JULIA BAYLY

Will the world end on Dec. 21, 2012?

Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 6:37 p.m.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m a tad hesitant to make any plans for Dec. 21, 2012. Or any long-range plans after that date.

According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, that is the exact date our “epoch” — which it records as starting on Aug. 13, 3114 B.C. — is ending, and possibly taking our civilization with it.

The ancient Mayas, who populated Mesoamerica between 300 and 900 A.D., are known for their advanced writing, mathematics and astronomy. They also are credited with developing a so-called Long Count calendar, which tracks more than 5,000 years before resetting to zero.

That calendar was abolished under Spanish colonization.

“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle [epoch],” Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Fla., said in a June 2007 article in USA Today.

To render Dec. 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting she says is, “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”

Kind of reminds of the good old last days of 1999 leading up to the predicted and wildly over-hyped Y2K computer meltdowns that never came to be.

Scholars do agree, however, that the cosmos will put on an exciting show as 2011 winds down.

On the 2012 winter solstice, the sun will align with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.

This means that the energy coming to earth from the sun will pass through that center and be disrupted at 11:11 p.m. universal time on 12/21/12.

Even for nonbelievers, you have to admit that’s a pretty cool collection of repetitive numbers.

But for respected scientists, that’s all they are, and some, according to the USA Today article, doubt the early Maya assigned any great meaning from the numbers or corresponding celestial alignment, assuming they were even aware of its far off occurrence.

“It would be impossible that Maya themselves would have know that,” Susan Milbrath, a Maya archaeoastronomer and curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “We have no record or knowledge that they would think the world would come to an end at that point.”

Still, there are others who strongly believe that the final day of the Maya calendar signals the final day for earth in its current form.

Of course, some of them may well have been among those fully expecting to ascend into heaven earlier this summer on the day of rapture — and we all saw how well that turned out for them.

Websites like www.2012endofdays.org and www.endoftime2012.com reference the Mayas and their calendar to make a case for tidying up one’s affairs before the 2012 holiday season.

Looking around at global conditions over the past year, theirs is a hard argument to ignore.

Earlier this summer NOAA named 2011 among the most extreme weather years in history with more than $1 billion in damage already tallied for weather-related disasters including tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes in this country.

And that was before hurricane season got cranking for the year.

Worldwide, at the halfway point of 2011 NOAA calculated weather-related damage at around $32 billion.

And, is it just me, or are we seeing some pretty extreme weather and disasters worthy of the best Hollywood special effects teams?

Tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, floods, giant sinkholes and volcanoes seem to be in the news on a daily basis.

It’s as if — as my friend Penny puts it — the earth is like a tired old dog getting ready to shake off the fleas and ticks and we are those fleas and ticks.

Weather experts point to natural conditions such as the effects of La Nina which this year some say are getting affected by changes in climate and on the ground — like declining sea ice in the Arctic.

For most of us, it’s hard to know who or what is right. Were the Maya on to something all those years ago?

My friend Kim has a pretty good theory on that one — the end of days on the calendar, she said, does not mean the world is ending. The poor guy who had the job of tabulating day after day either died on the job or got bored and quit, and no one wanted to take over.

I have to say, that does make a bit of sense.

Still, there’s a part of me that is thinking I may not have to do much holiday shopping in 2012.

On the other hand, come Dec. 22, 2012, I could be writing one heck of a retraction.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at jbaylybdn@gmail.com.

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