San Diego: Another cold rainy day here in Southern California created, almost certainly according to contemporary theory, by us carbon emitting freakazoids all Hell-bent on destroying the planet and turning it into a huge space desert sort of like Mars except hotter. According to the logical extension of the theory the continual heat we humans (helped by flatulent cows) generate with our industry and cars will melt all ice caps, flood the coasts and move food production further north until the Rocky Mountains become an island chain like the soon to be submerged Hawaii, all the while baking the equatorial regions. Further, since some of the true believers seem to assert that we have already passed the tipping point and the earth’s environment cannot ever — ever — recover on its own for millions of years, the continued heating will slowly turn the planet into a a spherical Sahara and unless the few remnant humans can survive off of lizards and cactii, in a few hundred years we are all doomed.
I’m not worried though; the other prevalent theory at play is that on December 21, 2012, the world as we know it will all end anyway since the Mayan Calendar’s “long count” ends on that day. Or perhaps if it ends on that date then December 21 will be normal but December 22 simply won’t happen and we will all awaken to oblivion. But in either case there will not be time for all of the ice caps to melt.
In any case (and I personally believe neither theory) the scenarios do provide an excellent foundation for some serious thought and introspection. If, in absolute, undeniable and unchangeable fact we were dead certain that the world would end about 104 weeks from now, that is, if instead of a 2-minute warning all of the human teams on the field got a 2 year warning before the game was over — permanently — how would we play out the game for those last two years? What would gain in importance and what would lose in importance?
How would the accumulation of wealth stack up against the accumulation of friends and relationships? Would we still feel that at the end for all of us, the one with the most toys wins? Of what value would be a better car or a bigger house or a nicer suit if in 2 years it would all be wiped away. Our stuff would not be given to the kids or the pets as a bequest, but wiped away along with the kids and pets and everyone to whom you might wish to leave it. What value then would it have and to whom? They say no one yet has said on their deathbed that they wished they had spent more time at the office and less with their loved ones. What if we all knew to a scientific certainty that on a specific date, our planet would simply vaporize and cease to exist? What would become important to you when survival was no longer a possibility and therefore not an issue for which to plan. Would you want to spend more time at the office?
Or…. would your family and your loved ones take on a whole new level of value. Would you want to try to tie up some of those nagging loose ends of your life, resolve issues with people you’ve knowingly wronged so you could march into the blackness or whatever awaits on another plane with your mind free, your heart clean, and your spirit unburdened by regret for what might have been? Or would you spend the time in a panic stricken, high stress effort to prolong the inevitable; turning your back on all human comfort to discover the flaw in the theory, error of measurement or equation that would obviate the prediction of disaster?
If you knew that somehow, you could cast some accurate bit of yourself and of the history of your last days out into space and that millennia hence that bit of flotsam would be picked up by a passing craft from another world, how would you like them to think of you? If you knew that the destruction might send into space bits of debris from all over, some of which might be records of us humans in our final days and hours, or even that the radio and TV broadcasts beaming into space might someday reach the ears of other sentient beings, how would you want us. the inhabitants of the planet earth, to be seen? As petty, warring, ego-centric, miserably penurious wretches? Obviously some individuals will react poorly and try to take advantage of the situation even if there is no real advantage to be taken. But my question is not to them it is to you… what would YOU do with your remaining time.
The closest analogy we can get is someone with terminal illness knowing about when the end will come. But that is not an exact match since the world and the lives around them will go on past their time. For them there are others to worry about, others to try to take care of, the comfort of a continuity that will survive them. But in our scenario that continuity, at least for this life, does not exist. The only possible continuity would be a spiritual one of which we know nothing for certain and can only hope or believe somehow transcends this mortal one. So in the normal sense all continuity for humanity would be lost and our worries for them beyond the specified date pointless.
So my core question is, whether or not the world will end in 2 minutes, 2 years, or 2 millennia, if we all adopted the behavior consistent with it ending no more than 2 years out, could we not make our earth a far better place? if so then I would propose that as one of our collective New Year’s resolutions for 2011, we resolve to look at life: our lives and the lives of our fellow humans, as if we had but 2 years to continue to exist and see if, in those two years we develop some new habits that would serve us all better just in case, slim chance that it might be to some, that the Mayans simply ended that calendar and had not gotten around to starting another one to follow when the Spaniards brought about their own end which they did not seem to foretell.
They say people won’t change for the better until the “known” becomes worse or scarier than the unknown. Well, it is hard to imagine a worse “known” that knowing the world will end on a date certain. So how can we individually change for the better? Don’t worry about others in this case and in terms of them handling the situation. Two years is not enough time to correct the world’s woes, not enough time to turn a species’s nature into something completely different, and not nearly enough time to save the downtrodden from themselves. Many would simply give up; that is, as it is now, a conscious choice; you cannot help them until they chose to make a different choice. Many would be in denial and go about life as usual; you cannot help them because they too would have made a conscious choice. Some would spend it in a long party, others in a long prayer session. But how about you? If, however, you looked at and researched the science behind the prediction and found it to be unassailable and universally accepted and reinforced (unlike the two theories we are using as a spring board here which, if they share anything, share the same marginal levels of scientific integrity and consensus) what would you do with the remaining two years for you and the rest of humanity?