DuncanEarle“The world is ours to lose,” concluded Applied Anthropologist, Dr. Duncan Earle at his lecture titled “2012: What’s the Story?” on November 11. This was the second of two lectures Earle delivered at the university on the 11th. His first lecture, “Micro-Financial Alternatives to Rain Forest Destruction in the Congo,” addressed the question of creating financially viable alternatives to environmentally destructive activities that lead to tropical forest loss including alternatives such as carbon-credit offsets and sustainable enterprises for local economies.

Earle has spent the last 25 years studying the environment, international development and Mayan culture in Guatemala. He speaks three dialects of the Mayan language and was initiated as a calendar diviner by a village of Maya in the river valley region of Chiapas. He brought his unique perspective to the discussion of the impending apocalypse that is supposed to occur on December 21, 2012.

“The Maya assure us that the climatic and geological imbalances with nature will bring this crisis on,” Earle said. “Things are changing in ways that they have never changed before.” There are currently over 10 million Mayan descendents in the world who speak and understand some language based on ancient Mayan. These modern descendents continue to keep a Mayan calendar that is based on 260 days and cycles which repeat at regular increments, some days long, others two decades, and still more thousands of years. The cycle of importance in the discussion about 2012 is a baktun, a period of 5,125 years, the end of which coincides with the Christian calendar date, December 21, 2012.

“They (the Maya) don’t think of disasters as fast things,” Earle said. “2012 is a slow disaster. The dangerous nature of it is that we deny it and displace the blame for it and even worse, some of us don’t even recognize that it exists.”

“We are actually experiencing significant and potentially irreversible climate change. Planetary disasters do not happen in a day, but they do happen,” he said. But hope is not lost, according to Earle. As the source of the problem, humans can take steps to become the solution. The end of a cycle signals the end of a period of creation in the Mayan faith, Earle said. The end of a cycle is the end of one creation, but the beginning of the next creation.

“December 21st, 2012 is the end of a baktun, it is a time for reflection on the last 5,125 years of our creation. What have we accomplished in this time? For us, the answer is the building of civilizations as we know them. How well have we done in civilization?” The answer to Earle is, not very well. The construction of huge civilizations has not been good to the planet, according to Earle. This is a problem. “It is predicted that humanity would have to come to a point of decision making to put an end to our current creation to start a new creation that is friendlier to nature.”

Earle currently works to promote environmental sustainability through Jadora International, an organization focused “on fiscally viable methods of forest restoration and protection,” according to its Web site.

Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern