Remote Living, the Human Unity Conference, and Ham Radio

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PHOTO: MADALEINE MACDONALD
Copthorne Macdonald, the inventor of slow scan television, understood that ham radio was an indispensable communication medium for people in remote living situations.

New Directions Radio is an
international network of radio amateurs concerned with those ways of
using ham radio (and related modes of communicating) that promote our
own growth as individuals, and which we perceive as helping to create a
more aware, more caring, and more responsible human society. We
encourage all who share these interests to work with us. 


Remote Living and Ham Radio

I
recently received a letter that I’d like to quote in this column. It
ought to help erase any lingering doubts folks might have about the
compatibility of ham radio and a back-to-the-land lifestyle. It also
introduces a subject that I’ve been wanting to bring up: the 2-meter FM
mode of ham communication.

The letter was sent by Jerry Rosman, KA7FTN. He wrote:

“I
wonder if most MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type people fully realize how much an
FCC amateur radio license can help a family cope with the problems
inherent in remote living. Our radio not only makes our `bush’ life
safer and easier, but also gives us access to a worldwide arena for the
exchange of ideas and information as well as a fantastic source of
solutions to problems.

“Up here in
Washington’s North Cascades–in a deserted 1890’s gold-mining town–my
wife and I and our three youngsters live 26 miles from the nearest phone
or powerline, and 14 miles from our ‘next-door neighbor’! We’re
isolated by deep snows, landslides, avalanches, and washouts for five to
six months of the year, and we often have to snowmobile 12 miles–one
way–just to find the start of the plowed road.

“As you can imagine, then, amateur radio is much more than our hobby. It’s our lifeline!

“We
produce 10 KW of AC power with a hydro system fed by a glacial stream.
This provides `juice’ for (among other things) an IC 255A 2-meter
transceiver with an 11-element Cushcraft beam. We’re able to hit 14
repeaters in northwest Washington and the Puget Sound area, which–in
total–cover about 200 miles of coastline from below Tacoma to Canada.
We’re also involved in repeater groups with telephone autopatches, which
give us immediate personal and emergency communications with points
outside our remote valley.

“Two weeks
ago, our three-year-old son spilled airplane dope thinner in his eyes.
Within minutes the telephone autopatch had us talking with a doctor in a
hospital emergency room, whose advice helped us save the boy’s eyes
from permanent damage. We’re also a way station for hundreds of hikers,
climbers, and tourists who roam the high peaks. In the last three years
we’ve had 46 backpacker-related emergencies, and they were all handled
quickly and neatly with the help of our amateur radio.

“Furthermore,
if we have an electrical, electronic, garden, animal, or homestead
problem, the mere mention of it on 2 meters will usually bring advice,
counsel, and experience that often save us countless hours of
trial-and-error experimentation!

“It
takes time, effort, and study–plus some bucks–to become a ham operator,
but for most back-to-the-landers the investment will pay for itself a
millionfold. Ham radio can introduce folks in isolated locales to a
whole world that many people don’t even know exists!”

Many
thanks, Jerry, for sharing your experiences and feelings with us!
Repeaters, telephone autopatches, beams, and 2-meter transceivers can
all be incorporated into a very neat medium-distance communication
scheme. The 2m FM band falls between 144 and 148 MHz in the VHF
portion of the radio spectrum. Communication is pretty much “line of
sight” on this band, and–for years–it was used mostly for short distance
local communication.

A few years
back, though, several enterprising hams realized that they could greatly
extend the range of their 2-meter stations by putting relays atop high
hills, buildings, and mountains. Today there are hundreds of these
repeaters dotted all over North America. And tens of thousands of hams,
like Jerry, are able to plug into the regional 2-meter party lines.

More on the Human Unity Conference

Any of you NDR folks who haven’t yet read Marilyn Ferguson’s book, TheAquarian Conspiracy, might want to do so between now and July 23rd. The profound, lucid, and very positive volume will be the central focus of the 8th International Human Unity Conference being held at the University of British Columbia from the 23rd through the 26th. Ferguson’s work is by far the clearest statement I’ve seen dealing with the post-sixties movement toward saner lives, deeper understanding, and a better world. Marilyn will be in Vancouver to contribute to the discussion, and ham radio will be there too, giving people who live far away a chance to participate in the conference.

In fact, the logistics of the Human Unity radio hookup has been taking shape for some months now. The Canadian Government has even provided a special call sign, VE7HUC, for the conference station. Herb Clark (VE7COC), my octogenarian activist friend, had a hand in turning the notion of a hookup into a reality, and has been our ham-on-the-scene in Vancouver during all the early preparations. Howard Silsdorf (WB7AQP) and Rob Southcott (VE7BRS) have also been busy, working out such details as the operating schedule for VE7HUC. Other assistants include Rick Glaese (N7ANL) and Robert Stonne (K6PZ1).

I’m pleased to be able to report that the in-person and on-air conferences will interface in several ways. First, any attendees who are interested in the radio sessions will be encouraged to get actively involved in them. In addition, our on-air conversations will be taped, and the best of those discussions will be shared with the folks at the conference. And finally, taped highlights of conference sessions will be used to add stimulation and focus to the NDR discussions.

So if you can’t be there in body, stretch your ears and voice with ham radio and join us on the air beginning Thursday, July 23rd. Your local bookstore probably has copies of The Aquarian Conspiracy. If not, the book can be ordered from Houghton Mifflin.

Peace, Cop Macdonald (VE1 BFL)