Is the end truly nigh? The Doomsday Preppers certainly think so. Nat Geo’s new show meets survivalists obsessed with the end of the world and rates their chances of getting out alive.
There are many people who believe we’re in the last stages of life and that the world is going to end soon, very soon in fact if you believe those pesky Mayans. If we were to believe everything we hear, the end of the world has been a long time coming and our best-before date expired long, long ago.If you grew up in the eighties you’ll likely recall what it was like to live under the shadow of a global apocalypse.
Screeching headlines about an imminent nuclear war were commonplace and even in a remote country like New Zealand the threat of nuclear annihilation felt very real.We watched The Day After, a nightmare vision of the aftermath of nuclear devastation which was shocking for the times (Viewers fainted, vomited and sat in corners despondently rocking themselves), and we read When The Wind Blows and Z For Zachariah at school. Time magazine seemed to loudly trumpet new horror stories every week in a sort of countdown to D-Day. We were subtly being prepared for nuclear war.
After seeking reassurance from my dad that we were too far away from the action in little old New Zealand, he cheerfully told me that nuclear fallout would certainly reach our shores and exterminate us all, and that it wasn’t so much a matter of 'if' but 'when' our nuclear death sentence would arrive.
"It probably won’t even be a war, it will probably happen accidentally, or due to human error," he thoughtfully added.
This only helped fuel nightmares of a cleaning lady, having just had her morning tea of a triple vodka, slipping on her Chux cloth and accidentally depressing the big red button sitting on Yuri Andropov’s desk in Moscow, or President Reagan reaching for his automatic garage opener in the Oval Office and setting off a nuclear missile.
Instead of begging for a pony, I begged for a fallout shelter in the backyard.
While our obsession with the end times is nothing new, the zealotry of survivalists has grown exponentially with the internet boom and our enduring love of conspiracy theories.
In the first episode of 'Doomsday Preppers' we meet three people readying for their own personal apocalypse.
It could take any form, from financial collapse, natural disaster, terrorist attacks, solar flares or the return of Jesus. The list of ways we could die is endless really.
Doomsday Prepper Michael Douglas (no relation, we think) is convinced that overpopulation of the planet will be its ultimate demise and he intends to make sure he and his family don’t become tasty human snacks for opportunistic marauders.The Douglas family live out in the wilderness and survive by eating road kill and foraging in the forest.
Mike dedicates his time to teaching his children survival skills and rivals the styles of famed survival expert Bear Grylls by encouraging his kids to drink deeply from a moist clump of squishy moss.If zombie apocalypse show The Walking Dead was real, the Douglas’ would be happily tomahawking their way through the undead.
Michael has abandoned any semblance of a normal lifestyle to concentrate on preparing his family for what he feels is the inevitable downfall of society.
As all his money, energy and resources have gone into preparing for an apocalyptic event, there are no college funds for the kids. Presumably, Mike is crossing his fingers the catastrophic event of his dreams happens before they graduate high school.
Meanwhile, Larry Hall is constructing an underground luxury condominium tower. If you’ve got the money, you could secure yourself a subterranean shelter, complete with electronic windows which will afford you an artificial view.The enormous water tanks hold enough liquid to keep occupants hydrated for "several months." Larry conveniently skirts the issue of what happens when you emerge from your glamorous, multi-million dollar bunker on a quest for more water, only to be killed by whatever residual threat lurks outside.
Becky is a hoarder, survivalist style. She doesn’t amass clothes, handbags or cats, but piles of water, dehydrated food and first aid supplies. She’s also keen to get her friends similarly excited about prepping, providing them with an Amway style presentation of why they need to prep. Sadly, she succeeds only in freaking them out with a glimpse inside her storehouse of supplies.
There is certainly something to be said for being prepared; everyone should have an emergency kit, as the Civil Defence ads remind us, but Becky spends all her time prepping, and when she’s not prepping, she’s thinking about prepping, leaving her no time for a relationship.
If you’re thinking "only in America", think again! There are survivalist groups all over the globe, including right in our own backyard.
'Doomsday Preppers' is a fascinatingly weird glimpse into the world of professional pessimists. Perhaps the preppers will be the last one’s standing when the ship goes down, but I think for most of us, we’re happy to abandon the bridge and live for now than worrying about the possibility of surviving in a bleak and brutal post-apocalyptic world.
'Doomsday Preppers' debuts on National Geographic Channel on Thursday 5 July at 7.30pmAre you prepping for the end of the world?