2012 is significant in the popular imagination mainly because of the Mayan prediction that the world as we’ve know it will come to an end on December 21st of that year. Beyond this it appears from the perspective of the present as being a year in which “things which can’t go on forever” such as ever increasing consumerism, agricultural expansion, ever increasing consumption of energy resources, and so on, abruptly stop going on forever. It appears to be about the right time for the effects of global warming and planetary climate change to become universally undeniable. Alas by this year it will also be too late to stop the accelerating positive feedback loops which will intensify the changes to our biosphere. Put succinctly, 2012 appears to be a pretty good candidate for being the year that the s#*t hits the fan, the year that everything changed and so on.
My friend, political activist and writer, Marie D. Jones recently asked me to contribute a short essay for her forthcoming book entitled 2013: The End of Days or a New Beginning: Envisioning the World After the Events of 2012.
Marie wrote: “.…I would like to ask for your contribution to this book in the form of a brief essay describing what you, personally, think the year 2012 will bring, and what the world may look like in terms of changes you believe may be coming. This essay can be anywhere from one to five paragraphs in length….”
My contribution to her book appears just below:
2012 as I see it
By Michael P Byron
2012 will be a year of fundamental transformation due to the convergence of several factors, all being human-caused. As Shakespeare had Cassius say to Brutus in his play Julius Caesar: “The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves...”
The following trends will culminate in the epochal year 2012: Worldwide production of oil will certainly have peaked. Since our planetary civilization runs on oil, desperate measures will be taken by powerful nations to ensure that the wheels keep turning. Wars and rumors of wars will fill the news headlines. Crash programs to produce energy using coal and nuclear power will be hastily implemented without environmental safeguards.
Global climate change will have become both undeniable and irreversible in this fateful year. Due to the peaking of oil production, coal will be increasingly ripped from the ground and burned, thus releasing more carbon dioxide more rapidly into our planet’s increasingly unstable atmosphere. Flood, fire, drought, rising seas, crop failure, disease, and insect pestilence will be the result. Due to all of the above factors, the global economy will contract dramatically. Recession and then depression will ensue. Governments will fall as currencies plummet in value.
As chaotic and disastrous as all of this will be, it will also be a unique opportunity to reform ourselves, our values, and our civilization. With profound crisis comes great opportunity. As our present civilizational structures disintegrate, we can transform and reintegrate ourselves from desire for short-term gain at the expense of others and the planetary biosphere, to a just, humane and environmentally rational civilization which can endure for ages to come. 2012 will be the year that we act decisively to bring about this fundamental renewal of civilization.
All of this raises a deeper question. How did Mayan Indians living many centuries ago manage to identify this epochal year? Or did they?
As far as the astronomical significance of the prophecy is concerned, December 21, 2012 is the date on which our solar system crosses the plane of the galactic equator. The Maya were world-class astronomers. It is perhaps not surprising that such a rare event as this should be interpreted as being an indicator of momentous events. A celestial event of such rarity and significance ought to correspond with an analogous terrestrial event—such as the end of the world as we’ve known it. So there is nothing surprising about the Maya choosing this date for such a prophecy.
Yet the Maya also predicted that in what we know of as the year 1519, Quetzalcoatl, a light-skinned, bearded person, would return, and that his return would mark the end of Maya civilization. Amazingly, in 1519, on his way to invading México, Hernan Cortés a light-skinned, bearded man, did indeed land in the Maya heartland in the Yucatan peninsula of modern day México, exactly when and where Quetzalcoatl was expected to arrive. And the arrival of Cortés did indeed bring about the subsequent destruction of what remained of the Maya civilization.
If this is a coincidence, it is certainly an amazing one! The probability of two such random coincidences panning out in reality would appear to be astronomical.
So what are we to make of the 2012 Maya prophecy? Will it prove, in hindsight, to have been as prescient as the one about the return of Quetzalcoatl? If so, how can such a thing as foretelling the future exist?