Woody Harrelson's character Charlie Frost from the Roland Emmerich flick 2012 explains the basics of the Mayan prophecy
One thing I learned recently by chatting with Dennis McClung, creator of the 2012 survivalist Web site 2012supplies.com and sponsor of the upcoming 2012 Survival Conference in Scottsdale on October 17: The apocalypse can be good for business.
McClung didn't get into hard numbers with me, but he did admit that his Web site, which he began in 2007, and which offers one-stop shopping for those obsessed with surviving the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012, has allowed him to ditch his former gig as a manager with Home Depot and become a full-time Mr. Mom to his two young tots.
"Part of doing this Web site has actually enabled me to quit my day job and stay at home with my one year old and my three year old, and move from our apartment to a house," McClung told me. "It's really worked out for us."
This tireless end-times entrepreneur, who turns 29 this year, said the idea to sell folks water purification tablets, medical kits, cans of freeze-dried food, hand-cranked radios, and other such gear came to him the last time society underwent an episode of mass apocalyptic paranoia -- Y2K, when computer programmers convinced millions that beginning midnight January 1, 2000, the world's computers would grind to a halt.
The expected breakdown of civilization did not occur, but plenty of folks spent a ton of dough on supplies to wait out a crisis that never came. It was a lesson not lost on the ambitious McClung.
"I started working [for Home Depot] in 1999 during Y2K," he recalled of the pre-millennial rush. "And I remember the Home Depot running out of power generators. I thought, `How can the Home Depot run out of power generators?' I thought the next time this rolls around, I'd be the guy selling supplies."
This, McClung has achieved. But the very nature of the supplies raises an interesting question -- what's the point of having them if the end of the world is nigh?
See, depending on whose line of bull you buy, on 12/21/2012 ginormous solar flares will engulf the Earth, the planet's poles will reverse, a brown dwarf star will collide with us, and the world will generally be plunged into Old Testament-type cataclysmic destruction: floods, earthquakes, fire from the sky. You name it.
Heck, megahack director Roland Emmerich, impresario of expensive-but-cheesy disaster flicks, has reportedly burned through an estimated $200 million on a 2012 feature, which is set to open November 13. Indeed, any flick co-starring Woody Harrelson, Amanda Peet, John Cusack and Danny Glover, may, in and of itself, indicate that doomsday is upon us.
Yet, McClung is not McClinging to the idea of the end of the world on 12/21/20012. In fact, he says that on that particular day, he'll likely be concerned with sending Christmas gifts back home to Ohio and worrying about his impending wedding anniversary, which'll be right around the corner.
"I don't necessarily believe in those prophecies myself," McClung says of the direst predictions. "I tend to more believe in what is happening with our economy, what is happening with our environment as a whole. If an asteroid hits the earth, what can you do?"
Nevertheless, McClung insists that he does believe things are getting worse all the time, thus necessitating the re-acquisition of survival skills by an urbanized population too dependant on this thing we call civilization. So McClung's one-day conference will focus on topics like sustenance gardening, "going off the grid on a budget," and natural medical remedies, as well as delving into various 2012 theories.
Indeed, the keynote speaker isn't some guy nattering on about brown dwarf stars plunging into the Western Hemisphere, though that would be fun. Rather, it's extra-crunchy barefoot survival guru Cody Lundin, founder of Prescott's Aboriginal Living Skills School and author of When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes. Cody can teach you how to purify water, dispose of a corpse, and enjoy the nutty flavor of rat meat as your likely sole source of protein after all the grocery stores have been looted. (Though if you really get peckish, there is that corpse...)
McClung's uncertain as to how bad things will get, and how quickly, but he's not taking any chances. He says he and a network of other survivalists have acquired a piece of land in northern Arizona where they can flee should the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come riding 'round the corner with an ebullient Glenn Beck leading the way on a cross-eyed donkey.
"It's like a co-op," McClung stated of the survivalist network. "We all have our own ability, our own skills. We have some land out in the mountains of northern Arizona, so that if anything really bad does happen, at least we have some place to go."
This, despite the fact that most scholars think this 2012 stuff is hooey. Interestingly, on an episode of Penn & Teller's cynical cable show dealing with the Mayan calendar prophecy, the Vegas magicians interviewed Professor Mark von Stone, an expert in Mayan culture and art, who explicitly discounted this belief in a coming Mayan apocalypse.
"In Maya records," he told the skeptical duo, "there is no mention of the world coming to an end, ever. Not in 2012, not anytime. I think it's probably going to be a non-event, like Y2K."
(If you care to watch it, McClung has the episode up on a page of 2012-related videos, here.)
Still, what stimulates the economy with unnecessary excess spending quite like the threat of widespread calamity? And McClung is certainly doing his part to promote this unique Keynesian-style priming of the pump.
(Sigh.) To tell you the truth, I can't motivate myself to hate on a conference like this any more than I could hate on a Star Trek convention or a U.F.O symposium. It takes all kinds, brother. I just wish that when people say the world is gonna end, that it really would, so I don't have to worry about going back to work the next day or next week. That would be kinda like winning Lotto, but in reverse.