One Scary Film: COLLAPSE

Ransom Riggs

Collapse is a 2009 documentary about the ideas and predictions of a man named Michael Ruppert, a former police officer and investigative journalist. Some people call him a crackpot, others a prophet -- regardless, his ideas demand attention. Primary among them is an argument that the profound and absolutely unprecedented population spike of the last 150 years or so was a direct result of the discovery and exploitation of oil. Oil and petrochemicals have made many, many things possible -- oil is in a lot more of what we use every day than just our gas tanks -- and all signs point to the fact that we're running out of it. And when we do -- when the commodity that precipitated the population spike is gone -- there's only one way for that spike line on the world population graph to go. Down.

As a sort-of-hopeful coda to the film, Ruppert recalls the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. There were several nations who depended entirely upon Soviet oil, the flow of which stopped abruptly after the USSR dissolved. Two of those nations were Cuba and North Korea, which Ruppert uses as examples of the right way and wrong way to react to the end of oil.

North Korea froze. Their political structure was far too rigid and they didn't move quickly enough to address the crisis. They had this top-down food distribution system where most people got their groceries from the government -- and when the oil stopped, and their economy collapsed, the food distributions stopped, too. People starved to death at an amazing rate. Something like three million people died. Kim Jong Il stationed army units in every town in the country just to collect and dispose of the bodies, but even they were overwhelmed. And even while this was going on, the North Korean government ordered many of its farmers to grow non-food crops, like opium poppies, for export.

Cuba, on the other hand, responded quickly. Food production went local. It was mandated that every bit of arable land in Havana be used to grow crops. As a result, they made it through the collapse, and now the Cubans are eating better than ever -- they have plentiful, organic, locally-farmed food, which is more than even many Americans have. So as Ruppert sees it, the post-collapse world will also be a post-globalization world, in which the communities that fare best embrace what is local and sustainable.