Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
August / September 1999



Mary Romano, 
Lifestyles Education Committee

 Y2K   Food Review   Let's All Pull Together   Xeriscape   Do The Right Thing 



Y2K Preparedness: An Opportunity to Develop Sustainable Communities


Belief in Y2K preparedness extends naturally from my interest in strengthening community and creating sustainability. While there MAY be no major collapse of our socioeconomic structure, disruptions – small and large – are possible and must be considered. Furthermore, our preparations for Y2K will serve as a valuable learning resource in other crisis situations such as tornados, floods and other natural disasters, and man-made disasters. In terms of strengthening our readiness to deal with those crises, Y2K is a learning effort well spent.

We’ve all heard something about “Y2K.” To save disk space, which used to be very expensive, early computer programmers identified dates with only the last two numbers of the year. If not fixed, many computers may crash or generate errors come Jan. 1, 2000, when they read “00” as 1900.

A recent release by the Senate’s Y2K committee urged Americans to prepare for the year 2000 computer bug like they would a hurricane. Among other things, the report recommends stocking up on canned food and bottled water, and getting copies of financial records in case vital services are cut off. The committee notes that major U.S. trading partners and oil producers in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Mexico are also at risk, as are France, Germany, Brazil, Italy and Spain. There is no way to predict the seriousness of Y2K disruptions.

Although Y2K is a technological problem, there is no quick technical fix. Rather, it is a systemic crisis that must be cooperatively and collectively addressed. At risk are energy supplies, food supplies, transportation systems, financial systems, government services (including defense) and general business activity. As effects materialize, unknown interdependencies will reveal themselves. Systemic breakdown will no doubt cause some level of environmental harm. 

Why prepare? A prime lesson lies in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In the weeks before disaster struck, agencies from all over the city conducted an emergency preparedness drill as part of normal civil defense practice. By working together on “practice” disaster scenarios, the multiple agencies created an invisible infrastructure of trusting relationships. When the bomb exploded, those relationships helped agencies work together effectively in the face of horror. As Elizabeth Dole, then-president of the American Red Cross stated, “The midst of a disaster is the poorest possible time to establish new relationships and to introduce ourselves to new organizations.”

Y2K is an opportunity to recreate our communities, to recognize and implement sustainability strategies. This is yet another situation where the best way to help yourself is to help your community. Standard preparedness guidance urges communities to conduct assessments and create contingency plans for disruptions and/or loss of service for: utilities (electricity, water, gas, phones), food supplies, public safety, health care, government payments to individuals and organizations. Special provisions are recommended for “at risk” populations such as the elderly, or those requiring medications.

How can you prepare? Because of the complex, systemic nature of Y2K, individual-centered survival initiatives are probably futile and could make matters worse. This is a community challenge with community solutions—we need to remain calm, educate ourselves and plan collectively to manage disruptions. Wherever you live, you can get involved in Y2K. Begin by asking questions, convening groups of interested friends and colleagues, and promoting the education process.

John Hoff of The Millennium Project suggests maintaining both a sense of humor and a sense of balance. Developing a realistic perspective will help you stay hopeful and optimistic about humankind’s future.

“Y2K Watchwords”

“The greatest antidote to worry, whether you’re getting ready for spaceflight or facing a problem of daily life, is preparation.” Senator John Glenn

“Complex systemic problems are inherently uncontrollable ... traditional approaches to solving them simply don’t work. They require collaboration, participation, openness and inclusion. These new systems’ problems force us to dissolve our past practices of hierarchies, boundaries, secrecy and competition.”
Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers, Codirectors, The Berkana Institute

“All we’re really talking about is polishing up our neighboring skills,” Dr. Kent Hoffman

“The best security you have is a prepared neighbor.” Paloma O’Riley

Y2K is a test. It is a test that humanity must pass. If we do not do our homework and we fail the test, we will be poorly positioned for dealing with what comes next.”
John Peterson, The Arlington Institute

“The Y2K bug provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to ask ourselves the profound questions which have been buried by our wealth and our technology. It is a time for us to ask what we really value and how we can preserve the ecological systems on which all life depends. It is a wonderful time to be alive.”
Robert Theobald, economist 





Food Review

by Vincent Piturro, p&p staff

The Colorado Fresh Markets were the brainchild of Boulder farmer Chris Burke. Burke came to Boulder by way of Chicago, for what he said was a progressive mindset in the area. The Burke farm, run by Chris and wife Michelle, grows all-organic vegetables, including basil, leaf lettuce, radishes, carrots, corn and assorted other products. Burke started the farmer’s markets to increase the marketing sphere of the local farms, to help promote organic growing, and to provide the community with a market where the farmers can sell directly to the locals. The markets have been an enormous success, most notably the Cherry Creek market. Other markets in City Park and Market Street Station have been slower getting started, but have started to pick up. Items such as fresh produce, flowers, breads, sauces and tortillas can all be purchased directly from the farmers. Most of the items were picked, or made, the day before. 

“When you farm organically, you feed the soil. When you use pesticides, you feed the plants,” says Burke. In addition to running the farm, and the markets, Burke and his wife are active in promoting organic farming and distributing literature at their booth. “ The average piece of produce travels 2,000 miles before it reaches the supermarket shelf, and with each day loses more of its nutritional value. At Colorado Fresh Markets, patrons enjoy the most nutritious just - picked produce at the peak of freshness,“ says Michelle. 

Visit and support your closest farmers market this week. It is one large way to directly support local farmers and organic growing. The markets are in Cherry Creek on Saturdays from 7AM to 1 PM, Sundays at City Park from 7AM to 1PM and Saturdays at Market Street Station from 7AM to 1PM. 



Let’s All Pull Together

Come join the Mount Evans and Enos Mills Groups and the Evergreen Audubon Group for a morning of pulling weeds in the wetlands at Evergreen Lake (partially owned by Denver). We will be pulling thistle on Friday, August 6th from 9am to noon, and can use all the help we can get. This is an opportunity for Denver residents to get a closer look at a successful wetlands rehabilitation effort, and perhaps to enjoy a hike in the afternoon in one of the Denver Mountain or Jeffco Open Space Parks.

For more info, call Lyn Yarroll at 303-838-8117 or Cathy Shelton (Evergreen Audubon) at 303-674-8610.


Xeriscape: Water-Wise Yardening

By Fran Baxter

If you’re considering replacing the Kentucky bluegrass in your yard with drought-tolerant xeriscape plants,
the Denver Water Department’s Xeriscape Gardens is well worth a visit. Walk on thyme paths, pause under a hackberry or locust tree, and admire the beautiful color of the ice plant. You will quickly be convinced that xeriscaping is more than yucca and cactus.

Region-Appropriate Landscaping
I can personally attest to the benefits of a xeriscaped yard. About four years ago, we re-planted our front yard to be a water-wise display that even our neighbors would love. No grass. Just trees and forbes with fleshy leaves that efficiently store water, deep roots that stay cool far below the surface and other characteristics that allow them to thrive with very little water. The plants display a rainbow of colors, texture and size all through the spring and summer.

Our perennials required more water the first year than in subsequent years. Last year we watered very rarely and most of the plants thrived. Our primrose and ice plant and dragon’s blood sedum love the bright sun and the low water. It was well worth the replanting effort for the beautiful colors and the lower maintenance.

Not as Tough as They Look
A common misconception about xeriscape plants is that they never need supplemental water. In fact, it usually takes about two growing seasons for plants to fully adapt to their new environment. Xeric plants propagated in nurseries have been raised in lightweight growing mediums with plenty of irrigation and fertilizer. When faced with the hot sun, wind, dry and nutrient-poor soil, and low oxygen, it’s no wonder transplants go into shock. 
To help plants recover from transplant shock and adapt to their new environment, you’ll need to give a lot of extra care at first. The first two weeks are the most important. Check plants daily to ensure adequate soil moisture. Too much water keeps oxygen from the roots and too little water can perpetuate transplant shock. The plant may look wilted in either case, so try to check each plant individually.
Other tips for getting new plants established include:

Do Try This at Home!
Consider the following recommendations for xeriscaping your own yard.
Low-water trees: ponderosa pine, bur oak, New Mexico locust, hackberry, big tooth maple, golden raintree.
Low-water shrubs and climbers: fernbush, smokebush, lilac, native chokecherry, New Mexican privet, Russian sage, blue mist spirea, sumac, Virginia creeper.
Low-water groundcovers and low-growing plants: ice plant, sedum, Mexican evening primrose, blue flax, purple coneflower (echinacea), Rocky Mountain penstemon, wooly thyme, poppy mallow.
Low-water turf grasses: buffalo grass, blue grama, turf type tall fescue.

Need Inspiration?
Go visit the Denver Water Department Xeriscape Gardens at 1600 W. 12th Avenue, 303-628-6329. The Gardens are open to the public during normal weekday business hours. The self-guided tour is well marked and brochures are available at the beginning of the garden.


Do the Right Thing and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”

by Mary Romano

Where can your actions to protect the environment pay off in the biggest ways? How can your efforts be focused for the most effective results?

There are literally hundreds of ways we can lighten our damaging impact to the environment. To help consumers become better eco-decision makers, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently released “The Consumer Guide to Effective Environmental Choices.” Using extensive scientific analysis of how everyday household decisions actually affect the environment, this handy book offers practical advice to consumers. By determining which actions will have the greatest benefit, consumers can make lifestyle choices and changes that make the most sense.

In short, UCS suggests we “Do the Right Thing and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” by spending less time worrying about the minor things like choosing paper or plastic bags, and more time considering bigger choices such as stocking our homes with energy-efficient appliances and buying organic produce from local producers.

Among other things, the guide points out that cars and small trucks are responsible for over half of all toxic air pollution. Their advice: drive less. Choose where you live so you don’t need to drive so much. Also, set concrete goals for reducing your travel and—whenever possible—walk, ride a bike or take public transit instead of driving.

Their biggest suggestion: think twice before you buy that next car. The average U.S. household owns 1.8 cars or light trucks. Do you really need a second or third car?

If you do need to buy a vehicle, UCS recommends choosing one that’s fuel-efficient and low-polluting. Also, buy only as big a vehicle as you need. Consider renting an SUV if you only need it for occasional outdoor adventures. For everyday use, drive something that gets three times the gas mileage. You will likely save enough on the purchase price alone to pay for any rental expenses!

Most Harmful Consumer Activities

Priority Actions For American Consumers

1.Choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive
2.Think twice before purchasing another car.
3.Choose a fuel-efficient, low-polluting cars.
4.Set concrete goals for reducing your travel.
5.Whenever practical, walk, bicycle, or take public transportation.

6.Eat less meat
7.Buy certified organic produce.

Household Operations
8.Choose your home carefully.
9. Reduce the environmental costs of heating and hot water.
10.Install efficient lighting and appliances.
11.Choose an electricity supplier offering renewable energy.

From “The Consumer Guide to Effective Environmental Choices” by the Union of Concerned Scientists.


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