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Updated 15 April 2011

The end of the world

There have been dire predictions of the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar. Is it time for the sackcloth and ashes, or is it time to party, asks Susan Erasmus.

My inbox has been flooded with dire predictions of the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. Is it time for the sackcloth and ashes, or is it time to party, asks Susan Erasmus.

Predicting the end of the world has mostly been the domain of people who look as if they might be in need of a straitjacket, but recently otherwise functional people have joined their ranks.

As a species we have an unnatural fascination for imagining the cataclysmic end of our known world. There are few cultures on earth that don't have some vision of creation, catastrophe, or both. And do I have bad news for you: things don't seem to end well in any of the stories.

You can take your pick from giant fireballs, meteoric crashes, huge natural disasters. Then there are also the famines, the plagues, the pestilences. If this is starting to ring a bell, refer to the previous paragraph. Or to the Old Testament.

We are spinning through the universe at  enormous speed on a planet of which 80% is covered with water. It is also decidedly runny inside. And the outside seems to be on the march as well, as tectonic plates reshuffle themselves with enthusiasm.

  • The end of people is not the end of the world.
  • Financial disaster, though dreadfully inconvenient,  is not quite the same as the end of the world
  • Even during the worst political crises, the sun still comes up, the seasons still change
  • Up until now every single person who has predicted the end of the world has been wrong (You're still reading this, right?)
  • The earth has been around for a very, very long time
  • There are many major cataclysmic events that came near to destroying life on earth, but not the earth itself

 
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