A FEW years ago talk of the Apocalypse would have been the preserve of fans of the hit TV series, the Walking Dead, but now it’s become more mainstream and widespread due to the increasing regularity of extreme weather events and, of course, the COVID pandemic.
new TG4 documentary, ‘Go mBeirimíd Beo’, is to be broadcast next week and will focus on the growing number of pointers that the end of days is upon us.
Programme presenter Óisín Mistéal takes us on a round Ireland trip to see what preparations are in place and his quest takes him, naturally, to the only dedicated ‘prepper’ store in the country, the Irish Prepper and Bushcraft Store on Macroom’s Main Street.
That shop’s proprietor, Sven Ridgway, surrounded by his survivalist gear – knives, camping kit and other paraphenalia – tells the presenter about the origins of ‘prepperism’ – preparing for the Apocalypse – but it’s regarded basically as ‘survivalism’.
“Survivalism started when people were just going out into the woods and camping for long term, hunters and military, where you might not have supplies, you might have to make your own gear, so all of that comes under the term ‘survival’ – as well as surviving wars, surviving plagues, surviving pandemics.”
Sven said it took in everything from ‘extreme camping’ to an ‘Apocalypse’.
“I grew up in the Cold War in the UK where nuclear war was always kind of a possibility in the back of your mind, even as a schoolboy.
“I think a lot of my age group were brought up with that.”
When asked if he was hoping for ‘something bad to happen’ to ensure the prosperity of his business, Sven’s response is quick. “It is – we are in what alot of people thing is a ‘survival situation’.”
The good news is that we are, according to Sven, ‘very lucky in Ireland to have rural communities because it might all come down to coming to town on horse and cart and buying your supplies for the fortnight at the local market’.
“It might go back to that and Ireland would probably cope.”
Or, at least, Sven would cope.
Was this idea of a ‘big end on the horizon’ in our heads? “I think there’s always a big end on the horizon,” said Sven. “It’s how long we have before that big end comes, you can die from working hard, you can die from stress, all these things are connected so it’s pertinent to keep yourself fit, healthy and being sensible and listening to some guidelines.
“It’s all preparing and survival based because you’re trying to survive what’s out there at the moment.”
He disputes what he describes the media portrayal of survivalists as ‘weird military men in the mountain or people living off-grid in homesteads or living behind walls’.
“But it’s what mankind has always done – all you have to do is look at Ireland – all the ringforts, all the castles, people have always done it, people are always prepared to throw a stone at you if you turn your back on them.
“It’s part of survival of course, it’s part of life.”
After his visit to Sven in his Macroom shop, Oisín, the presenter, takes us on a surivalist tour of other notable landmarks around Ireland, including Carnsore Point in Wexford, the mooted site for what would have been Ireland’s first nuclear plant.
He was stunned by the massive music festival at Carnsore in 1979, an event that attracted some top musicians and a throng of 40,000. It also gave birth to political career of former Labour Party leader, Brendan Howlin, one of the organisers of the protest. After heated public debate including a memorable discussion on the Late Late Show, the plan for a Nuclear Power Plant was abandoned and now Carnsore is the location of a windfarm.
The Carnsore incident wasn’t the last we saw of nuclear power in Ireland as a UCC physics lecturer, Pádraig Mac Carthaigh, explained.
Right at the time Cork had declared itself a nuclear free zone, with big signs to that effect on main roads in to the city, the UCC science building, a reminder of Cold War architecture if ever there was one, hid an amazing secret.
“In the 1950s, the US Defence Department established a scheme, ‘Atoms for Peace’, to provide free uranium for various countries,” said Pádraig.
“It was fundamentally a propoganda exercise – but it arrived and it was a mini reactor here in Cork.
“In the basement of the building, there was two and a half tonnes of uranium – and it was there for 40 years.
“The sign proclaiming Cork to be a nuclear free zone did not disclose that Cork was the only location in the country with its own nuclear reactor.”
In Pádraig’s view, as the world tries to wean itself off fossil fuels, the reality is that wind and solar energy won’t meet the need for a basic reliable flow of energy to power everything from our phones to hospitals and that there may be little option but to turn to nuclear energy.
He spoke of his research into nuclear fusion, the process which causes two atoms to fuse together and generate a massive amount of energy safely. This requires a massive amount of heat – up to 100 million degrees – and at present we can only retrieve 60% of the energy we need to cause fusion. A massive multi billion project in the South of France, with which Pádraig is involved ITER, is working to get this to 100% or better.
It will be the 2030s before we know if this target can be achieved.
“The pandemic brought the end of the world right into view, so it
was great to get the chance to explore how it stacks up against other
near apocalypses, past present and future – and
choosing to laugh in the face of impending doom,” said Go mBeirimíd Beo presenter, Oisín Mistéal.
Film producer Paddy Hayes was equally optimistic in the face of an uncertain future. “This is a timely and entertaining journey through recent apocalypse planning while always asking the question: is there something innate in the human psyche that imagines the end could be nigh.”
“Go mBeirimíd Beo” will be broadcast on TG4 at 9.30pm on Wednesday, September 8 – if the world is still turning, that is.