Collapse

Wake up, time to die
★★★
☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Chris Smith
Starring: 
Michael Ruppert
The Setup: 
Extended interview with Michael Ruppert, detailing the ways in which civilization is we know it is going bye-bye.
Discussion: 

My friend and I have fallen into a groove of sending each other articles about particularlly grim social and environmental issues, invariably under a subject line including "DOOM." This movie would fall under that category, as it is particularly dire that we are all in incomprehensibly huge trouble.

The movie begins with a title telling us that the filmmakers sat Michael Ruppert down for an interview for a film on drug smuggling, but he ended up having a lot of other interesting stuff to talk about, and that became this film. Ruppert is a former L.A. cop who became an investigative journalist. His parents were in the military, and Ruppert was surprised at one point to discover that he has "Q Clearance," which is a step above "Top Secret." Throughout the movie he is shown chain smoking, which begins to add to the overall message, an unspoken statement of "Why not? We're all screwed anyway."

The core of Ruppert's concern is Peak Oil. That is the belief that we are at or near the peak of available oil left in the planet, and this is much more key to the turning of civilization as we know it than we realize. Oil isn't just for fuel, it is in every piece of plastic, everywhere. It is in paint. It is in every piece of rubber, everywhere--like on all the power cords in your home. It is in a great deal of consumer products--including FOOD. One car tire contains nine gallons of oil. So ending "our reliance on oil" doesn't just mean we don't have cars or take public transportation, it means we don't HAVE cars or public transportation or ANYTHING we use to go about our lives.

Ruppert shows a chart that correlates the rise in oil processing with a meteroric rise in human population. And if you follow environmental issues you know that India and China are quickly becoming much more industrialized, and moving into the lead of oil consumption. However, oil production has begun to decline by 9%. Ruppert notes that Saudi Arabia has 25% of the world's oil--and THEY are starting to drill offshore, which indicates that the wells on land are in serious decline. Ruppert says that OF COURSE the Iraq war was all about gaining control of their oil reserves--but that their reserves represent only 11 days worth of current U.S. consumption. There is talk of opening up the Arctic and the Alaskan tundra for drilling, but both of these come with serious drawbacks--even to oil production, not just to the environment. As I'm writing this we're two months into the Gulf oil catastrophe, and many of the challenges emerge from our drilling that deep. Well, Ruppert would say, the very fact that we're drilling that deep shows how desperate we are. Back in the 70s, the president and others publically acknowledged that the world was running out of oil--then all that talk went away, and we started hearing that everything is juuuuuuust FINE. Because of the central place of oil in every aspect of our society--not just products, but things like growing food [running tractors] and shipping that food--civilization as we know it would completely collapse if oil production declined.

But what about alternative fuels? We hear a lot about them, which can lead to a false sense that solutions are at hand, but the reality is they supply a tiny percentage of what is needed. Electric cars? Sweet, but electricity needs to be generated somewhere, and that generation requires oil. Wind farms? Awesome, but they can only be located in certain areas, and then the electricity needs to be delivered to areas far from the source, which isn't really feasible. Same problem with solar or water-generated electricity. Ethanol? Nice idea, but producing it requires far greater energy than we can get from it. Oh, and what about carbon sequestration and other methods to capture greenhouse gases? Extremely problematic--we're going to find empty spaces underground and pump gas there, then just hope the earth doesn't shift, like, ever? Not to mention that there simply aren't enough spaces underground, as well as that developing countries, rising to the lead of polluters, aren't doing a thing about any of these problems. So while alternative fuels and methods of reducing greenhouse gases may get a lot of press, that can provide the false impression that these solutions are viable, or in some way equal to the task, which is far from the case. Soon after I watched this movie, articles appeared in science journals with the headline: Americans in a Fantasyland on Energy.

There's a fair amount of material about Ruppert himself, how he started publishing his views and gaining followers, which resulted in FBI interest and his offices being raided, computers destroyed. At the end of the movie, he has stopped maintaining his website and is said not to have the money for next month's rent.

So what can we do? Kiss your ass goodbye, basically. Ruppert predicts massive "population reduction" when all this stuff really hits, and suggests that now is a good time to pay off all debts, go buy some land in the middle of the country and FARM. Then get ready to defend yourself against attack by those who did not prepare. He predicts the insolvency of the FDIC and bankruptcy of the Federal Reserve. If you read a decent newspaper [i.e. not USA Today, not the New York Post] you have surely noticed articles about America's crumbling infrastructure, which NOTHING is being done about, as well as states coming close to bankruptcy, police and school and public transportation losing funding and forcing layoffs. And when politicians come on the news and say "there's no way we could have predicted" the mortgage crisis or other financial and social calamities, Ruppert says "they're lying through their fucking teeth."

Toward the end of the film, the wear of just watching such a long interview with one guy starts to wear, and that distance creates space for you to start wondering who this guy really is, what evidence he has, aside from the government breaking in to destroy his computers and such, and why we should believe him. The movie doesn't supply any answers to this, it just kind of leaves you to decide such matters on your own, and I can respect that. Especially since if it did try to build an airtight case, the focus would start to be on punching holes in it, diverting from the matter of what Ruppert actually says.

Also on the DVD is a featurette called "Collapse Update," a title which I found vaguely humorous, that catches up with Ruppert in the year or so since the movie was filmed and the DVD came out. Basically he recounts all the other things he predicted that have come true in the meantime, and talks about the support and followers he has gained since the film came out.

So, an interesting and ominous watch, and one that might actually lead you to look up Peak Oil on Wikipedia and try to find out more, in contrast to the complacent, "Now I'm informed, and someone else will take care of the problem" feeling most documentaries leave one with. So, if you want to hear a very pessimistic view that you don't hear in the mainstream media, check it out. And buy gold. But not before I do.

Should you watch it: 

Yes, it covers a topic you don't see much about in the mainstream media and is very interesting.