(This post is a part of a series of documentaries I’ll be reviewing.To follow: Food, Inc. Previous reviews: Transcendent Man, The Cove, and Inside Job. [Note: I decided to review Collapse in place of The 11th Hour, but I’ll be sure to check that one out as well.])
A man aboard the Titanic starts building a lifeboat as he suddenly becomes aware of its gloomy fate. Around him, he encounters three passengers.
The first is panicked and confused. “Woah, the ship’s been hit! What do I do, where do I go?!”
The second realises what the man knows too well and asks if he can help him build the boat.
The third rushes past the so-called doomsayers and decides to head to the bar for a drink. “This is the Titanic,” he says as he goes. “It’s unsinkable!”
Michael Ruppert is the man building the lifeboat in Collapse, and most of us — perhaps alarmingly — are currently the third passenger. When this ship starts sinking, we might just be wishing we’d helped Ruppert build his boat.
Ruppert, a former LAPD detective and publisher of a widely popular whistleblowing newspaper, can be called a prophet, doomsayer, a wolf-crier — something he’s been doing for the past thirty years. But even he admits a sad, devastating fact — he’s been right a far too many number of times (most recently, he predicted the subprime mortgage bubble in 2005.)
I’m no fan of snake-oil prophesying doomsayers. But what makes Ruppert different is his insistence on a simple fact not even his worst critics can deny: We as a society surpassed our peak oil production forty years ago and are well on our way to the other side of the bell-curve. This, as our reliance on oil has doubled over the last 25 years.
It’s just oil, though, yes? So, big deal, you might say. Worst case, we’ll discard the Hummers, rock aboard the Prius. And anyway, until then, there are those reserves under the Arctic. The oceans! We’ll drill. Bio-fuels. Ethanol. Nuclear. Wind. Solar. See? Nothing to cry doomsday over.
Well, does Uncle Ruppert have a thing or two to point out to you.
First: oil’s everywhere and in everything. Plastic. Paint. Pestisides. Toothpaste. Toothbrushes. In fact, fuel tank aside, there are seven gallons of oil in just the tire of your car. It’s no denying that human civilization today cannot exist without it, unless we’d be willing to go back to times where electricity barely powered lightbulbs.
Second: there are no major oil reserves left to be discovered in the world.
The last major one, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, was discovered back in 1948. In fact, Saudi Arabia, which accounts for 25% of all the oil reserves on the planet, is now itself moving into off-shore drilling, which is risky, expensive business — five to ten times more expensive than land drilling, and barely worth the investment.
So, what about the rest? Again, I’ll leave it to Uncle Ruppert to explain.
Ethanol: “Absolute joke.” It takes more energy to make it than to burn it.
Clean coal: “No such thing and never will be.” It involves the insanely impractical carbon sequestration, which is the capturing, compressing, and storing of carbon dioxide in a reservoir someone, someday will magically figure out what to do with.
Nuclear: “Too expensive and slow.” It takes fifteen years just to get the permit for a nuclear plant, and building one requires a large amount of energy — particularly oil.
The only two practical energy solutions, Ruppert says, are wind and solar, but even they too have their share of problems.
Wind, because of the cost of transmission, is only useful nearest to its source. We need a lot more — perhaps impractically so — solar panels for their energy to be viable to us at scale.
Anyway, if the picture isn’t clear: In terms of sustaining our current habitat, we’re doomed. The only optimism is if you believe — like I do —that human ingenuity and technology can somehow prevail before the impending doomsday, but for Ruppert, even that’s out of the question because it coincides with what he terms “the laws of physics.”
Aside from oil, Ruppert has a lot to say about other things in the documentary — conspiracies about global warming, the economy, governments — but I’ll leave that untouched, for I think the restating of the mere facts he presents is itself enough to get his points across.
What’s quickly worth going over: Ruppert’s lifeboat for doomsday. When this collapse occurs, he says, don’t try to stalk up on baked beans or run for the hills. Buy, store, and plant organic seeds. Occupy any land near you and start farming it. Work in communities or families. Either that, or prepare for Darwinian deselection.
At one point in the film, Ruppert breaks down and starts weeping. It is then that you see a man who knows his fate, and the fate of his people, a little to well. Despite having spotted the iceberg and prepared well in time, he just felt a big thump, and it didn’t feel good. Sadly for him and for us, this might just be the beginning of the end.