Welcome to the End of the World

Ek Balam

Congratulations! You are the end of a long line of humans who evolved from the murky swamps into the Facebook loving, Starbucks drinking people we are today. As the Mayans predicted so long ago, today, December 21st 2012 is the End of The World. I know what you’re probably wondering, but there are no flaming balls of fire or giant aliens taking over my hometown, what’s the deal? Well, as it turns out (not surprisingly) the media sort of messed up a few details, but don’t worry the end may not be as far off as you think.

It is true that December 21 marks the end of the 5,125-year Mayan Long Count calendar, the fifth time the cycle has completed. The fifth, as in there were four before this one and there will be a sixth starting on December 23. It isn’t the end of the world, not even close, it is simply the end of a cycle.

The Long Count calendar was a linear creation, and relates to the Mayan concept of world ages. According to tradition, there were three failed worlds before the fourth when humans were placed on the earth. It’s easy to see how scholars could have misinterpreted the end of the calendar, and with it the fourth world, as apocalyptic, but that’s not how the Mayans see it. For them it’s cause for a huge celebration, a time to rejoice that we’ve made it through an entire cycle.

Masiphumelele Township, South Africa

So it’s not REALLY the end of the world, not in an existential or literal sense. But unless we start making some changes as a race, the end may not be that far away. Here are some facts for you to consider:

  • At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
  • According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
  • Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls.
  • Less than 1% of Chinese cities have clean air.
  • One in four mammals is at risk of extinction.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities
  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
  • 20 to 50 million metric tons of electronic waste are generated worldwide every year
  • More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
  • The human population on earth has grown more in the last 50 years than it did in the previous 4 million years.
  • Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhea
  • 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity
  • At least 50 million acres of rainforest are lost every year, totaling an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined.
  • In 1998 $11 billion was spent on ice cream in Europe. Estimated additional costs to guarantee basic education to all was $6 billion and access to water and sanitation was $9 billion.*

I’m not trying to be a self-righteous prick and I’m not REALLY trying to make you all feel bad, well maybe I am a little. God knows I do precious little to help my fellow man except to give donations around Christmas. But this is the state of the world today and researching these facts honestly disgusted me. It seems to me as a layperson that unless sweeping and dramatic changes occur at all levels on most issues, then the true end of the world may not be as far away as we might think.


*Facts and Figures from: 1) Poverty Facts and Stats, Anup Shah. GlobalIssues.org and 2) 15 Mind-Boggling Green Facts & Enviro-Stats on WebEcoist.com

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

8 thoughts on “Welcome to the End of the World”

  1. It was never about the end of the world but a new beginning. Looking at life with renewed eyes and sense of living. Many just misconstrued it. Just as the word apocalypse is misused to mean destruction when in fact it means disclosure of knowledge, enlightenment. May the new cycle bring change to our humanity.

  2. Well, the greats of the world have predicted that when the generation born in the 1980s comes into power, then the world shall once again begin to change for the good. Here’s hoping that we don’t destroy ourselves in the next decade or two before that happens!

  3. Thanks for this. It’s eye-opening information and helps to put life in perspective. Aside from activist endeavors, sharing information with others, and making educated decisions about how I live and products I buy, I often wonder what more I can do in my little corner of the world or in my travels to make a difference in changing things for the better. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but having the facts and figures on poverty and environmental issues helps. Thank you. May the new year bring peace and betterment to the world :-)

  4. When I was writing about some horrible injustice in the world, one of my readers said to me, “The world has never been fair. The problem is that we have stopped trying to make it so.” It really stuck with me. Let’s keep trying.

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