I have no idea what will happen on December 21, 2012 when the Mayan Calendar ends*. Maybe the world will end. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the poles will shift? Maybe the Earth’s axis will wobble? Maybe we’ll all wake up as usual and go to bed as usual. Maybe.
I do know there are lots of people making money out of 2012 and the shelves in bookstores are filling up with tomes on the end of the world as we know it. On the corner of a major intersection in Victoria, BC where I live, a bedraggled guy holds a sign warning of the wages of sin and the end of times. Funny, I thought I saw the same guy holding the same sign in Vancouver in 1970.
I am not going to be fooled again. Back on December 31, 1999, I remember counting down the minutes to midnight with friends and family, waiting for the grid to go down as Y2k ticked closer. I had stocked up on mushroom soup and toilet paper. I might still have some of those soup cans.
Last month, Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson reported that Mayan Apolinario Chile Pixtun is weary of questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly ending on December 21, 2012.
“I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff,” said the Mayan elder.
Now, not myth
Here’s what bugs me — the world as we know it is ending. We don’t need to wait for 2012. Change is definitely happening and it’s hard to deny it. Some things that were, are no more. Some things that are, will soon be gone. It’s called climate change, or global warming.
Yet instead of really focusing on what we must do to slow climate change, our mass media focuses on Mayan myths and last year’s release of the profit-focused 2012 starring John Cusack.
Here’s what we know for sure is not movie myth:
- The snows of Kilimanjaro are melting.
- Polar bears wander the arctic, hungry, as their traditional hunting territory literally melts.
- Warming waters in the shallow oceans have contributed to the death of about a quarter of the world’s coral reefs in the last few decades alone.
- Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. The amount of ice melt during the summer of 2007 was the largest since scientists first started making satellite measurements of the ice in 1979. According to climate scientist Konrad Steffen, the amount of ice lost in 2007 was “the equivalent of two times all the ice in the Alps, or a layer of water more than one-half mile deep covering Washington, D.C.”
- An oxygen-depleted dead zone the size of New Jersey is starving sea life off the coast of Oregon and Washington, reports Kim Murphy of the LA Times. It will probably appear there each summer as a resu lt of “evolving wind conditions likely brought on by a changing climate, rather than pollution,” according to Jack Barth, professor of physical oceanography at Oregon State University.
On his site Global Issues, Anup Shah has dedicated significant time and resources to providing a comprehensive overview of climate change and other issues affecting our Earth. His message — we can’t wait to act. He is not alone in his opinion.
“We have to do it this year. Not next year – this year,” said Al Gore at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen. “The clock is ticking, because Mother Nature does not do bailouts.”
Is climate change real? Ask the people of the archipelago nation of Maldives. Eighty percent of its chain of 1,200 islands is no more than 1m above sea level. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change is forecasting a rise in sea levels of at least 7.1 inches (18 cm) by the end of the century. That would mean the people of the Maldives, all of 396,000 of them, will have no home, no country. Climate change will claim it and the sea will bury it.
Recently, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet donned scuba gear for an underwater meeting to focus global attention on the threat of climate change. The cabinet signed a declaration calling for global cuts in carbon emissions.
The declaration will be presented before the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.
“We are trying to send our message to let the world know what is happening and what will happen to the Maldives if climate change isn’t checked,” Nasheed said. If urgent action isn’t taken according to Nasheed, “We are all going to die.”
It’s not the kind of thing you usually hear from a president of a nation.
It’s not the kind of thing you want to hear.
Indeed, denial is easier and so human — an effective but self-defeating shield against fear and despair. I believe we turn to denial because we really don’t know how to cope with a problem of this scale and few people with power seem to be offering real leadership. Certainly Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper isn’t, but then he has oil to think about, right? He was an embarrassment at Copenhagen. Oh, he dropped by for a little gratuitous visit but avoided doing the real work. Less predictably, US President Barack Obama was a disappointment when it came to effecting any change at Copenhagen. Frankly, I expected better of him than I did of Harper, but alas…
I do believe this planet we call Earth will survive. Will the polar bears? Will the whales and fish? Will the coral reefs? Will we?
The ancient prophesies haven’t been very definitive on this point. Stay tuned.
* It may be more accurate to say when the current cycle of the Mayan Calendar ends; many experts state that the Mayans had a circular rather than linear notion of time.
“Global Warming. The Earth Became the Newest Waterworld” Cherrylynx @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
“Underwater News Conference” courtesy of Maldives Government
“Aquecimento Global – Global Warming” DigaoSPBR @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.