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#129 - Environet: Communication Link For Local Grass Roots Activists, 15-May-1989

If you have a tabletop computer and a modem, there is a bulletin board
you should be tapping into. It's called Environet and it's run by

At the end of this article, we tell you how to call Environet. In
simplest terms, your computer phones the Environet computer. When
Environet answers, you can sign in and register as a user of the
system. If you are a citizen activist, you probably qualify for access
to an 800 phone number, to make your Environet access free. To request
use of the free phone line, sign on to Environet and send electronic
mail to Ben Gordon, who is System Operator of the "Toxics" section of
the bulletin board. Tell Ben about your local group and about your
personal involvement at the local level.

Once you dial into Environet (whether you're paying for the call, or
it's free from Greenpeace), you gain access to a group of services that
reside on the system. There are four ongoing "Conferences," or series
of discussions on related topics. There's one on disarmament, one on
toxics, one on wildlife, and one called "stepping lightly on the
earth"--the relationship of personal lifestyle to environmental damage.

The Conferences provide a place where like-minded people can trade
ideas and information on topics of concern. One person posts an item
for everyone to see, often asking a question or making an announcement.
Others who look at the item can respond to it; the next person who
looks can see the responses that have been posted, then can add a new

There is also a private message service on Environet. Any user of the
system can send private messages to any other user of the system. When
you dial in, the first thing you learn is whether new messages are
waiting for you to read.

There are other services on the system as well. Here, we'll focus on
the ones of interest to toxics activists. For example, every day,
Environet offers current environmental news from around the world,
highlighting those events that Greenpeace considers most important. In
addition, every few days Ben Gordon puts new documents into the "files"
section of the Toxics Conference that he oversees. These are useful
chunks of information on issues of concern: landfilling, incineration,
and so forth. Access to these materials alone would make Environet
worth tapping into. In addition, we now put each issue of RACHEL'S
HAZARDOUS WASTE NEWS into the files section of the Toxics Conference.

In short, Environet is rapidly becoming an important source of
information for grass roots activists. But even more importantly, it is
beginning to form a communications network among activists, so people
can get quick answers to pressing questions by asking each other for
help. In the next couple of years, we expect to see Environet become
the hub of a communication network spanning the entire grass roots
toxics movement. Here's why:

The most effective information you can use in your local fight is dirt
about your adversaries. When you go before your local County Council or
Planning Commission to oppose the XYZ Corporation, which has just
proposed an incinerator or a dump or whatever, you will almost
certainly be outgunned by XYZ's scientists and lawyers. They will
dazzle you with obscure facts and fancy footwork.

However, if you present evidence that the XYZ Corporation has a leaking
dump in Ohio or is under indictment for illegal dumping in Florida or
was cited for mail fraud in Vermont, you can clobber them in your local
hearings. No matter how many facts they present, no matter how much
fancy dancing their lawyers may do, if they've got a bad record
somewhere, you can nail them.

A computer network offers the only efficient way for local activists to
get their local information out to other local people who need it. The
computer remembers everything. The material can be indexed by subject.
You can tap into it day or night, whenever it's convenient for you. No
more telephone tag: when you call, it answers and is available to talk.
The computer is never "in a meeting," and has never "just stepped out
for lunch."

The key to a successful computer network is lots of people dialing in
regularly, to get help or to see who needs help, or just to chat.
Environet is perfect for this purpose, because it is so quick and easy
to use. With a 2400 baud modem (which now costs less than $200--see
below) and free 800 phone access, Environet can become your low-cost,
high-speed link to the entire spectrum of skills and talents embodied
in the growing movement for environmental justice. But remember this:
Environet won't reach it's full potential until you dial in and start
to participate.

We think this is so important that we believe people should purchase
computers just so they can join the Environet network. (Of course, you
would then be able to start using your computer as a word processor
instead of your old typewriter, and you could start keeping your
group's mailing list straight--so Environet wouldn't be the only
benefit if you took the plunge.)

To dial into Environet, set your communications software for 300, 1200
or 2400 baud, 8 data bits, no parity, and dial (415) 861-6503. It's a
San Francisco call.

Which Computer Should You Buy?.

People often ask us for advice about computers. The cheapest usable
system you can get is an IBM look-alike. It's true that the Apple
Macintosh is easier to use and--if you can afford an Apple LaserWriter
printer--gives you true desktop publishing, but it costs twice as much
as an IBM clone.

With an IBM-type system you can get everything you need for about
$1900. For example, one mail order house, Tussey Computer Products, in
State Park, PA, offers the following prices: the Swan XT10 computer
with 20 megabyte hard disk and monochrome monitor for $979; a good
24pin printer (say a Panasonic Model 1124) will cost roughly $350. They
sell a Swan 2400 baud modem for $149. They also sell the software we
prefer: WordPerfect version 5.0 for word processsing costs $219. For
your mailing list, Q&A software costs $194. Tussey's phone is 1-800-
468-9044. This is simply one example of the prices you can expect to
pay. To check out other mail order prices, pick up an issue of PC
MAGAZINE from a news stand.

This particular mail order house does not sell our favorite
communications software, which is Procomm Plus; it lists for $75 but is
widely discounted.

--Peter Montague



The next Wrenching Debate will take place June 2-3 in Minden, West
Virginia, 50 miles south of Charleston. Minden is a mining community
contaminated with PCBs. Local people have organized themselves to fight
for cleanup, buyout and relocation. They could use help from people on
the outside who can come to Minden to join in a weekend of rallies,
citizen hearings, a memorial service, marches, protests and
strategizing. For further information, contact Larry Rose: (304) 469-
6247; Sue Workman: (304) 469-9122; or John David: (304) 469-9936.

--Peter Montague


Descriptor terms: environet; investigations; computers;

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