Local 2 examined the myths and facts behind the Mayan calendar and the end of the world. Not since Y2K has one date on a calendar gotten so much attention. It's been fodder for comedy and for conspiracy theorists, the end of the Long Count Mayan calendar means the end of the world.
Dirk Van Tuerenhout is a Mayan expert running a new exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
"Because [Mayans] loved the calendar and the referred to all kinds of dates but on in this case on only on 2 occasions that we know of that they talk about in our calendar the equivalent of Dec. 21, 2012," said Van Tuerenhout.
He said the calendar in question was just one of many the Mayans created.
"It started on Aug. 11, 3114 BC and it will come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, " said Van Tuerenhout. "So it's more than 5,000 years. It's a big wheel that is turning and then once it comes to full circle it will start again."
Just as we measure the days, weeks and months, the Mayans measured in various ways and at this point in their history, Dec. 21 would've been a cause for celebration, not obliteration.
"We enter the 13th bak'tun. Does the world end with the 13th bak'tun?" said Dr. Carolyn Sumners, Vice President for Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
She added, "We don't even know that for sure. It might end with the 20th bak'tun. It might just keep on counting. We do know the Maya would've celebrated the bak'tuns. They wouldn't have predicted the end of the world."
Despite the myth, Sumners appreciates the attention the calendar is getting, because it draws us into the greater story of the Mayans.
"They did kind of do what we do in modern civilization. They built and they built and they built," said Sumners. "But they over built major, so in the end when the rains didn't come, they couldn't feed the people, they couldn't keep them cool, they couldn't grow the plants, they couldn't give them water."
That message resonates today with survivalists like Houston national guard soldier Megan Hurwitt. Hurwitt preps for hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, natural and man-made disasters, localized and national.
For her, prepping means carefully stocking up on important goods, from food to medicine.
"Prep what you use, use what you prep," said Hurwitt. "Don't buy things thinking this will make a great end of the world snack and you've got 500 bags of jerky but you hate beef jerky. It doesn't make any sense. Also don't hoard things you know until the end of time and let the expiration date go bad. It's really easy to start prepping. I really do think it's important, come on Houston we've lived through hurricanes, don't rely upon FEMA and other government institutions to pass along MREs and water bottles. Do it yourself. Just do it yourself. But a little extra at the grocery store every time that you go and buy food. It's not hard."
Don't let the calendar myth overwhelm you.
"This is a very interesting phenomenon but do not believe the world will come to an end," said Van Tuerenhout. He added, "There will be a Christmas, you will get a gift and you will have to get a gift for somebody else."