Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Start of a New Cycle

Rather than the proverbial or actual "end of the world", for me, other than the mild irritations of a particularly crowded train journey, and a blocked drain at home, nothing untoward passed yesterday, because the fabled 21-12-2012, meant neither the final conclusion of the Mayan calender nor of the world itself. It is interesting to speculate as to how the world might have ended, if it had, for which the most apocalyptic proposed mechanism was a collision, or close encounter with a celestial body, variously called Planet X or Nibiru. Given the expected size of the latter, I think that we might well have been aware that it was on its way, somewhat earlier in the year, in a kind of Velikovskian "Worlds in Collision" or "Earth in Upheaval" scenario, with the surface of Mother Earth boiling into a magmatic frenzy and killing billions.

Another interpretation is that no actual end of anything was forecast, but rather the closure of one epoch and the heralding-in of another. Specifically it is the Mayan "Long Count" calender that is in reference. This calender began in a year corresponding in our temporal accounting record to 3114 B.C., and it advances in periods of 394 years called Baktuns. December the 21st - the winter solstice - 2012, marks the conclusion of the 13th Baktun, and the myth that the world would end then can be brought culpable in a false interpretation of a Mayan tablet, carved 1,300 years ago. Rather, we have been re-birthed by a mere few hours into a new cycle.

Although the world has not ended catastrophically, there seems little doubt that a core transformation of human civilization is under way, and which should accordingly prove dramatic in all aspects.While discoveries of untapped fossil fuels abound, there is little shadow of doubt that their rate of recovery at present levels, most immediately of crude oil, cannot be maintained with any significant longevity. This fact will impact most urgently on transportation, as fuel prices rise and then actual fuel shortages ensue, with profound consequences both to individuals and to the economies of nations. Lower-energy pathways for human activities must be found, and a new style of growth established on regional, local and community scales.

While this is the antithesis of global accession, it builds community buffers and diminishes our dependency on vulnerable exogenous supply lines. Thus, the new cycle must be one of establishing resilience, as the old  record of unbridled consumption is ushered backwards into the pages of history. The task confronting humanity, however, is by no means trivial, and there are few constants to draw upon to firm-foot the uncharted descent from the slippery peak of avarice. Accordingly, we may ultimately regard our having been "spared" to witness this new age as either a privilege or a condemnation.

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