Dec. 21, 2012 is the end. Or maybe just the beginning of a new Earth era. According to thousands of Redditors, conspiracy theorists and one particularly enthusiastic entrepreneur from California, the date marks the end of the Mayan calendar and also the end of the world, or the beginning of the end.

The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is thought to be a non-repetitive, 5125-year cycle used by the ancient civilization of Maya. And on Dec. 21, 2012, these 5125 years will come to an end, marking what some have described as the end of the world as we know it.

What this claim means is still unclear. After all, the Mayans did not predict a nuclear war or terrorist attack that some groups are proffering.

The Mayans did not suppose that the calendar would just stop on Dec. 21, 2012, according to Susan Milbrath from the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

“We have no record or knowledge that they would think the world would come to an end at that point,” said Milbrath in an interview with G. Jeffrey MacDonald of USA Today.

But this has not stopped some organizations from devoting time, energy, and millions of dollars into an end-of-world contingency plan. One such organization is Vivos, headed by Californian entrepreneur and apparent godsend, Robert Vicino.

The millionaire felt that he was called to build a shelter for 1,000 people in 1980 that would protect its inhabitants from an earth-shattering event. According to the Vivos website, Vicino was “not very religious at the time, did not know who the Mayans were and had no other motivation or cause to be alarmed—just a very strong inspiration, that he now believes was from God.”

This inspiration received the backing of a group of businessmen in 2008 that saw the time was right to start construction on more shelters. There are now three communal living shelters, in Indiana, Nebraska and the Rockies, as well as family suite-style options, for those who don’t want to share the end of the world with 1,000 others.

This may seem altruistic and kind—there is hope for us after all—that is until one sees the price. Co-ownership of the shelters begins at a cool $35,000 and reach $50,000 for the now sold-out Indiana shelter.

The Vivos website describes the units as “deep underground, airtight, fully self-contained complexes designed to survive virtually any catastrophe, or threat scenario including natural or manmade disasters.”

Vivos staff said via email that “December 21, 2012 is not the end, but the beginning of the end. The next few years will be very dangerous.”

And what do the Vivos staff believe will happen? A number of severe solar flare “kill shots” that will cause death and destruction between March and June 2013. At least we have until after Christmas, right?

But it is not just rich folk with money to burn who are preparing for doomsday. Patrick Danton, 21, an environmental humanities major at Stony Brook, is looking forward to Dec. 21, seeing it as an opportunity to witness a “social consciousness” shift.

“The problem with it is the misinformation,” said Danton. “It could be something horrible like a huge cataclysm or it could be something really good.”

The idea is that an electromagnetic pulse, coupled with a weakening magnetosphere, could wipe out the earth’s electronics, according to Danton. This could mean a literal shift back in electro-time and a conscience awakening for the earth. Perhaps we will start appreciating our planet a little more.

Even with all of these theories, there still rests the assurance from National Aeronautics and Space Administration, who said they foresee nothing monumental occurring in the days before Christmas. In a particularly scathing question-and-answer webpage titled “Why the World Won’t End,” NASA staff explain that the story began with a claim that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, was heading towards the earth and would make impact in May 2003. That didn’t happen and the apocalypse-faithful shifted the date to Dec. 2012, to coincide with the end of the Mayan calendar, according to  the NASA website.

NASA continued to debunk each of the theories of a supernatural end of the world and ended the question and answer with this comment: “For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact.”

Nicely done, NASA.

However, through all the haze and smoke (from the meteor careering towards the earth as we speak, of course), it is clear that people are convinced that the end of the world as we know it is nigh. Perhaps this desire to make the most of the last few weeks on earth is not as crazy as one might think. A sweet, fully self-contained, airtight pad deep underground would be a great location for a New Year’s party. That is, if we make it to 2013.


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