With the advent of the new millennium, prophecies abound foretelling the end of days, and we as a society seem to have a morbid fascination with scenarios of impending doom.
Apocalyptic movies have never really gone out of favour, with recent blockbusters enjoying box office success, from 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow to the more realistically portrayed and critically acclaimed The Road starring Viggo Mortensen. Most of them are basedalthough somewhat looselyon real potential apocalyptic scenarios.
While most of us are happy to just sit back and enjoy the story, there are other people out there battling to try to avert what they see as real coming calamities.
One such man is Michael Ruppert, subject of the new documentary Collapse that was released in the UK by Dogwoof distribution on Friday, Oct. 1. Described as an intellectual horror film, this documentary is essentially a single interview with Ruppert elucidating on what he sees as the coming collapse of society due to its dependence on oil.
Skillfully filmed and edited by award-winning director Chris Smith, Collapse is a riveting watch that is hard to ignore no matter what prejudices you may have. Its confidence invites scrutiny to the issue and will no doubt court controversy wherever it appears.
Criticised by the political right as a scare-mongering, contemporary doomsday prophet and vilified as a conspiracy theorist, Michael Ruppert is an ex-CIA operative and LAPD officer who blew the whistle on government-controlled drug trafficking in the late-70s. Disillusioned with the response to his findings, he abandoned his career in law enforcement and since then his sole concern has been the issue of “peak oil” and the impending collapse of society because of it.
The peak oil theory
The theory goes something like this: “peak oil” is the point in time when the maximum rate of oil extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. Thereafter the gap between supply and demand becomes so great that the cost of producing oil becomes prohibitively expensive, leading to increased prices in everything from a barrel of oil to a loaf of bread. As a result, society will begin to crumble due to the lack of alternative energy and ability to utilise other resources.
Geoscientist Michael King Hubbert created the first peak oil models in 1956 predicting the USA’s oil production would peak sometime prior to 1970. According to the Hubbert model, the production rate of a limited resource will follow a roughly symmetrical logistic distribution curve (sometimes incorrectly compared to a bell-shaped curve) based on the limits of exploitability and market pressures. At first his prediction received much criticism, for the most part because many other predictions of oil capacity had been made over the preceding half-century, but these had been based purely on reserve and production data rather than past discovery trends, and had proven false. Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.
In 1974, Hubbert projected that global oil production would peak in 1995 “if current trends continue.” Various subsequent predictions have been made by others as trends have fluctuated in the intervening years.
The Crash Course by former vice president of Pfizer Chris Martenson goes beyond “peak oil” and looks at society as a whole and surmises that we are indeed headed for collapse but for more reasons than peak oil alone. Based on neo-malthusian concepts, the course, which can be viewed online, investigates the ways in which the economy, the environment, and energy are inter-linked and the damning implications for the future.
Michael Ruppert is one of the most recent to update the peak oil theory to the present time with alarming predictions, many of which already appear to have come true.
Part-prophet, part-journalist, and part-lone-wolf, Michael Ruppert is a true-outsider who has suffered in the name of what he believes is right. Ruppert describes in the Collapse documentary how he regularly struggles to pay the rent and keep up with expenses, but he is not content with sitting on his laurels grumbling about “fair play.” He is doing something about it.
On the back of Collapse’s success in the United States, Ruppert and his colleagues have created Collapsenet, a community website dedicated to connecting similar-minded people who are aware of the peak oil issue.
Ruppert explains: “The only way we are going to survive this is by building communities and sharing resources. We have a directory map with points showing where the lifeboats are. These points indicate people who are already living as if oil didn’t exist and sharing their skills with others who want to be in the best position possible.”
If you ask him about his political leanings he willwithout rolling his eyesset you straight: “It’s not a lefty-liberal issue or anything else for that matter. When this [collapse] is over there will be no political parties, only survivors.
“This is the greatest revolution in human history. Everything is on the table and I mean everything, spirituality, art, philosophy, religion, economy, science, you name it, it all faces the same challenge: will it make it through the collapse.”
His output is prolific with regular video updates and in depth global news analysis through Collapsnet as well as a regular radio spot called The Lifeboat Hour. His latest broadcasts are alarming reports of “currency wars”, massive civil unrest, and cyber attacks, much of which is going uncovered in the mainstream media.
As if leading the charge of the seemingly post-catastrophe society was not enough, he also takes some time to make music with his band The New White Trashalthough the themes are predictably not far from his heart.
“New White Trash is not a euphemism for modern rednecks, the name represents the discarded middle class from the current economic crisis,” he said. “Our music is the music of the post-paradigm, much in the way Woody Guthrie sung about the depression we are doing the same for now.”
“We are now going over the cliff. This [financial climate] is the kind of historic instability that brought us events like World War I and World War II … The advent of $82 barrels of oil is significant as the IMF has acknowledged that this will have huge negative implications for those already struggling with rising prices around the world. We may be even seeing a spike of oil prices going up to $90 a barrel in the next month. All of these signs say pay attention and I’m issuing this as a warning.”
Ruppert’s outspoken and bold predictions have been derided by many, notably Norman Solomon, founder of The Institute for Public Accuracy, and David Corn, regular pundit for Fox News and Washington Editor of US political weekly The Nation. They claim that Michael’s conclusions are presented ambiguously.
Solomon says: “Some of the problem is in how he characterises news reports. These citations can be narrowly factual yet presented in a misleading way. Yes, such-and-such newspaper reported that thus-and-so claim was made by so-and-so. The paper reported on the claim, but that doesn’t mean the claim is true.”
In return Ruppert replies: “Most of our critics … have gone silent as both our reporting and predictions have been completely validated by events.”
It’s easy to criticise what is seen on the surface, especially something as transient as a documentary. Ruppert’s predictions are, however, steeped in years of research and he has published his findings in his books such as Crossing the Rubicon and A Presidential Energy Policy, and more recently Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World , on which the documentary is based.
When challenged with the accusation of being a conspiracy nut his reply is resolute: “I don’t deal in conspiracy theory, I deal in conspiracy fact.”