Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #50: Collapse (2009)

This political and environmental documentary follows the life's work of Michael Ruppert, a law enforcement whistle blower who was first approached by the documentarians to talk about what he had seen in regards to the cocaine the CIA seems to be smuggling into the United States (Ruppert was approached to take part in their operations, and he turned them down. His fiancé, who worked for the CIA, left him shortly afterwards. He thought that was fishy). Turns out he wanted to talk about something else. He apparently called the global economic crisis back in 2006 through his newsletter From The Wilderness, and during that year had been on tour urging people to get into gold, reduce their debt as much as possible, and take a hard look at their mortgages. He was warning people about a coming collapse.

In the doc we basically watch this guy run through a list of topics, providing viewers with his guesses at how things are going and why they are the way they are. It pretty much tells us what we already know: peak oil exists, ethanol is a joke, and we can't maintain our current lifestyle forever. If you've seen The End of Suburbia, it's much the same insight - that peak oil will become no oil, and since everything is oil-based we've got to prepare for a world where everything will stop until we can figure out a new way of living. That the world we've built, that our lifestyles under the resource of oil will have to evolve into something else. We can't get a job in another city. We can't eat oranges from California. To survive we'll have to move locally and grow food locally. Essentially, Ruppert says, the industrial age will end.

Our political ideals will end as well, and will have to be re-written within a new paradigm. One more in step with a world of finite resources and not, as it is today, one dependent on the presumption that growth is infinite - growth of wealth, of standard of living, etc. That we must realise that we have to live within the limitations of the planet. That's the crux of Michael Ruppert.

The guy has 30 years of investigative journalism as his main credential, and his work has become a personal obsession for him. It's frightening to see just how consumed he is, and it adds a bitter desperation to the connections he finds in the news clippings he collects. He's angry, and he's resentful and he admits as much. You get the impression though, sometimes, that he's placing personal links that might not be there, like when he says that there's no doubt in his mind that Rumsfeld and Cheney took personal interest in his actions and the things he was publishing in his newsletter. This is of course unverifiable, and it's apparent that much of the links he sees are investigative inferences without much hope of verification. But what else is someone to do? Leave it all to the higher-ups? Not watch? Not make guesses? Not get angry? Worst case scenario, he's wrong and we pay attention to something that's worth paying attention to.

The director has a voice in the documentary since it's arrayed like an interview, and three or four times in the film addresses Ruppert with some critical questions. One of the last is the concern that it's possible to pick through articles until you can find enough that support the world you're expecting to see. Evidence for the links that you want to make. Ruppert's answer is that he doesn't get into debates anymore. That there is, in fact, no debate. That he doesn't need to, because the things that he and his colleagues have saying will happen once we've hit peak oil has actually been happening. That it's there now, plain to see and beyond question.

The documentary provides no solutions. Only general directives. I learned in the special features that the book supposedly gets more specific.

So: Not sure where I stand on everything he says, but this is certainly the clearest outline of the reasoning behind the sustainability movement that I've seen so far.

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