You're in training for the apocalypse — and you may not even realize it.
The entertainment and the science out there now are getting us to contemplate, even subliminally, what we would be and what we would do in a life without everything that constitutes life today.
The movie "Noah," out next week and based on the biblical story, is about a man who gets tipped to the watery apocalypse, then finds out how everyone else behaves when they figure it out too late.
The movie list is long: "Oblivion" and "Snowpiercer" are a couple, and more are coming down the pike. Last year's "Elysium" cold-bloodedly puts the one percenters on the screen and safely off in space from the doomed Earthbound hordes of hoi polloi.
From the science, it's clear this is no coincidence, no Writers Guild conspiracy.
Findings in a new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center lay the groundwork for another, possibly imminent spin in an old cycle in human history: a collapse of civilization because of accelerated global industry, the relentless exploitation of resources and a rich-versus-poor imbalance.
Mathematical models used by a team of scientists found that we humans are rerunning some of the same patterns that took out the Roman, Han and Gupta empires, which rose to a complex sophistication that was "fragile and impermanent," according to the study, set for publication in the Ecological Economics journal.
The project implicated five interrelated elements, ingredients that post-apocalypse movies find irresistible dramatic devices:
- Population (aaagh, it’s too crowded!)
- Climate (aaagh, it’s too cold/hot!)
- Water (aaagh, we’re thirsty!)
- Agriculture (aaagh, we’re starving!)
- Energy (aaagh, the lights went out!)
And, underlying them, "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or Commoners) [poor]." The rich, the study suggests, will be able to buy buffers, but in time they too will get rolled under.
Maybe what appeals to us about apocalypse entertainment is that it sweeps the board and redefines power and wealth, and let's us imagine how we'd fare in that topsy-turvy world.
Who's rich now? The guy with food and water, heat and fire, car or boat, knife or gun, medicine and information — or who knows how to get it.
Who's poor now? The rich guy who has always depended on paying a complex network of other people to get these for him.
The Daryl Dixon character on "The Walking Dead," with his crossbow and off-the-grid savvy, and the History Channel survivalist who knows how to make fire with steel wool and a 9-volt battery are the Warren Buffetts of the apocalypse. The bond trader in his Range Rover, hunting around on the plush floor mats for yesterday's Fiji water and that matchbook from the Ivy as civilization falls — those other guys can eat him for lunch. And they just might.