A decade ago everyone, from experts to the guy that had just discovered blogs, was predicting a breakdown in society due to what has come to be known as Y2K. The ensuing scare resulted from a very real possibility: because of its shortsightedness in its programming in the 1960s through the 1980s, the Information Technology world failed to allow for a 4 digit year. Because the bug existed not only in computer operating systems and software, but in all kinds of hardware and firmware, the potential for a shutdown in industry, the power grid, banking, transportation and communication was a very real possibility.
When the world kept right on ticking without missing a beat as the new millennium dawned, most people threw their Y2K preparation manuals in the garbage, tried to figure out what they would do with a year’s worth of prepackaged food, and went on about their lives. The majority breathed a collective sigh, and a few made fun of those who had prepared for the worst. Ten years later, most still don’t realize that catastrophe was avoided because IT companies all over the world invested billions of dollars and spent thousands of man-hours retooling every line of application source code that mattered. In other words, because there was something that could be done about the looming disaster, it was.
Now we approach the year 2012 and yet another end-of-the-world prognosis is emanating from very divergent sources: one is dubious, but the other must be taken much more seriously.
The Mayan Calendar and the End of the World in 2012
The rapidly expanding urban or Mesopotamian legend goes something like this: the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, therefore cataclysmic things are bound to happen. It is true the Mayans were a very advanced culture. The Mayan empire flourished from A.D. 300 to 900 and had well developed schools of writing, mathematics, and astronomy. The Long Count calendar was intentionally designed to track 5,000 years before resetting to zero. The end of calendar cycles were not times for fear to their creators. In fact, Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies notes each end of a short cycle was a time of great celebration in the empire.
One factor that drives the mythos around the year 2012 in conjunction with the Mayan calendar is a rare astronomical event that will occur during the winter solstice of that year. For the first time in 26,000 years, our sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way, temporarily disrupting whatever energy typically makes its way to Earth from the center of the galaxy. But that the Mayans possibly had any knowledge of such a future event and that it will affect anything, are highly disputed by scientists around the world.
The Solar Cycle – A Very Real Possibility
NASA has consistently been reporting the possibility of extensive solar flares and even a once-in a-millennium-type solar storm in the next few years. The agency has documented past geomagnetic storms in 1859 and 1921 that disrupted telegraph systems around the world. A number of scientists are predicting this to be the most intense solar cycle since such record keeping began 400 years ago. With our world now dependent on computers, communications, and electronics in ways the people of 1921 could never imagine, a solar storm even on the magnitude of the one at the beginning of the 20th century would indeed throw modern man into what amounts to the Dark Ages.
Though it is doubtful the Mayan calendar has any consequence to modern man, (other than a lot of money being spent on movies and books), what might happen as the solar maximums reaches their zenith over the next few years is something that should cause all of us to evaluate a lot of things. First and foremost it should make us examine our dependence on technology that few of us even fully understand. Several Christian fiction authors have given us fictional accounts of what might happen to society should a major solar event hit the earth. In Terri Blackstock’s Restoration Series, she chronicles what happens to one small southern town as it is suddenly cut off from the world. The author does a great job of depicting how unprepared most people would be for an event such as an EMP blast from a solar flare that destroys everything electrical in the world. A decade earlier, Larry Burkett presented the same scenario in Solar Flare. While of lesser literary quality, Solar Flare relentlessly drives home two points: such an event would indeed throw everything into chaos, and where chaos reigns, someone will also step in to take over.
There are some practical things to prepare one’s self for in the aftermath of a major solar event. Fiber is not affected by electromagnetic pulses, so in lesser solar flares, totally fiber networks will not be compromised. Vacuum tubes are immune, so pre-digital radios may still work after a major event. But, since the vast majority of infrastructure would be affected, neither will help much. Therefore the best preparation for a major solar event is to have back-up plans that don’t require electricity from the grid. Static electricity (wind-up) flashlights and radios are inexpensive and really work. Direct Current (DC) devices would not be affected by EMP disruptions. Some knowledge of electricity would go a long way as well. As Burkett notes in his novel, newer automobiles would be totally disabled. Pre-1980s engines may be disabled because electrical polarities could be reversed; however, a good electrician could fix that by rewiring alternator and generators.
The Big Question
Could the Mayans have been preparing for the end of the world to come in 2012? Possibly. But the real question is, are we? Christians are told to live as though each day might be the last. The early believers of the New Testament met each other with the greeting Maranatha, “even so Lord come.” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare ourselves in every way possible for what might happen. We have a duty to protect our families and ourselves. We all should be prudent and alert to the possibilities of what lies before us. But, in the end, we should remember that neither the Mayans nor modern science knows what the last day of the human calendar will be. Only the One who writes it does, and as believers, we can trust Him implicitly.