It’s the 21st of December 2012, the end of a Mayan calendrical epoch that spanned 144,000 days, and according to some, humanity is expected to shift into a new era of collective consciousness. To mark the event, Dr Julie Kunen, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), penned a short essay on The Guardian about the Mayan civilization that collapsed more than one thousand years ago. Brought about by some of the same environmental challenges we are currently facing, this catastrophic end to a great people ought to inspire contemporary society to re-evaluate their treatment of natural systems.

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One of the greatest civilizations in history, the Mayan leadership failed to properly respond to the environmental challenges of their own time. Living in tropical forests of what is now Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, ancient Mayans focused more attention on empire building than on “a damaged environment, shrinking natural resource base and changing climate,” according to Dr. Kunen. Which might sound familiar to those who have been waiting around for an apocalypse as the 13th baktun ends, ushering in the 14th.

But it’s not too late to reverse the course, Dr. Kunen adds. Using the 7,700 square mile Maya Biosphere Reserve to illustrate her point, she demonstrates how keen political will and local cooperation can reverse such trends as deforestation. Since 1990, the reserve lost 50,000 acres every year to logging and other activity, but new initiatives by Asociación Balam, the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP), and the WCS have recovered a total of 290,000 acres in the last four years.

21-12-12 has come and the earth is still spinning, but our continued survival depends on our collective will to undo the damage we have done to our beautiful planet so that it and we can thrive anew.

Via The Guardian

Image of Kukulkan Pyramid, Tropical Forest, Shutterstock