Hold on tight — the world is ending tomorrow.
Or maybe it’s just the Mayan calendar that’s ending? You can’t be too careful, and many global citizens are prepping for the worst.
So let’s get a few things clear from the top. The ancient Mayans had a highly advanced sense of time and astronomy. While they made no actual predictions about the world coming to an end on December 21, 2012, many experts say that date is the last on their 5,125-year-old calendar. Friday marks the end of the 13th bak’tun — or 400 year epoch — and the beginning of the 14th bak’tun, although some think the epoch may have already ended, making tomorrow pretty much meaningless to the ancient civilization.
These archeological factoids may have gone unlearned by new agers if it weren’t for the work of Michael Coe in the 1960s. A Mayan scholar, Coe wrote that, to the ancient civilization, December 21, 2012 could have heralded an “Armageddon” to cleanse humanity.
Coe truly did not mean to stir the pot. But he did.
“The Arab Spring of the spiritual movement”
Rational explanations will not satisfy the 10 percent of the global population who, according to a poll by Ipsos, believe the world is rapidly approaching its end. Here’s a short list of people who agree with the statement “the Mayan calendar, which some say ‘ends’ in 2012, marks the end of the world”: 4 percent of Germans and Indonesians, 7 percent of South Africans and Italians, 12 percent of Hungarians and Americans (making Americans above average, in this context), and 13 percent of Mexicans and Russians. Who tops the list? China, at 20 percent.
The Chinese carry a heavy burden, reports Al Jazeera:
Liu Qiyuan from Xianghe in central Hebei province never thought he’d receive the attention he has at the moment. The 45-year-old former furniture-maker now builds “survival pods” – each with the capacity to hold 14 people – that can safely navigate tsunami waves 1,000-metres high, Liu says.
For each of the six pods completed, Liu has spent 300,000 yuan (US$48,000) in materials and labour. He and his team put fibreglass casing over a steel frame, while inside the pods are supplied with oxygen, food and water – enough to last several days.
Liu tells Al Jazeera: “It’s like a ping pong ball. It’s skin may be thin, but it can withstand a lot of pressure.”
I still don’t understand how a survival pod will protect you when the entire world comes to an end. Even if the pod works, what will you do on December 22 — go for a stroll?
Unfortunately, it’s not all survival pods for Chinese believers. Authorities have arrested 500 members of the Church of the Almighty God, which The Guardian refers to as a “cult” and “quasi Christian,” for spreading doomsday rumors. In a similarly “cultish” vein, authorities in Argentina closed down climbers’ access to one particular mountain peak for fear that it could be the site of a mass suicide.
Further west, the idyllic Turkish town of Sirince is seeing a huge boost in tourism as a rumor circulates that it alone will survive the apocalypse. The National reports that one hotel owner, Sevan Nisanyan, estimates demand for hotel rooms is soaring 10 times above the town’s 400-bed capacity.
The influx of survivalists has local officials worried about the town’s capacity to withstand the crowds.
“It’s a contagious madness, and it’s spreading,” Nisanyan says. “I am very scared for Sirince, the world will come to an end for Sirince if we have 10,000 people here.”
Sirince isn’t the only corner of the globe rumored to be immune to the apocalypse.
France 24 reports that the French town of Bugarach has seen such an influx that “police closed all roads leading up to the village . . . The people of Bugarach are determined to keep these ‘hippies’ and ‘new agers’ at bay.”
And in Siberia, hotels are booked solid at the foot of Mount Rtanj, which “doomsday cultists believe . . . emits special energy that could be channelled [sic] to protect them from the end of life as we know it.”
But why freeze in some remote corner of Russia when you could head straight to the source? The Hindustan Times reports thousands are flocking to the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization to witness…whatever is going to happen on December 21:
“No one knows what it will look like on the other side,” said Michael DiMartino, 46, a long-haired American who is organizing one of the biggest December 21 celebrations at the Mayan temple site of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula. It is not the world but “the way we perceive it” that will end, said DiMartino, who pledged his event at ground zero for 2012 acolytes will be a “distilling down of various perspectives into a unified intention for positive transformation, evolution and co-creation of a new way of being.”
Said another American: “This is the Arab Spring of the spiritual movement.”
For its part, the Mexican government is soaking up the attention, even counting down the hours on a pro-tourism website called Mundo Maya 2012.
Speaking of Mexico, what do actual Mayans think about all this attention? The Associated Press quotes Jose Manrique Esquivel, a Mayan descendent, who will celebrate December 21 as a milestone for a culture that has survived generations of genocide and oppression. Esquivel does not think highly of people making a financial profit form the “prophecy,” but he hopes to use the attention to raise awareness about climate change and environmental degradation.
“We’re putting in danger the existence of our world,” Esquivel said. “It’s our goal for this date to create consciousness about our Earth. We want to say to everybody that the Maya live and we want to gather our strength to save the Earth.”
As for our neighbor to the north, good news: most experts agree one Canadian will definitely survive. Because he will be in outer space.
NASA says no way
But have no fear, say a bunch of rocket scientists. NASA, the world’s premier space exploration institution, has been working double-time to convince terrified and rapturous earthlings that the world is, alas, not coming to an end just yet. In sober, measured terms, NASA has trice tried to quell fears: first via press conference, then Google Hangout, and finally through a YouTube Video, which you can watch below.
Here’s the funny thing: NASA called the video “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday,” originally planning to release it on December 21. But they got tired of waiting and instead posted it 10 days early. Perhaps they were just proud of their video-editing skills and wanted to be sure people saw the film . . . you know, just in case.
One final note: this isn’t the first time the federal government has tried to allay concerns over something that couldn’t possibly happen. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assembled a list of measures to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse; and in June the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration denied the existence of mermaids: “No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.”
No word yet from the National Parks Service on unicorns in Yellowstone.