The Y2K debate grows frustrating

The writer is a Church of God member, certified public accountant, enrolled agent and writer on financial matters.

By Drury Sylvester

PRESCOTT, Ariz.--I just finished reading John Ross Schroeder's article on the Y2K computer problem in the latest issue of The Good News, published by the United Church of God, an International Association. Under "What Action Is Required?" he writes that "we can take steps to put our personal lives in order and take reasonable precautions."

Mr. Schroeder continues: "We can face the future. We can get in harmony with God's way of life and begin reaping the righteous fruits that emerge from living according to His laws. Gradually our lives will begin to reflect the remarkable benefits of our new perspective and foresight . . ."

In a sidebar to his article Mr. Schroeder writes: "What will really happen in 2000--and how seriously will we be affected? No one knows for sure. We should, however, stay aware of the problem and current developments, seek the best professional opinion and act accordingly . . ."

As much as I am glad that it is now politically correct to acknowledge Y2K in the UCG-AIA (Cecil Maranville also wrote about it in a recent issue of the UCG-AIA's prophecy newsletter), Mr. Schroeder's article does nothing but explain the problem. It does nothing to encourage people to prepare. Even Herbert Armstrong said we should be prepared to reduce our standard of living.

Should you be concerned?

The response in The Journal to Dr. Gary North's article on Y2K ("Y2K Scenario: Blind Man's Bluff, Anyone?," Aug. 31) was equally disappointing to me. When one juxapositions "It's going to be a problem, but not much of a problem," with "Maybe to be safe you could prepare for a little problem," one sends a clear message that the reader need do nothing.

My question to Journal readers is: What are you doing to prepare? If you do nothing and Y2K is more than a bump in the road, who are you going to blame? The article writers, no matter how bland their pronouncements, will say, "I told you so, so don't blame me!" It could be said that even God would have the right to say, "I told you through my servants." (The GCG, PCG, UCG and CBCOG, The Journal, Servant's News and others have all produced articles on Y2K.)

You will have no one to blame but yourself. You may also have to bear the brunt of the blame given you by others in your family.

You don't think there is anything you can do? That is just plain procrastination (on which I am an accomplished expert, I'm afraid). Anyone can, with no money, over the next six months stock up (today it is stocking up; during a crisis it will be hoarding) almost one month's worth of foodstuffs. Yes, anyone! No extra money!

Y2K on a shoestring

On alternating days just skip one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner a week. Put that food aside. In six months you will have 26 days' worth of food in your pantry. You may even have a thinner waistline, but I make no claims on that.

Most of us, even with limited money to spend, can do much better than that. When canned food is on sale, do you buy the limit and put it on your shelf?

Canned vegetables have a shelf life of about two years. Y2K will be here before then. Does canned tuna ever go on sale in your area? Do you have a Sam's Club or Costco card, or do you know someone who has? Pinto beans and rice are cheap. I have seen canned meat (for the carnivorous), soup mixes, macaroni and cheese (for the younger set) and more all at better-than-grocery-store prices (but not better than grocery-store-sale prices).

What about water? Do you have storage containers? How about old milk or juice containers? If you start now and drink, say, two gallons of milk and other beverages a week, you would have 52 gallon containers in six months. You rinse them out, fill them with water as they become available and refill with water every month. Eventually they will be clean enough.

For safety in a pinch you can boil the water or add just a pinch of chlorine bleach. (Ask your health professional exactly how much.) That would also give you a gallon of bleach to set aside--somewhere safe, of course).

Other types of containers are available too, but I am presenting the anyone-can-do-it list. You don't drink milk? Find someone who does and ask him to save gallon jugs for you. It can be done.

Get some plastic trash cans with lids. They can be set out to collect the rain. Or collect the runoff from the roof during the rain, or collect snow for melting into water. You would definitely want to boil or chlorinate this water before drinking, but it would keep you alive.

How would you boil your water or cook your macaroni and cheese without electricity or gas? Got any wood? What about a propane barbecue grill? Charcoal barbecue? You can get a camping cook burner for under $30 that works with those little one-pound propane bottles costing $2 to $3 each.

Warm food for a month

Two hundred fifty wooden matches run under $2. A stock pot you probably already have. For under $50 you can ensure the ability to heat your water and eat your food warm for at least a month.

Of course, if you regularly go camping you probably have what you need in your camping gear. Keep an adequate supply of propane bottles and Coleman-stove fuel (although it's not the best for storing), and/or keep your propane tank full.

You wouldn't want to waste your water on sanitation, of course; that is where your shovel would come in. Any sharp metal one will do. Home Depot has little ones for under $10. If you're keen on toilet paper (it is certainly on my essentials list), how about buying an extra package each time you buy one for the household? The same goes for soap.

Actually, the same goes for anything you might not want to live without. You can live without most things, of course, but with a little preparedness you don't have to--at least for a month or three months or six months or a year, depending on how much you decide to squirrel away. But you can't live without water for more than a week and food for more than two to three weeks.

You cannot live in winter without a heat source and a way to keep the heat in. You will have to find your own heat source if electricity and gas fail. The propane burner (mentioned above) is not recommended for indoor use. If you have a wood stove or fireplace, great. Store up some wood. If not, propane or kerosene heaters are available, at least at the moment.

Hot drinks are effective for warming the body. Huddling under blankets, comforters or sleeping bags or cuddling with a loved one (my wife's personal favorite) can help keep one warm as well.

One can get Edward and Jennifer Yourdan's book Time Bomb 2000 out of the library and use it to determine how long you think our computers and our civilization may be down. Each chapter talks about a particular segment of our economy and gives one-week, one-month, six-month, one-year and 10-year assessments.

When you have decided which period you are comfortable preparing for, then you can know when you can stop stocking each relevant item. Start now, however, and you can figure out when to stop later.

Play a game

The first step I suggest to get in the mood for this kind of survival planning is to play the following game. Pretend for 24 hours that your electricity is off (only pretend; let's not defrost anything we might want to eat later on), your natural gas is off, and your water is off.

Everything in your refrigerator and freezer is off limits. Your car is stuck in the driveway without gasoline. Your telephone is not working. You have to live off just what you have in your house or apartment, in your pantry, in your garage.

You'll catch on pretty fast. No cheating, now. Unless you have bottled water handy, your water source will be your toilet tanks. Not very appealing, is it? If you "survive" this game you will have taken the first step in learning what you need to do to prepare. If you can't survive this game without cheating, at least you'll know immediately where you need to concentrate your efforts.

Your motto should be "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best." You can prepare! You must prepare! Will you prepare?

If Y2K is only a speed bump in our great civilization's reach for the stars, your preparations will have put you in good stead two ways.

First, you will have forced yourself to save. You can eat your pantry items. You can go camping with your cook burner. You can enjoy a romantic wood fire and huddle under the blankets.

Second, you will have forced yourself to come to grips with how blessed we are by God and with the good life and how fragile it all is. Without the facade of civilization, we can see how much we need God and how meaningless is all that this world--Satan's world--has to offer.

If Y2K is the catastrophe that some say it will be (as I believe), your preparations could be the means by which God has decided to ensure your survival while He works out His plan on earth.

It may even be that you can help others--surely a worthy endeavor--instead of having to rely on others forhelp.

Mr. Armstrong referred to two ways of life, the ways of giving and getting.

Preparation is the way to give to your family and loved ones--and may allow you to give to others in need as well.

Don't be fooled. These are "reasonable actions." Please prepare.

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