By Allie Daugherty
Christmas is canceled. Well, not officially, but it might as well be considering how many people believe the world is going to sink into an apocalyptical state of destruction three days before Santa is scheduled to stuff stockings.
The seemingly inexplicable (see sidebar) end of the Mayan calendar on December 21 has definitely caused some panic.
"It's like going into a haunted house," says Randy Kelley, an ex-Navy SEAL and the lead instructor at the preparedness group Ready-5. "You enter and you're already freaked out, but you haven't even been scared yet. Then when something happens, it amplifies that feeling. 2012 is like that."
Possible threats of disaster have caused people like Kelley to get ready for the aftermath. In today's society, those people are called "preppers."
According to Kelley, most preppers think there's going to be a great die-off of people due to things like pandemics, an economic collapse or natural disasters. They prepare for the worst by stock-piling food, water and other resources.
"I'm not going to say they're not crazy, because some of them probably are," he says. "But if you knew a wreck was coming, you'd want to put on your seatbelt, right? All prepping is is insurance."
To get ready for the end of the world, Kelley suggests having the following:
Shelter: Something to protect you from the elements.
Food (quantity and storage): "It needs to be stuff you like to eat," says Kelley. Also, store seeds and fertilizer to grow your own.
Water: "You need to be able to store some, but the biggest thing is you need to be able to filter," he says. "A water filter is probably the most important thing you can get."
Communication: Cell phones or radios.
Plans: "You have to have a book that says, 'Earthquake: This is where we're going, this is what we're packing, let's go.'"
Personal protection: Kelley stresses that gun safety laws must always be followed, adding, "I'm not a big believer in 50 guns." Only a few types of guns and self-defense weapons are needed.
Mobility: "You need a decent car to go off-roading...or slowly push people out of the way. You have to have stuff in your car, too, like food and water."
Tools: "You might have to make your own things."
Extras: Like toothbrushes, etc.
Medicine: A first-aid kit, cough drops, etc.
Books: Physical copies, like encyclopedias, are preferred. "As much as we love the digital world, what happens if there's a cyber attack?"
Facts to live by
Everyone thought the world was going to end in Y2K. Clearly, that turned out to be underwhelming. Now, the trendiest new doomsday date - December 21, 2012 - has become so well known that NASA released a statement about it:
"Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012."
According to the space organization, "The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed [read: made-up] planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012."
But even the Mayan calendar evidence has been snuffed. The calendar lists 13 144,000-day calendar cycles, called bak'tuns. The 13th of these ends on December 21, 2012, leading many to think the Mayans were predicating the end of the world.
However, newly discovered Mayan writings have brought fresh insight. Researchers released a statement in June explaining that the new-found text talked not of a prophecy, but of ancient political history. This suggested that the December date was an important calendar event that would have been celebrated by the culture, but was not a prediction of the end of times.
In layman's terms, the Mayans just had a really long calendar year, and December 21, 2012 would have been their New Year's Eve. It's not Armageddon, just an excuse to party!
And as far as the Nostradamus theory - which states the famed prophesier also predicted the world would end in December - his book "The Prophecies" neither mentions the end of the world nor the year 2012.
Many Americans got their first taste of preppers from the National Geographic TV show "Doomsday Preppers," which highlights the strategies of those preparing for the world's end, and then scores them on their chances of survival. According to Kelley, the program shines a negative light on the culture by focusing on the zaniest preppers.
"Someone who stores three-to-six months of food can be seen in the same light as those whackos, so most preppers like to be quiet about it," he says.
But one prepper from the show, who goes simply by Chris, puts the idea of an apocalypse in a different perspective: "Food is not in short supply. It's brains that are in short supply."