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End of an Era

news_mayanWe have entered the last year on the Mayan solar calendar. Now what?

Super volcanoes erupt as earthquakes tear the Earth’s crust apart, and meteor showers rain down on cities around the world. These are the visions of Dec. 21, 2012 promoted in the media, with the History Channel and 2012forum.com leading the way.

The prophecy, according to doomsday believers, comes from an inscription on a structure known as Monument Six at Tortuguero, an archaeological site in Tabasco, Mexico. The last eight words of the epitaph translate roughly in English to, “The deity of the end of this cycle will oversee ceremonies on the last day of this cycle.” It is considered the only known inscription referencing the end of an era in 2012.

Most Santa Cruzans, however, aren't preparing for the end of times, even as humanity moved into the last complete year of the Mayan solar calendar on July 25. The calendar is called the Haab, and has 13, 28-day months. The 365th day, a day belonging to none of the 13 months, is left as a day to reflect on hopes for the future, which the Maya called “a day out of time.”

Wafi Amin, owner of Laili restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, used the phrase “day out of time” as the name of an event he held on the Mayan New Year that featured artists and speakers who shared their views of the transformation they see the world undergoing in the near future. Amin believes, however, that the choices of individuals and world leaders will determine whether the change is positive. He rejects predictions of disasters as a simple ploy to increase corporate and government control over the masses.

“Why would you spend $100 million making the movie 2012?” asks Amin. “Just to create fear. But that is not what the change should be about. It is about love, and taking care of your family and the Earth.” [According to Sony Pictures, 2012 actually had a $200 million price tag.]

Author, cosmologist and UC Santa Cruz physics professor Nancy Ellen Abrams says there is no evidence that impending doom from external forces is on the agenda for Earth. She says the biggest threat to life as we know it is … well, life as we know it—at least in the United States. The Chinese alone would use up the entire Earth's resources if they consumed at the same rate as people do here, she says.

“Every day the average American uses their entire body weight in resources ... we are heading for a big transition,” Abrams says. “We used to get away with using that many resources when other countries were poorer. Now the rest of the world wants what we have, [but] they can't have [it] because it would take four Earths to give it to them.”

She says that modern society has no concept of how each human fits into the “big picture,” and that conflict for resources and the actions of our leaders pose a threat to the collapse of society. She points to moves by self-proclaimed Christians in our government pushing to repeal environmental protection laws, and the Tea Party movement's refusal to compromise.

“They take no responsibility for the future because they don't believe we have one,” Abrams says. “It will be a disaster because they let their religion decide their politics.”

Americans account for 5 percent of world population but consume 20 percent of the resources. Critics like Abrams argue that this pattern cannot continue because developing nations such as China are demanding a larger share as their wealth and populations grow.

No matter what the exact date is, the upcoming convergence of the Tzolkin (the 260-day Mayan astrological calendar) and Haab in 2012 will mark the end of their 5,125-year “long-count” calendar. Monument Six may merely be a stone, but for many it represents the start of a new era for the Earth in the cosmic alignment of the Universe.

It may be good for the world to go through some hardship if the prophecies are correct about 2012, according to local inventor Guy Grant. He is skeptical that the end of days will come for everyone all at once, but says humans and the Earth might be better off with far fewer people, because our actions have destroyed so much of the Earth through nuclear power and war. He says the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is a clear indication that there are too many people in the world for us to sustain our current way of life, and blames the military industrial complex for many of the problems associated with the state of our air and water.

“The prophecies sound too drastic and the calamities too large,” he says. “But the best part if it does become a big deal, [is that] the U.S. Military will be helpless to try and change the outcome, because they got us here with all the pollution.”

According to Abrams we are six billion years from when the sun will become a red giant and incinerate the solar system. She goes on to say that, instead of being at the end of our time, we are in the best time for intelligent life to live on this planet, and that we shouldn't worry about prophecies that spell out the end of time, or even descriptions of the afterlife.

“There is no afterlife for individuals, but only for us collectively as particles of energy, and the ability to create civilizations and culture,” she says. “There could be a wonderful afterlife if we claim responsibility for the future of mankind.”

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