On Building Lifeboats

Power went out at work yesterday and the computer servers are still down today. I’m not sure how many people have been affected by this. It’s certainly hundreds, maybe thousands. There has been so much lost productivity this year due to such events. I don’t bother complaining about how the systems seem to be becoming less reliable. It’s obvious why it’s happening. Everyone is too broke to be repairing stuff that needs to be repaired. This is only going to get worse, so it’s best to start accepting that this as an inevitable part of life from now on. We have to start building our lifeboats.

The concept of lifeboat building comes from Michael Ruppert’s brilliant documentary Collapse.

Imagine for a moment that you are on the Titanic and it’s already hit the iceberg. You realise that there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. With fortuitous luck, you also know how to build lifeboats.

There are also three types of passengers aboard the Titanic. You have the people who see that there is a problem and want to learn how to build lifeboats. You have people who are in a state of shock. They are either immobilized by fear or are panicking. Then you have the people who believe that the Titanic is unsinkable (for that’s what they’ve been told) and would rather go back to the bar and enjoy the dancing.

The question then is: Which group of passengers are you going to spend your precious time to help?

Whenever I get frustrated about the people who don’t ‘get it’, I remind myself of this story of the passengers on the Titanic and lifeboat building. I now focus my energy on people who are interested in understanding what’s going on in the world, those who see that something is not quite right. I don’t bother discussing such issues with people who are clearly heavily invested in the old paradigm. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially when they are family and friends.

If you haven’t already seen the documentary Collapse, then I encourage you to watch it. It’s brilliant.

Michael Ruppert has also just launched the Collapse Network. He’s trying to assist in Lifeboat building and helping like-minded people find each other. Even though it’s only just launched, you can already see how many people are already on ‘the map’ (including the skills they are willing to share).

Photo by: schoeband


  1. Other than my “blog friends” I have only one or two people that are of the same mind set as myself. Out of the 16 women that I work with only one is somewhat aware as to the state of our world but she still seems all to willing to just continue on as if there is nothing you can do.
    Thanks for writing about this new site…I will be sure to check it out.

  2. I must one of the most pessemistic people on the planet because I’m not thinking life boat, I’m thinking Noah’s Ark.

    I have Collapse on my to watch movie list but I don’t like my chances. I’ll have to check the video store when I go out tomorrow. Now I’m off to check out that new site you mentioned.

  3. Finally watched the rest of it last night… the Titanic analysis stood out, though the bear at the campground was what my husband has been referring to for the last couple of months, since he originally started watching the movie! Only problem with that is, what if there are several hungry bears??

  4. You’re right when it’s family and friends, particularly ones that you have no chance of helping in the future it’s tough. I like you though have had to make that decision and really only talk about peak oil in some circles. I might bring up the term in other forums and explain if asked but as soon as I see the 90 mile stare of a brain turned of I just stop talking about it.

    Within family and friends we only have one couple that believe as we do that the world is going to look a whole lot different in the not too distant future. Thankfully with my volunteer work and permaculture group I have people around me that don’t look at me as if I am crazed when I say I make most of our canned goods. I am looking at running adult education classes that encompass these disappearing skills but understand that people will only turn up if I find a way to make it relevant to their life now.

    Kind Regards

    1. I’ll be sure to watch Collapse. I’m pretty much the only one of my family and friends that seems to be taking this whole end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it bit seriously. Does that mean I’m screwed? I don’t think I can do this on my own…

  5. I haven’t seen collapse yet, though I’m a bit familiar with Ruppert’s work.

    I’m so grateful for the blogosphere and the Transition network in my town where I can connect with people who see the problem and are ready to work on it. Spending energy on those who just aren’t ready to hear and/or act is exhausting and disheartening, though with family I continue to try periodically.

    I frequently return to these lifeboat building instructions, and sometimes share it with others.

    Thanks for being a fellow builder!

    1. Hi Amber, I looked at those lifeboat building instructions and thought, that boat ain’t going to hold water! My “lifeboat” consists (sort of more or less in order of priority): knowledge and skills, well developed relationships with neighbours/friends/community with knowledge and skills (about real stuff), good quality (not Chinese crap) tools, good quality infrastructure like water tanks and solar panels, systems for growing, making, building, breeding, creating the things that make life good. If I have that, I don’t just survive, I have a good life in any situation short of the kind of world meltdown that nothing survives. And if I focus on building that kind of lifeboat, the only extra thing I can to stop that kind of meltdown is do it as publicly and positively as I can.

  6. More gloom and doom.

    Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. And I don’t think the way to convince people that change is needed is to tell them that it’s TEOTWAWKI.

    Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.

    I am NOT going to sit on my butt and let the world fall apart around me. But I am also not going to let any single one of my neighbours suffer while I have the ability to change it. I believe that when we must, and we will, we will work together as communities and countries to solve our problems. And it will be harder in some places than others. But we’ll get through it together – not by building lifeboats for a few.

    Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.

    No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community 🙂

    Rant over 🙂

    1. Leanne.
      I think as others below have pointed out the intent of this post was to provide an analogy – go about your business building ‘lifeboats’ i.e. community and skills, those who are interested will come along for the ride and possibly help. It is about networking I guess and wasting your energy on those who are truly not interested or stubborn to open there mind to some potential future differences will only consume your energy in your path to helping others. As humans no one usually succeeds unless they are they one to make a decision for themselves. Forcing something upon someone is a waste of everyone’s time. Being very tactful in how these issues are spoken of is obviously fundamental -it’s a touchy subject telling someone their energy enriched lifestyle may need to change a little. 😉

  7. Hi Leanne,

    I understand where you are coming from because I suspect it’s not dissimilar to me but I don’t think any of us where contemplating sitting on our butts and watching the world fall apart around us. I know at least in my case I was simply acknowledging the fact that I now save my expertise and energy for those that want to learn rather than those that totally deny the validity of the information.

    Personally my lifeboat includes community.. My husband and I simply can’t do everything. We don’t have the time, energy or skills to do all of the stuff that adds positively to our lives. We are working hard to build strong community links so that we get the chance to have some of those things into the future whatever it ends up looking like. I don’t plan on seeing any of my family or neighbours suffer if I have any chance of changing it but my reality is that compared to the amount of people who are walking distance to my house my capacity to provide “aid” to the unprepared and unskilled is likely to be totally dwarfed by the local need unless I can get a lot more families working in the same direction. I don’t believe that lifeboats are a close down and get out the guns “survivalist mentality” the concept works even better when expanded to a community level, but I am not going to spend my precious time and energy butting against other peoples mental brick walls. I have never managed to change someone’s mind if it was closed to the possibility I was presenting, ignorance I am more than happy to educate, I have to say I hit an awful lot of closed minds when it comes to the subject of the limited sustainability of Business as Usual.

    Kind Regards

  8. Thanks Belinda, that is spot on for what I was trying to reply earlier but gave up, because my brain couldn’t get the words out!!

    But, I do see how the Collapse Network comes across as him cashing in… and he probably needs the money. The last part of the film stated Michael Ruppert was having trouble paying his rent and trying to avoid eviction (??2009), and I think he has pretty much spent his life obsessing about this, and trying to uncover the issues, and foregoing other ways to make money, plus believing that money isn’t real, so he was prepared to live on very little (though giving up smoking would save him a bundle!). From what I can tell, the network is about people sharing skills, and I guess having a small monthly fee means you have to be serious to get involved.

    I think the movie has a touch of doomer about it, it’s a touch over-the-top but generally sums up the issues in an easy way to understand and to take seriously… the best outcome would be for people to be urged into action by it, and for enough changes to be made quickly enough to avoid an actual collapse of society… we just need to get to the 100th monkey!!

  9. I’m here from Maha’s blog–just thought I’d post an alternativel to Michael Ruppert’s organisation:


    These people start with the same premises, have a similar plan of action, but aren’t aggressive, don’t rely on ‘secret’ information, and don’t expect you to pay to participate. I’m not sure why Mr Ruppert didn’t join with them instead of making his own group.

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