The Washington Post

End of the world: Not this year

Boy, that was close.

But this was the news Friday: Earth okay.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency reported no incoming asteroids capable of extinction events. In France, at a mountaintop popular with UFO enthusiasts, there was no sign of little green men seeking cavity probes. In China, where an apocalyptic Christian sect was predicting doomsday, the Shanghai stock market dipped slightly.

As the clocks struck midnight in the western Pacific, the brave Kiwis sent forth this message, via social media: “The world has not ended. Sincerely, New Zealand.”

In Mexico, aging New Agers from the United States, dressed in white and carrying yoga mats, raised their hands into the air at the Mayan pyramid at Chichen Itza while a dude with dreadlocks played a didgeridoo.

“It’s not the end of the world, it’s an awakening of consciousness and good and love and spirituality — and it’s been happening for a while,” Mary Lou Anderson, 53, an information technology consultant from Las Vegas, told Reuters news service.

Tourist touts around the world had hoped that Internet blather about the end of the 5,125-year Mayan “long count” calendar would spark a run on trips to see humankind cash in its chips — with two-for-one cocktails — but it mostly never happened.

There was a small blip in travel to Mayan ruins in Mexico and Guatemala, but no tidal wave, officials said. The Mexican government sent a few more troops to Mayan archeological sites, on the watch for end-of-days cults. ButAtlas didn’t shrug.

The media had reported on fears of mass suicides, earthquakes, epidemics and rogue planets hurtling toward Earth — but that might say more about the media than the Maya.

Mayan priests said the end of their calendar was a turning of a page to the next chapter, not the end of the book. Mayan archaeologists chimed in that the doomsday talk was total baloney.

NASA did its part to dispel hysteria. From its Web site:

“Question: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.

“Answer: The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”

But leave it to the rocket scientists to bury the news.

In 5 billion years, give or take several hundred million, the sun will use up most of its hydrogen and will grow fat hot and angry, like many of us. Mercury and Venus, and possibly Earth, will be swallowed up by the sun.

So, there’s that. But later.

In the French Pyrenees, meanwhile, the mayor of the village of Bugarach banned UFO watchers from a peak described in New Age lore as an “alien garage” where extraterrestrials are waiting to abandon Earth, taking a few lucky humans with them, Reuters said.

France has no copyright on crazy. In China, security officials rounded up hundreds of members of the Church of Almighty God, whose members have been warning that earthquakes and tsunamis will herald the end of days and the rapture to come.

In Russia, buyers allegedly snapped up candles and kerosene after a newspaper article attributed to a Tibetan monk confirmed the end of the world, according to the Associated Press. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, dismissed the idea, sort of.

“I don't believe in the end of the world,” he said. “At least, not this year.”

William Booth is The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He was previously bureau chief in Mexico, Los Angeles and Miami.

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