2012 and the problem of taking real threats seriously

2012 is a new film about the end of the world starring John Cusack. It is directed by Ronald Emmerlich - the same guy who destroyed the world in Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. The choice of the title, the year 2012, is due mainly to the idea that the Mayan calender predicts that the end of the world will occur in 2012 (apparently, if read and interpreted in a certain way). No doubt the film will also highlight the 2012 phenomenon, which Wikipedia says is "a range of beliefs and proposals positing that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur in the year 2012."

So the idea is that you have 2012 the phenomenon, and you have 2012 the film, which is based very loosely upon that phenomenon.

Aang finally defeats the evil Fire Lord, but at what price to humanity?

Apparently the film has received all sorts of bad reviews. I think that's a good thing. I personally think that the entire 2012 phenomenon is going to be a load of rubbish and people will look back upon it in the same way as other apocalyptic scenarios that never happened (eg Comet Kohoutek; The Montanists and their New Jerusalem).

As a believer in Peak Oil and Global Warming, though, I do believe that the world is heading towards some sort of economic and social disaster that will take a long time to recover from. Annoyingly, apocalyptic films like 2012 end up misinforming people as to the nature of the problem and any potential solutions. When global warming and the whole "Greenhouse effect" was first touted as a serious problem back in the 1990s, Hollywood decided to use good science as the basis of a particular film, and in the process threw science out the window.

Not a denialist.

, from what I can gather, is just another Emmerlich destroy-the-world pic. Aliens did it in Independence Day, Godzilla did it in some film I can't remember the name of, and global warming did it in The Day After Tomorrow. 2012 just continues the theme, except it's based on wow weird Mayan prophecy (you know, the same people who didn't prophesy the Spanish conquest of South America).

For Hollywood, the premise can be weird, it can be spiritual, it can be scientific - what matters is what the result looks like on the big screen. So for the consumers what we have is a simple conclusion - the world can end through weird prophecy, through monsters, through global warming and through alien invasion. And all are fictional.

Just another bad Hollywood screenplay.

The reality is that both Global Warming and Peak Oil are threats to our world, but they are threats which are grounded in science, not fiction. Will there be some major threat to our world which appears in 2012? There might just be, but it won't be on the scale of 2012 the film. And even if nothing of consequence occurs in 2012 it may occur later. When it comes to being a futurist, the what is more important than the when - we don't exactly know when things will get worse, we just know that they will.

Societal collapse is the danger we face when we take into account the dangers posed by Global Warming and Peak Oil. History is replete with examples of societal collapse, from the Great Depression to the Black Plague.

I'm not dead yet!

What we have learned from societal collapses in the past is that it is never the "end of the world", and that some areas are worse hit than others. Some collapses are localised or regionalised. Other collapses are mild while some are severe and last centuries.

What we do know is this: Peak Oil advocates believe that the world's oil output will begin to steadily and irreversibly drop, forcing our society to find alternatives to motorised transport and suburban living, a process which will result in a lengthy period of economic stagnation. Global Warming advocates believe that mankind's pumping of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution has led to a warming effect upon climate, and will eventually lead to rising sea levels. The climate change caused by this process will result in low-lying areas of the world being permanently inundated by seawater, as well as causing droughts in food producing areas as well as floods and increased threat of hurricanes and cyclones in tropical regions. This is enough to measure potential deaths in the millions. It will not be the "end of the world", but it will be the end for many.

To conclude, don't watch 2012. It's silly. Don't worry about Hollywood threats to the world - but do worry about threats that have a sound scientific basis.

1 comment:

penman@truegosp.org said...

The public is fascinated with end-time disaster prophecies and Hollywood and the TV industry are milking that fascination for all its worth. But as I point out in my blog, they leave something important out. They sometimes quote the Bible, and the Bible really does predict disasters in our lifetimes, but they leave out the REASON for these disasters that the Bible gives. According to the Bible, these disasters are a punishment for the sins of man designed by God to bring man to repentance and conversion for our long-term good. But Hollywood has never been a fan of the concept of repentance.