Despite the Mayan doomsday prophecy being debunked by experts, humankind still holds a fascination with the world coming to an end.
People have been predicting the end of civilization since it began. But in 2012 doomsday predictions seem to be unusually urgent and widespread. Whether you blame the Mayan Calendar, melting ice caps or a global economic collapse, there is a diverse number of people gearing up for the apocalypse.
One is Will Heinrich, a 63-year-old tugboat operator, who has a two-year supply of food, medical supplies, flints and camping stoves stocked up in Rock Creek, B.C. because he’s certain the end of days is right around the corner.
“This current system is so corrupt it’s going to collapse. It has to; it just won’t keep going like this,” Heinrich said while sipping coffee at a café in Ladner.
Heinrich is among a ballooning sub-culture in North America known as “preppers” – people who are making detailed plans to prepare for the end of the world as we know it. And like many preppers, one of Heinrich’s chief concerns is a fumbling world economy that he sees is teetering on the brink of collapse.
“If governments and banks keep borrowing money to stay afloat, there’s going to be a time of reckoning where there’s not going to be any money left to borrow. We could easily see a crash in the dollar and people will panic – it’s going to be total chaos,” he says.
Many preppers today turn to the Internet for insight where they soak up information from websites like attorney Michael T. Snyder’s The Economic Collapse blog who writes from his home in northern Idaho.
“Tons of preppers come to my site, and for most, the overwhelming concern is the economy,” said Snyder in a phone interview. “I think a lot of people are realizing that we are living in the biggest debt bubble in the world.”
Snyder, whose blog receives hundreds of thousands of hits per month, says U.S. national debt has skyrocketed 15 times higher than it was 30 years ago while consumer debt has expanded by 17 times higher than it was in 1971. He added many of the U.S. banks’ loan to asset ratio is 30 to one.
“All this debt is like a gigantic house of cards that can fall at any time,” he says. “But at the same time not only are we getting all this debt, but also our ability to create wealth in the United States is declining.”
Snyder says the U.S. never fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and he sees a global wave of financial calamity hitting us hard by late 2012. He believes this time the euro zone debt woes will trigger the next wave with Greece leading a pack of countries facing default.
Snyder predicts unemployment and poverty will rise in the Western world pointing out that tens of millions of Americans are already living off food stamps and one out of four children is currently living in poverty. He sees an increase in Occupy Wall Street style protests with the potential for massive civil unrest and widespread rioting.
“I believe this is just the beginning. I think we’ll see wide-scale riots in the years ahead.”
Because of all this uncertainty surrounding an embattled world financial system, Snyder says the prepper movement will only continue to grow.
According to the British newspaper the Daily Mail, there are an estimated three million preppers in the United States, roughly one per cent of the country’s entire population. This surge Snyder says is larger than during the Y2K scare, and the estimated number could be even greater since many preppers don’t like to talk about their plans.
“It could be your next-door neighbour; they could have converted a spare bedroom or a garage into a place where they store up food and supplies.”
Snider quit his full-time job as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., to fortify himself and his wife west of the Rocky Mountains where they have stocked up food, water, medical supplies and are growing a garden.
Snyder says he encourages his readers to become independent from the system and have at least six months worth of food stored up as he sees a “very dark road ahead.” But unlike other financial doomsayers, he doesn’t see the collapse happening all at once. Instead he’s forecasts a more progressive and gradual decline.
“I don’t believe we are going to wake up next month and be fighting each other with sharp sticks over the food that remains,” he says.