In the 1950s, after WWII ended and the Cold War began, people started doomsday planning for the event of a nuclear fallout. Backyards were turned into underground bomb shelters stocked with enough provisions to last years. Today, however, most people don’t even have enough groceries or bottled water to last them a week, much less even one year, preferring to purchase supplies as needed instead of stockpiling – well, before the COVID pandemic made toilet paper a hot commodity, at least. The madness had ended – or so we thought. Now, billionaires are buying up land and building bunkers. Do they know something we don’t?
Billionaires Building Bunkers
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife own a 1,400-acre area on the island of Kauai in Hawaii called Ko’olau Ranch. It’s still under development, but the partially completed compound already has over a dozen building featuring at least 30 bedrooms and 30 bathrooms in total. There are two mansions and 11 treehouses, and then some. As impressive as that is, the couple is also working on a 5,000-square-foot underground bunker, complete with its own food supplies and energy source. The $270 million compound’s shelter system is so secret, workers must sign a strict non-disclosure agreement, according to Wired.
Hawaii, Alaska, and New Zealand are popular choices for billionaires who want to build bunkers. PayPal co-founder Reid Hoffman told The New Yorker that the latter is the favored spot. “Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a ‘wink, wink, say no more,’” he explained. Rod Drury, chief executive of Xero, an accounting software company on the island, said American billionaires “treat New Zealand as a bit of a bolt-hole.”
Another PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, had plans for a bunker in New Zealand right beside Lake Wanaka, a historically protected site, but the community council blocked it, saying the bunker’s design would “substantially detract from the quality and naturalness of the outstanding natural landscape.”
Google co-founder Larry Page has land in New Zealand, as has entrepreneur Mihai Dinulescu, who had a cryptocurrency startup during the pandemic before fleeing to the island with his wife. But this isn’t the only area where billionaires are buying up land. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is reportedly acquiring property near Ivanka Trump, singer Julio Iglesias, and former NFL star Tom Brady outside Miami, Florida.
Some have been buying up private islands, including British business magnate Richard Branson, actor Johnny Depp, and wealthy families such as the Disneys. And if that isn’t enough, there are those who are paying to become citizens in different countries and obtaining “golden visas” which “effectively allow wealthy people to gain residence – and even citizenship – in foreign countries in exchange for cold, hard cash,” Daily Mail explained.
Is this just a fad for the rich and famous, or do they know something we don’t?
Doomsday Predictions and Preparations
Douglas Rushkoff, a technology writer, spoke of a secret meeting in the middle of a desert where five “super-wealthy guys” asked him how they could better prepare their bunkers, Daily Mail reported. They asked questions such as “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”
Agricultural writer and lecturer-farmer Joel Salatin told Liberty Nation:
“In the last couple of years I’ve been contacted by at least four billionaires seeking a haven for when American culture collapses. One even asked for my definition of ‘wheels falling off.’ All of them believe we’re facing imminent civilizational collapse and want a safe place they can get to with their family and ride out the storm. I call these ‘agrarian bunkers.’”
Last year, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a coalition of physicists and researchers, set their Doomsday Clock 90 seconds to midnight, “the closest humanity has been to doom in the clock’s 76 year history,” Daily Mail reported. The 2023 Doomsday Clock statement explained why:
“Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct. And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict – by accident, intention, or miscalculation – is a terrible risk.”
Companies have seen the rising need for underground bunkers among billionaires and have started offering solutions. Rising S says it has built 14 bunkers in New Zealand. Oppidum offers “ultra-luxury” bunkers anywhere in the world, and Survival Condo “converts abandoned US missile silos into survivalist underground high-rises,” Daily Mail explained.
It’s not just the threat of nuclear war that has people scrambling to build shelters; climate change is a huge concern and plays a factor on where billionaires are moving. Content creator Brekke Wagoner said: “Basically our weather is going to be more intense because of global climate change, if for no other reason you should have an emergency plan to deal with these inclement disasters, because they’re coming whether we want them or not.”
But what about the non-billionaires? Are they getting ready for the end as well? A Finder survey of 2,179 US adults has been collecting data since 2017, asking participants if they are preparing for a disaster. It found that Americans spent $11 billion on emergency preparedness last year, about 29% of the adult population. Not surprisingly, the most popular items included essentials such as food and water. Men (35%) said they spent money for emergencies last year compared to 23% of women.
What may be surprising is that the Gen Z adults are the most likely to prepare for a disaster, according to the survey, with 40% claiming to have spent money on doomsday supplies in 2022.
When we think of people building underground bunkers, especially if it’s an eccentric billionaire with more money than time on their hands, the 1999 movie Blast from the Past starring Brendan Fraser might come to mind. Perhaps millennials have it right, and living in their parents’ basements is training for when it’s time to bunker down in a well-stocked and fortified bomb shelter reminiscent of the 1950s nuclear panic.