After the 2012 Not-Apocalypse

Leading up to 2012 Robert Bast was warning the planet about the end of the world. Then it didn't happen. So what's life like on the other side of the apocalyspe?

Joseph Gelfer

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It has now been a year since the passing of the 2012 phenomenon, an event which in the popular imagination marked the end of the Mayan calendar and an imminent apocalypse. The 2012 phenomenon was vast in scope, spanning new age consciousness-raising, hidden histories, psychedelic visions, and prophesied physical changes in both space and on Earth.

Robert Bast’s interest in 2012 aligned most closely with the survivalist constituency of 2012ers. For some years he ran a website and forum called Survive 2012 which focused on a spectrum of physical disasters that could reign down upon the Earth and the kind of actions people could take to not only prepare, but survive. So how did 2012 actually pan out for Bast given his concerns had proven unfounded?

VICE: How did you get into the whole 2012 idea in the first place?
Robert Bast:
Back in the late 90s I read Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization by Graham Hancock which refers to the end date of the Mayan calendar and a cataclysm. I found that really interesting and decided to start looking into it myself and to expand on it.

As a family man, how did you go about finding a safe spot for your survival plan while keeping your wife and children happy?
My tactic was to trick my wife into buying a holiday home that would also serve my safe spot purposes. My guestimate was that it had to be 500 meters above sea level and an hour’s drive inland. So if there’s a mega-tsunami, you don’t know how big it’s going to be, but historically they have been up to a mile high. But I just guessed that 500 meters up and an hour inland would be sufficient to survive a tsunami. The other thing is you want to be away from people, but no so isolated that you haven’t got any help or you can’t scavenge for supplies. And whenever we went for drives with the kids we found that the one hour mark was when they started to get upset. We’ve got a bunker, but it’s a golf course bunker right next door to our house, which is kind of ironic because I decided not to build an actual bunker. I’ve talked myself out of bunkers and told other people that you don’t need them in Australia.

How did you feel in the build-up to 21 December 2012?
I was much calmer than I thought I would be. I was expecting there to be a gradual build-up of my own emotions, but the more I spoke about it the more I ended up reassuring people that it was unlikely that it was going to be something on that particular day and the more I calmed myself.

Now that the Big Day has passed, have your concerns also subsided?
I’m still as apprehensive as a year ago. I’ve stopped harping on about it, because for everyone else it was a specific date. It didn’t happen, so they won’t listen to me. But it was a great excuse for people to prepare and those preparations are still valid, and there’s plenty of things that can go wrong, and those people who have prepared will be the only ones who survive. The biggest concern for me will remain a solar storm. A big enough solar storm can knock out power grids and we’re stuffed unless you’ve got some form of self-reliance.

You were all over the media at one point. What was that like?
It was actually really quiet until the last three days, then all of a sudden radio and TV wanted something for that day. I was like, I’ve been ready for this for ten years, but it was like an afterthought for the media: what can we do today? Oh, yeah, there’s that thing: we can fill up some time with that. So that was strange. I was expecting to be in my safe spot for the day, but I was in Williamstown doing media stuff. There was an amazing lack of serious journalism out there that would touch this topic, it was mostly people wanting to have a laugh. There’s no way I’m doing talkback radio again: you give the one answer, they laugh at you and then they hang up. It’s a horrible experience. In the American shows there was always a debunking guy from NASA. It was almost always the same guy, and he was on a mission to debunk. He wouldn’t listen. It was like having a religious debate with an atheist against a committed Christian. There was no middle ground to be had at all.

How did other people react to what you were saying about 2012?
I had death threats. Anonymous people emailed me. It was usually something about their children. “My children are scared because of what you’ve said. How dare you. If someone commits suicide it’s on your head. So, watch your back”, that sort of stuff. Lots of teens emailed me and said that they’re really scared. And I just told them to forget about it. I’m just full of crap and just telling people what they want to hear. It’s not real. It’s not something for children to be concerned about. It’s their parents’ job to be concerned if they can work it out. My own family were not concerned in the slightest. The kids didn’t know about it. They’re just happy-go-lucky kids. They understood the preparation side of things. But they’re too young to know about disasters. They don’t watch the news. So I say all this food is just in case something bad happens, and they go, “oh, ok. Makes sense”.

On 22 December you fronted up to the media again. What was that like?
I didn’t want to be some kind of spoil sport so said, no the world didn’t end. I was wrong, and that’s a good thing. It’s a bizarre thing. No one wants to be proven wrong. But you also don’t want to wish terrible things to happen. So I was stuck in this funny space where either result was good and either result was bad. So I certainly wasn’t wishing for something bad to happen, but I was looking out for it. And then I was like, well what if it’s something subtle? What if it’s a magnitude six earthquake that kills five people somewhere? How does that fit into things? Will people claim that was what it was? Should I claim it? Fortunately there was no ambiguity: absolutely nothing happened.

So now that the 2012 phenomenon is fading, what’s next for Robert Bast?
I’m interested in Big Brother surveillance stuff. Specifically being hidden from surveillance. One day there will be a subculture of people that just opt out of everything so they’re not monitored. The upcoming failure of antibiotics as well—I find that very concerning. And just like 2012 no one’s paying attention to it and it needs to be highlighted a lot more. Before long people are going to start dying of things that they died of a hundred years ago, like STDs: people are going to start dying of syphilis. My official next project is to try and prove that the world is not real, that we live in a simulation, which many scientists have said that statistically speaking in quite likely. But that’s all philosophical and theoretical and I’d like to try and prove it somehow. If there’s some sort of proof that we are just inside a computer or something I’d like to try and find that or even just have fun trying to find it. It’s a good intellectual exercise.

Joseph Gelfer is a writer and academic.