The Mayan Warning We Should Heed


| 12/18/2012 3:51:44 PM


Tags: Food Scarcity, Utne Visionary,

Mayan Warning 

If you read this before December 21, good luck to you. Rest assured my wife and I will be preparing for the catastrophe of epic proportions predicted to unfold on that fateful day. In other words, we’ll probably be jockeying for position at the bathroom sink getting ready for work.

I’ve never been one to take end-of-the-world predictions very seriously, mostly because, well, they’ve only been unequivocally wrong 100 percent of the time. One thing I’ve always wondered is what’s the point of trying to be the person who correctly predicts the end of the world? If you’re right, who’s left to give you any credit?

When it comes to the Mayans, scholars much more familiar with their culture than conspiracy theorists and Hollywood writers are have long ago dispelled the notion that the now infamous Long Count Calendar predicts a sudden global demise. Unfortunately, it’s yet another example of conjecture making the news while actual science waits to be considered sexy enough to pay attention to.

While everyone has been distracted by mystical messages hidden in an ancient calendar, we’ve neglected a different Mayan warning that’s actually very real. As environmental analyst and 1995 Utne Visionary Lester Brown reminds us in his new book Full Planet, Empty Plates (read an excerpt) the Mayans precipitated their demise by undermining their food supply, specifically through activities that created catastrophic soil erosion. As Brown puts it, “they moved onto an agricultural path that was environmentally unsustainable.” He goes on to connect the dots to contemporary humankind, and—you guessed it—clearly shows that we’re headed down the same environmentally unsustainable path as the Mayans.



So right now, considering that we’re damaging our soil through factory farming and overdevelopment, misusing our natural resources by turning nearly half of the corn we grow into inefficient fuel for our cars, and all the while continuing to contribute in countless ways to climate change, I think it’s good to be reminded of the Mayans. Of course, whether or not we heed the warning their demise represents remains to be seen.

Jared Blackburn
8/12/2013 11:07:15 AM

"...waste, and consume some more... We continue to tolerate and encourage policies and practices that reward greed and neglect human decency..." -- that's just capitalism, it create a kind of survival of the wickedest, where those who fail to adopt the greedy, selfish, indulgent, amoral, cut-throat ways (or do so to a lesser degree than their competition) parish and are replaced by those who do. Its the "American way," and that does not reflect will on the U.S. or its culture.


LISA MCCAIN COLE
12/22/2012 10:41:14 PM

I have a lot of respect for Mr. Salatin, his book on pastured beef prompted me to raise my own. I would differ with him, though on what constitutes a waste. It all depends on what one considers important. Speaking as one who moved from a metropolitan area to have horses, I would hardly consider the use of my land to support them wasteful. Hardly a waste to keep horses and donkeys in the world, a world without donkeys is not one I want to live in. Maybe someday after peak oil hits, I can ride them on roads without taking my life in my hands. In the West, many hay crops are grown on non-irrigated land or grown in rotation with food crops to improve soil. Not a waste. My soil grows grass and nothing else. Cut and baled, this grass feeds my guys and a few others with minimal carbon useage. I could do without golf courses though. Now there's a waste of good pasture! And since golf courses are located close to urban areas and already have irrigation if they need it, they're definitely a waste of cropland too. People can just play Wii Golf, right? And what about the land wasted growing tobacco? Or okra? I hate okra.


JEANA EMGE
12/22/2012 4:58:47 AM

Christian - Of course your article is correct in all details. Thank you for putting the concept in print. My question is how could the population at large be in this much denial. Follow my list here; cause and effect, behavior and consequences, sins of the father ... can we see a pattern emerging ? What will it take to wake people up? I just read about WalMart building a store near the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan near Mexico City. Do they need more money? What could possibly justify ......