Apocalypse Now? A 2012 Survival Guide

Tired of this happening to you?
Tired of this happening to you?

Sure, we'll all have a good laugh about this 2012 nonsense come January 2013, but first we'll have to brave an entire year of nonstop doom and gloom from pseudoscientists, would-be prophets and outright quacks. That means going to bed every night and asking yourself, "What if the world actually does end tomorrow like Nostradamus sorta-kinda said it would?"

Face it: You're better off going into 2012 prepared. That means knowing the year's top 10 apocalypse threats like the back of your hand and packing a survival kit to handle any eventuality. We're happy to help with that.


In the pages ahead, we'll run through 10 of the apocalyptic boogeymen facing us in 2012, as well as a few recommendations from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to keep you one step ahead when the end is nigh. Sure, none of these scenarios will actually occur, but you'll feel better knowing you're prepared to face anything from the Mayan end times to a global shift in consciousness.

Now go ahead and slip on that gas mask, shove a copy of this article into the survival kit and dive into 10 wonderful pages of doom.

The Mayan god of death prepares for a 2012 world tour in the ancient Codex of Madrid. Just kidding, he's heating up the celestial snake with a hot axe to provoke rain.
The Mayan god of death prepares for a 2012 world tour in the ancient Codex of Madrid. Just kidding, he's heating up the celestial snake with a hot axe to provoke rain.
Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

You know the drill on this one: The ancient Mayans used several intricate calendars to number their days, and their Long Count Calendar's 1,872,000-day Great Cycle will wrap up on Dec. 21, 2012.

Of course, as far as we know, the Mayans never said anything about the world ending in 2012. If anything, the close of the Great Cycle would just be an excuse to throw a massive party. And the next morning? You guessed it: Time to crack open a new calendar and get on with your life.

Still, apocalypse-mongers like to assume the Mayans possessed some astrological insight into Earth's future. They argue that a world-ending planetary alignment will occur on Dec. 21, 2012, but every astronomer on Earth can tell you this isn't even remotely in the cards. Repeat: Credible scientists are not worried about any of this.

How to Prepare: Just to be on the safe side, it pays to keep some clean water (at least one gallon or 4.54 liters per person per day) and nonperishable food items on hand in case of emergency, be it the end of the world or just a heavy snowstorm.

Up next, we'll take on the rapture.

Coming soon to a planet near you!
Coming soon to a planet near you!
Imagno/Getty Images

No discussion of apocalypse preparedness is complete without a stopover in the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Christian New Testament famous for its confusing account of angels and dragons duking it out in the end times.

Amid all the fever-dream imagery, the book forecast the return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of every last believer on Earth. According to some interpretations, this means that one day the son of God will return to Earth and all his followers will instantly ascend into heaven, leaving behind only sinners.

Of course, the first century text failed to nail down an exact date for the rapture, leaving countless people to speculate on it for going on two millennia. Most recently, California radio evangelist Harold Camping grabbed headlines with a billboard campaign warning of a May 21, 2011, rapture. When nothing happened, Camping announced that the apocalypse wouldn't begin in earnest until Oct. 21, 2011. Should this trend continue, you can expect rapture estimates to drag out well into 2012.

How to Prepare: Can you imagine how the rapture will affect rush-hour traffic? In case you're stranded (for any reason), the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you keep the following emergency supplies in your vehicle: food, water, first-aid supplies, flares, jumper cables and seasonal supplies (such as winter blankets).

Up next, we'll listen to the whispers of the bots.

If you believe everything you read on the Web, the world will go down in flames no fewer than a dozen times in the year 2012. One of the many apocalyptic predictions comes to us from a host of Internet-roaming Web bots. Yep, the very software we created in the late '90s to track search keywords and message board chatter might just have the inside tip on doomsday.

According to Clif High and George Ure, creators of the Web Bot Project, their work somehow managed to foresee both the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina from our Web browsing activity. Granted, it was only meant to predict market trends based on what everyone's searching for or writing about, but the duo argues that linguistic changes precede far-reaching behavioral shifts. Naturally, High and Ure keep the details of the programming secret and sell their results to interested parties.

The next big stop, according to the bot masters, is a 2012 cataclysm. Bear in mind, however, that the bots have been wrong on numerous other predictions, so they're ultimately no better a source for future predictions than your daily horoscope.

How to Prepare: If the Web bots speak the truth, the Internet may be of little use in the ensuing confusion of a 2012 apocalypse. As with any disaster, FEMA suggests you keep a battery- or crank-powered radio on hand to stay abreast of local evacuation plans.

Ah, but where do we flee to if doom comes to Earth in the form of a man-made black hole? Find out on the next page.

Well, this sucks.
Well, this sucks.

Any particle physicist will tell you that the European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN's) Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exists to provide new insight into how matter behaves at the shortest distances and at the highest energy levels. A conspiracy theorist, however, will inevitably insist that it just might unleash a planet-munching mini black hole.

Let's just say that's at best a half-truth. Yes, the high-energy collisions inside the LHC could theoretically create a mini black hole, but physicists agree that such a fun-sized singularity would quickly lose mass and evaporate before it could so much as swallow a researcher's ink pen, much less Earth itself. Plus, high-energy cosmic rays more powerful than anything inside the LHC crash into our planet all the time, and we've yet to witness such a reaction.

How to prepare: The most important part of any emergency preparedness kit is a plan. Where will you seek shelter in the event of a storm? How will you exit the home in the event of a fire, and where should family members meet to regroup? Granted, none of this will be much use against black holes. Anything you read about singularity-proofing your basement, while entertaining, is probably a scam.

Not every cosmic doomsday theory starts out so small. Look out, because here comes Planet X.

Don't put that there!
Don't put that there!
Michael Dunning /Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Space collisions occur all the time in our universe. Particles slam into each other and eventually form planets, moons and stars. Meanwhile, astronomers have observed galaxies in the midst of colossal, head-on smashups. So, can planets collide? Certainly. Will Earth crash into a mysterious Planet X on Dec. 21, 2012? Well, you can choose to believe either conspiracy Web sites or NASA.

The conspiracy theorists arrive at this cataclysmic conclusion based on a few highly dubious sources, but mainly seem to depend on an outdated astronomical discrepancy. For much of the 20th century, differences in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune led some astronomers to suspect an undiscovered planet in the solar system's midst. In reality, they were merely overestimating Neptune's mass, but it caused many people to theorize the existence of Planet X.

According to NASA, anything you read online about Planet X, or Nibiru, smacking into Earth is pure nonsense. So really, don't lose any sleep over this one.

How to Prepare: Planetary collisions aren't generally the sort of thing you bounce back from, so the best you can hope for is to spend your final moments in a comfortable pair of shoes. In fact, FEMA suggests keeping a comfortable pair of walking shoes at work so that in the event of an emergency evacuation, you won't have to hoof it in a pair of painful loafers.

What's next on the apocalypse buffet? Prepare for the Fifth World Order.

This colorized postcard shows a group of Hopi dancers performing for guests in 1902.
This colorized postcard shows a group of Hopi dancers performing for guests in 1902.
Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

The Hopi are a tribe of Native Americans indigenous to northeastern Arizona and, as with pretty much every other culture, the tribe has its own religious ideas about the world's beginning and end. Like other ancient systems of belief, the tribe also deals in the idea of cyclical rather than linear time. In other words, time as they perceive it continually loops back around and hits the same crucial points, rather than stretching on in a single line.

As part of this, the Hopi believe that the world we live in experiences a cycle of destruction and rebirth. In addition, we live in the fourth incarnation of this world. Eventually, destruction will bring about its end so that a fifth world can come into being, the tribe says. Before this happens, however, a number of things have to occur -- such as the prophesied iron snakes crisscrossing the land. Does that mean train tracks? Does it mean giant robot snakes? Conspiracy theorists choose to interpret it all as meaning 2012 is the year the Hopi apocalypse takes place.

How to survive: Lucky for us, Hopi forecasts seem to indicate that we might get to travel into the fifth world on a boat -- which probably means flooding, right? In the event of a flood, FEMA recommends you move to higher ground, avoid flood-prone areas and remember that a mere 6 inches (15 centimeters) of water is enough to cause loss of control and stalling in most vehicles.

What else might 2012 throw at us? Get ready for a pole shift.

Human structures become treacherous during earthquakes.
Human structures become treacherous during earthquakes.
Natalie Behring-Chisholm/Getty Images

Now here's a real beauty of a doomsday scenario: the Earth's North and South poles suddenly flip places, causing planetary rotation to grind to a halt and start rotating backward as if someone slammed the brakes on the family vacation van and then threw it into reverse. Imagine the oceans rising up to swallow cities. Imagine the earthquakes felling mountains.

Sound terrifying? Well, here's the scoop: While geomagnetic reversal can and does occur, it would take thousands of years to happen, and there's no evidence to suggest it would result in global cataclysm. Rest assured that it certainly won't alter planetary rotation. And as you might imagine, any inkling that such a major geomagnetic reversal will occur in 2012 is complete conspiracy theorist nonsense.

How to Survive: Still, it pays to be sure, right? Should the Earth begin to shake, FEMA recommends that if you're indoors, seek shelter under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. If you're outdoors, keep away from buildings, streetlights and power lines. If you're in a moving vehicle, pull over away from structures or trees.

Next up, learn what to do when ancient Chinese coins threaten the planet.

Scared yet?
Scared yet?
Rossaroni/Creative Commons

Wait, so what do ancient Chinese coins have to do with the threat of a 2012 apocalypse? Well, nothing unless you buy the theories of Terence McKenna, the post-Timothy Leary, psychedelic poster boy.

The Taoist I Ching is an ancient Chinese divination text that, in addition to sharing basic tenets of human wisdom, lays out a system for determining the course of future events. It requires the would-be diviner to cast three coins which, when combined with a complex system of 64 hexagrams, can produce 4,096 different combinations. With the aid of the I Ching text, the user can then formulate a prediction for the future.

McKenna, however, claimed to have created a computer program that allegedly formulated a "time wave" out of all possible I Ching casting combinations. This time wave, McKenna concluded, points to an event dubbed Time Wave Zero in the year 2012. He dreamed up the idea in the early 1970s while under the influence of DMT (dimethyltriptamine) and LSD. So yeah, don't waste too much mental anguish worrying over this magical mystery apocalypse.

How to Prepare: FEMA makes no recommendations concerning I Ching coins, but the agency does recommend stashing money in an emergency savings account. You also might want to keep a small amount in cash or traveler's checks at home in case of evacuation.

Up next, prepare to endure the wrath of the sun.

Behold the sun's corona.
Behold the sun's corona.
PhotoLink/Photodisc /Getty Images

Solar flares can and do present a problem for the wired world of the 21st century. After all, we depend on a network of satellites in the sky and a largely outdated electrical grid on the ground. Solar storms can disrupt those satellites, and a massive burst of solar wind called a coronal mass ejection (CME) can cause computer glitches. A solar superstorm, however, could hit the planet with enough energy to overload power grids and wipe out electrical systems in many areas.

Where does 2012 feature into all of this? Well, some apocalypse literature urges that on or around Dec. 21, 2012, the sun will reach the peak of an 11-year cycle known as solar maximum. Then it's solar superstorm time. Of course, NASA solar astronomers actually think the maximum might not occur until May 2013 [source: NASA]. And while such a superstorm could very well cause trillions of dollars of damage to the electrical grid, it wouldn't wipe out life as we know it -- not by a long shot.

How to Prepare: How do you prepare for a lengthy power outage? FEMA suggests you stock your emergency supply kit with matches in a waterproof container; a portable, battery-powered radio or television; a flashlight and extra batteries for everything.

Up next, prepare for a major change in thinking.

Just what kind of apocalypse is this?
Just what kind of apocalypse is this?
RunPhoto/Riser/Getty Images

The concept of a shift in global consciousness appears throughout spiritual and new age teachings. It's essentially the idea that humanity will experience a shift in its values and perception of the world. Think of it as a kind of new cultural enlightenment, in which we come to embrace a more peaceful and thoughtful mode of existence.

The details vary depending on whom you ask. New age author Eckhart Tolle, for instance, envisions a time when humanity will free itself of self-centered ego and usher in a era of peace and compassion. Psychologist Susan Blackmore ponders to what extent our growing neuroscientific understanding of consciousness will alter our sense of identity as a people.

How does 2012 paranoia factor in? American therapists Barry and Janae Weinhold interpret the culmination of the Mayan Long Count Calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, as not an end of civilization but rather a promising new and peaceful chapter for all humanity. They back this up with such factors as growing numbers of progressive, liberal people in the U.S. and Europe and increasing quantities of invisible torsion wave energy emanating from the center of the universe. This energy, Weinhold stresses, has the same frequency as unconditional love.

So while a 2012 global shift in human consciousness is as unlikely as Planet X t-boning Earth, you have to admit it's a lot more optimistic.

How to Prepare: Should you happen to feel your own consciousness shifting toward the compassionate, remember that you can assist disaster survivors with cash donations to reputable aid organizations, volunteer work through nonprofits or the donation of requested goods via charity organizations.

For more information on the end of the world and disaster relief, explore the links on the next page.

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More Great Links


  • "Art Bell interviews Terence McKenna on Coast to Coast AM." Internet Archive. May 22, 1997. (June 27, 2011)
  • Blackmore, Susan. "State of the Art - The Psychology of Consciousness." 2001. (June 27, 2011)
  • Davis, Erik. "Terence McKenna's Last Trip" Wired. May 2000. (June 27, 2011)
  • Federal Emergency Managment Agency (FEMA). "Are You Ready?" Aug. 11, 2010. (June 27, 2011)
  • Klotz, Irene. "World Not Ending in 2012, Says NASA." Discovery News. Oct. 22, 2009. (June 27, 2011)
  • Luckman, Sol. "The Shift in Human Consciousness" December (June 27, 2011)
  • NASA. "New Solar Cycle Prediction." April 6, 2011. (June 27, 2011).
  • O'Neill, Ian. "Man-Made (But Very Tiny) Black Holes Possible." Discovery News. Nov. 12, 2009. (June 27, 2011)
  • "Terence McKenna's Time Wave Zero" December (June 27, 2011)
  • (June 27, 2011)
  • Williams, James. "Earth's Magnetic Reversal Won't Kill You." Discovery News. Nov. 13, 2009. (June 27, 2011)