Ending the world on a high note

By Susan Edmunds, Andy Pickering

Doomsayers say chaos looms and Planet Earth as we know it may cease to exist in 12 days.

Opshop singer and 'New Zealand's Got Talent' judge Jason Kerrison believes the world could end on December 21. Photo / Doug Sherring
Opshop singer and 'New Zealand's Got Talent' judge Jason Kerrison believes the world could end on December 21. Photo / Doug Sherring

Next week, Kiwi musician Jason Kerrison will sit around a bonfire in the Far North strumming a guitar with friends.

He'll be on the Northland property he and friends bought to prepare for the end of time - predicted by Kerrison and other subscribers to ancient Mayan philosophy to occur on December 21, 2012.

The property was chosen to be about as apocalypse-proof as you get, as far from a fault line as possible, and elevated in case of rising sea levels.

It had been intended as the site of a much-hyped, fortified ark in which Kerrison and his family intended to shelter from the anticipated chaos.

But, despite the looming catastrophe, building has been slow. Kerrison admits his bunker isn't complete, so he'll hold his solstice celebration outside under the stars.

People have been muttering about 2012 being the end of the world since the 1970s when new age authors suggested that because the Mayan calendar peters out this year catastrophe would result.

That muttering has picked up pace. The doomsday scenarios now include a reversal of the north and south poles, a stray meteorite or planet hitting earth, nuclear war, some kind of reaction when the earth and sun align with the centre of the milky way, a gamma ray burst, or a series of catastrophic climate events.

The man credited with some of the most cataclysmic and decisive predictions for this year, Jose Arguelles, rather inconveniently died before he saw his prediction come true.

Harold Camping, the American preacher who predicted the end of the world last year, is still around, but has gone to ground.

But Mike Borek, the author of the book Survive 2012, still warns of volcanoes, tsunamis and general run-of-the-mill doom on December 21.

He also has some bad news for New Zealanders, particularly Aucklanders: You're in one of the worst places to be at the end of the world.

Borek offers hints and tips on everything from edible berries to how to start a fire without matches. How do you get water out of the ground? How do you power a machine using wood?

Getting through whatever form the apocalypse takes, depends on your whereabouts on the globe and New Zealand is not a good option.

The best advice he offers worried Kiwis is to head to high ground.

"If you can get up into the hills, that will help. If there's a tsunami, I'd rather be above the water and deal with lava flows than below."

Borek, a Washington DC marketing executive by day, started to write his book in 2009. At first he took what he describes as a pragmatic approach, thinking there was no harm in being prepared on the off-chance the end of the world was just around the corner.

Now, after two years studying internet evidence, he puts the likelihood of apocalypse at a 60/40 chance.

Borek's sceptical wife has a survival pack in her car and they took their kids camping in the mountains last summer looking for survival spaces.

He says people may think he's mad.

Northland bank worker Kelly, who does not want to be identified, was in her 20s when she first became worried about looming catastrophe and for the past 10 years she has been picking up tips from television programmes.

Her property has an alternative electricity supply and a year's worth of food for her dogs and cats.

"We store them in sealed drums."

Other drums contain flour, rice, stock, soup powder, pasta, porridge, milk powder, Milo, sugar and salt.

"There is also kitchen stuff such as pots, tin openers, peelers etc."

As December 21 draws near, some believers such as Kerrison have stepped back from the most apocalyptic predictions.

They offer more generic interpretations, including the date being the start of a positive physical or spiritual transformation for the people of Planet Earth.

Volcanoes and tsunamis aside, Borek believes it's most likely something will happen that will return the world to an earlier stage - perhaps without electricity or the internet.

If the world doesn't end cataclysmically on December 21, he'll rewrite his book.

Borek says he's not a pessimist but a realist. He recommends people prepare for an apocalypse, but leave their options open. "Quitting your job is a bit extreme."

With more than 100 "Doomsdays" publicised since the year 2000, scientists and theologians are getting frustrated and dismissive.

Yet Paul Morris, professor of religious studies at Victoria University, says the idea of an apocalypse is in all traditional cultures. People are hardwired to consider alternatives to the world as they know it.

"Embracing the end seems to be perfectly natural. It means you don't have to worry about the mortgage."

Millennial philosophies offer people an escape: contemplating the end seems easier than struggling with a worsening mess of life.

"In a world swerving out of our control, readying your bunker has a certain rationality. Shopping for survival and shelter is so much more directly satisfying than shopping at the mall."

His colleague Marc Wilson, an associate professor of psychology, says people looking for clues that the end is nigh tended to find them.

Vicki Hyde, of the New Zealand Skeptics, says apocalypse theories tended to pop up whenever there were tough times, such as a troubled economy or natural disaster.

They may seem harmless but people need to be careful. Apocalypse predictions have prompted people to give away their businesses and euthanase their pets.

"You can laugh but it's not funny when 37 people commit suicide because the end of the world is coming."

This week's Auckland tornado caught the MetService napping but Kerrison said it was a manifestation of the bigger and more extreme weather events predicted by Russian scientist Dr Alexei Dmitriev.

"It's just getting close to home more often. I guess we live such ephemeral lives that we expect this potential global cataclysm we're discussing to happen overnight or out of the blue. But there are signs everywhere that this accelerated pole shift is being triggered and ramping up."

Kerrison, a judge on New Zealand's Got Talent, once talked about this month being "the end of time", but now blames increasing solar activity for global warming and contemplates the possibility of a solar flare wiping out power networks.

He's picking a period of renewal and rebirth for the Earth. The world will be momentarily disconnected from "the womb of the Milky Way galaxy. We'll be reset or reborn."

Kerrison hasn't shied away from headlines that had him predicting the end of time while marketing an Opshop album named Until the End of Time.

He's also building a bunker he calls his "Ark" So what if nothing has changed on December 22? Simple. Kerrison and Opshop have signed for the More FM Summer Vineyard Tour in February, and will have a new album out a couple of months later.

That album is yet to be named - suggestions welcomed.

- Herald on Sunday

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