D-day for planet earth: Everyone’s talking about it
science writer Nalaka Gunewardene says the world has real hazards such as climate change and nuclear weapons to worry about
In villages and cities alike, the “end of the world” is a topic of discussion. Radio, television and print media have dedicated airtime and many column inches to the calamitous event which, it is said, will take place on Friday.
“Everyone in our village is talking about it,” said a retired school teacher in Horana, who wished to remain anonymous. “First, they said a meteor would crash onto earth. Then they said there would be three days of darkness. Now they’re saying we will all die without oxygen on December 21. This nonsense is being propagated by newspapers.”
According to NASA, the belief that the world will end in 2012, started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed towards earth. The event was initially predicted for May 2003, the NASA website says.
But, when nothing happened, the doomsday date was moved back to December 2012, and linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012.
Science writer Nalaka Gunewardene says, end-of-the-world prophesies have become “a thriving cottage industry”. “A cursory glance at Sunday Sinhala newspapers show their scare-and-sell strategies,” he observes. “Some are laced with pseudoscience while others are, well, outright ‘non-science’.”
Last week, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said at a news conference that some Health sector labourers had absconded from work on December 12, when a meteor was due to have crashed onto earth. Mr. Sirisena said these workers had wanted to be with their families—just in case.
Still, the day came and went; and so will December 21, asserts NASA. Mr. Gunawardene agrees, but says, that is no reason for complacency. The world has many real hazards including climate change and nuclear weapons.
Ananda Salgado, a renowned astrologer in Kandy, said there was nothing to indicate that the world will end on Friday. Even if one ‘long count’ Mayan calendar ended on that day, another cycle begins the following day, that will last 7,000 years.
“The world will not end, but many people will continue to die in natural disasters till 2020,” he predicted. “This is nature’s way of purging itself of the overgrown human race and pollutants.
People also contribute towards this by killing other people. If media states there is hysteria about the end of the world, it is only among the people who don’t know much about the subject,” he held.
“I don’t believe it will happen this year,” said Dilshan Asiri Hettiarachchi, a third-year student of the University of Colombo. Although he was from Gampola, he had no plans to return home on “tragic” day. “If the world were to end, we should see some signs by now. Many of us in the hostel are from outstation areas, but none of us are going home.”
Malshi Silva said she was confident she would be around to celebrate Christmas. “Then I get to wear my new killer heels,” joked the 21-year-old from Modera.
Like any other calendar, the Mayan calendar will begin again after December 21, said Nawaz Ibrahim, 23, a Maldivian national studying in Colombo.
There is no scientific evidence to support the predictions. “People should not believe in such nonsense, and worry about something that’s not going to happen.”
This may well be true. But it remains to be seen just how many stay home on Friday. If the end of the world doesn’t merit a day off, what will?
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