Well, some seriously believe it may.
Officially — or so a number of scholars claim — doomsday is expected to arrive on the 2012 winter solstice which will take place on December 21. That is the day the Mesoamerican (some also call it Mayan) long count calendar ends and, according to some predictions, a series of drastic cataclysms from deadly earthquakes to tsunamis to climate-altering pole shifts and solar storms will follow.
Some speculate the entire 2012 will not be an easy year in general, to say the least. But who'd argue about that? The global economic downturn, growing social upheaval, natural and manmade disasters picking up in line with a general sense of anxiety that many are experiencing these days - all this could very well fit the "end-of-times" criteria.
So are we really headed toward something really scary next year or is the end of the world simply too marketable an idea not to take advantage of?
Granted, eschatological beliefs have dwelled in world literature and art, not to mention religions, for as long as humanity can remember. But in the information age, Armageddon started to sell especially well. This year, depending on the intensity of the breaking news stream, the so-called "2012 phenomenon" has been a hot issue both in pop culture and business. Following the multiple disaster movies of the 1990s and 2000s, including the much talked about 2009 Roland Emmerich blockbuster 2012, another chilling apocalyptic thriller came out this summer, Melancholia, by controversial Danish director Lars Fon Trier. The film vividly depicts the Earth's fatal collision with a large and mysterious planet. "As the 2012 apocalypse is upon us, it is time to prepare for a cinematic last supper," the picture's press release stated. Britney Spears joined the doomsday hoopla, with a recent hit titled Till The World Ends.
Numerous businesses offering tools to prepare for the upcoming end times have also emerged lately. Entrepreneurs across the world are cashing in on the concept of impending doom, selling guidebooks, shelters (bunker sales have reportedly surged due to the Japan earthquake) and apocalypse day survival gear of sorts — gas masks, freeze-dried food, massive water supplies etc. Multiple bloggers offer tips on how to stay on top should global calamities occur. Even such a reputable U.S. institution as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched an extensive Q&A section on its website dealing solely with the purported 2012 apocalypse.
I called a few futurologists to find out if we should really get ourselves ready for the worst in upcoming year. First I talked to writer and philosopher Danila Medvedev, member of Russia's Transhumanistic Movement and director of CryoRus, the first Russian cryogenics lab (yeah, those bizarre guys who will deep-freeze your freshly dead relatives to be thawed and revived when immortality is discovered). Apocalypse predictions are the last thing we should worry about, Medvedev said. "The truly scary things are unpredictable," he said. The latter, according to Medvedev, could range from gigantic meteorites to techno-catastrophes like the recent one at Fukushima. Still, the end of the world as we know it would be still be taking place, he said, - just not in 2012, but throughout the entire 21st century, so we should indeed prepare for major changes. "People living in the end of this century will differ from those living now in more ways than a Neanderthal differs from a modern man," Medvedev said.
Tatiana Ivanova, sociologist-futurologist, deputy director of Russian Academy of Science Institute of Economic Strategy, sounded even less optimistic. She said the apocalypse began long ago and, unless we start living responsibly now, things are going only to get worse. "Ecologically, the Earth could fit only 600 million people," Ivanova said. "It doesn't mean a larger population is necessarily fatal, but we should review and change the rules by which we operate on our planet."
But, fortunately, not everyone favors such gloomy scenarios. A growing number of experts insist things are only going to get better - we've had enough of turmoil already and have started learning our lessons. Therefore 2012 might not be the end after all but the beginning - of the heart- and mind-opening transformation we'll all be going through during the years to follow. As much as I love watching disaster movies, I tend to support that one. I actually think people have started waking up already. We care more - about each other and the world as we can't help but realize how interconnected everything is today. As we've recently observed, many of us choose not to passively wait, but go out in the street and fight for what we believe in.
And by the way, the December 2012 doomsday is officially off, the scientific community announced just last week. It turns out a critical Mayan inscription had been slightly misinterpreted. It actually refers to the passage into a new era, not the previously predicted world-ending events.
But as future-guessing happens to be such a profitable business, we are surely going to hear more fearful prophecies soon. So why not focus on what's on the table now instead of worrying about the disasters to come? After all, what goes around, comes around.
The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.