moore and similarly pledges the help of his organization. Mr. Fisher may be reached at (310) 822-5410, email@example.com.
3. Launch a massive Y2K Victory Garden effort in America's backyards and public spaces similar to the Victory Gardens of World War Two. We should aim for a historic home garden planting this spring, followed by a historic harvest of foods and seeds next fall. (If we see lawns being turned under we'll know we're succeeding; be sure they haven't had poisonous chemicals put on them, however.)
These efforts will be outlined in the forthcoming "All Together Now!" Y2K national community preparedness workbook scheduled to be piloted by Portland, Oregon in April. However, April is too long to wait to take these important steps. By acting now we will accomplish three things.
1. We can help indemnify our families, communities and nation against Y2K's threat.
2. We will help calm nervous citizens by taking prudent, responsible proactive steps.
3. We will honor the legacy of this great nation - a gift purchased with the blood and sacrifice of our ancestors - by restoring the resilience that we surely never meant to lose.
If this approach makes sense to you, forward this message to others, including the media, ask your elected officials to support it, act on it personally by planting a few seeds yourself this spring and buying from local food growers as much as you can. If you can, grow and buy a little extra food to help neighbors who might need assistance; work with your local food banks, churches and other organizations to coordinate this effort.
This should be America's finest hour. Let's see that it is. ALL TOGETHER NOW!.
(NOTE: The writer is Larry Shook, a journalist and Y2k activist in Spokane, WA. He, his wife Judy Laddon and Tom Atlee are the co-editors of "Awakening: The Upside of Y2k" available from amazon.com or The Printed Word, 4327 S. Perry Street, Spokane WA 99203 (509) 624-3177.)