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Preparing for the End of the World

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Tomorrow marks the end of the 13th cycle of the ancient Mayan calendar, giving rise to rumors about the end of the world. Worries about a looming apocalypse are nothing new in human history, but 21st century reactions to the possible destruction of the planet (or human civilization) vary widely, from "preppers" who cultivate self-sufficiency, to groups offering prayerful wishes, to entrepreneurs who have found a growing market for their survival gear. Regarding tomorrow's fateful date, the descendents of the Mayans themselves appear to regard the milestone as simply marking the end of an era, not the entire world. [26 photos]

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Phil Burns demonstrates his air purifying SCape Mask at his home in American Fork, Utah, on December 14, 2012. While most "preppers" discount the Mayan calendar prophecy, many are preparing to be self-sufficient for threats like nuclear war, natural disaster, famine and economic collapse. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
Phil Burns demonstrates his air purifying SCape Mask at his home in American Fork, Utah, on December 14, 2012. While most "preppers" discount the Mayan calendar prophecy, many are preparing to be self-sufficient for threats like nuclear war, natural disaster, famine and economic collapse. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
A man shows the "Before Doomsday" application on his smart phone, in a Belgrade cafe, on December 20, 2012. From Russia to California, thousands are preparing for the fateful day, when many believe a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to an end. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) #
Lu Zhenghai, right, walks near his ark-like vessel under construction in China's northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on November 24, 2012. Lu Zhenghai is one of at least two men in China predicting a world-ending flood, come December 21, the fateful day many believe the Maya set as the conclusion of their 5,125-year long-count calendar. Zhenghai has spent his life savings building the 70-foot-by-50-foot vessel powered by three diesel engines, according to state media. (AP Photo/ANPF-Chen Jiansheng) #
Lu Zhenghai, right, stands inside his ark-like vessel in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, on November 24, 2012. Zhenghai spent his life savings building the 70-foot-by-50-foot vessel preparing for a catastrophic flood, according to state media. (AP Photo/ANPF-Chen Jiansheng) #
A sky caiman vomits water on one of the last pages of the 12th-century Dresden Codex, also known as the "Codex Dresdensis", one of four historic Mayan manuscripts that still exist in the world and that together suggest modern civilization will come to an end on December 21, at the Saxon State Library in Dresden, Germany, on November 8, 2012. The documents enumerate the Mayan calendar, which will complete its 13th cycle on December 21, 2012 and many people across the globe are interpreting the calendar to mean impending global devastation and the birth of a new order are near. (Joern Haufe/Getty Images) #
The Tunupa ship is seen as Bolivian priests make offerings in Lake Titicaca, 74 km (46 miles) away from La Paz City, in La Paz, on December 16, 2012. Sunday marked the first of six days of celebrations to commemorate the end of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, which some believe to be the end of the world, that indigenous Bolivians regard as the change of an era. (Reuters/Gaston Brito) #
Honduran Ch'orti' of Mayan descent celebrate a point during a Mayan ball game against Guatemalan Quirigua in Copan, on December 18, 2012. This week, at sunrise on Friday, December 21, an era closes in the Maya Long Count calendar, an event that has been likened by different groups to the end of days, the start of a new, more spiritual age or a good reason to hang out at old Maya temples across Mexico and Central America. (Reuters/Jorge Cabrera) #
Tourists have their picture taken next to a slab of stone counting down the days until December 21, 2012 at the Xcaret theme park in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, on December 15, 2012. Amid a worldwide frenzy of advertisers and new-agers preparing for a Maya apocalypse, one group is approaching December 21 with calm and equanimity: the people whose ancestors supposedly made the prediction in the first place. (AP Photo/Israel Leal) #
Employees work on the construction of a bunker at Utah Shelter Systems in North Salt Lake, Utah, on December 12, 2012. The price of the shelters range from $51,800 to $64,900. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Paul Seyfried climbs into a bunker he is constructing for a client at Utah Shelter Systems in North Salt Lake, Utah, December 12, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Mike Porenta prepares to ship emergency camp stoves at American Prepper Network's warehouse in Sandy, Utah, on December 10, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Freeze dried meals and emergency food rations, which are a staple of preppers, fill the racks at Grandma's Country Foods in Sandy, Utah, on December 10, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Jeff Nice tends to his honey bees on his farm in Kinston, North Carolina, on December 14, 2012. Preppers Jeff and Jeanie Nice live on a 13 acre farm where they raise beef, chicken, turkey and can vegetables from their garden. (Reuters/Chris Keane) #
Jeanie Nice and her husband Jeff Nice carry parts for a shelving unit into their barn on their farm in Kinston, North Carolina, on December 14, 2012. After completion of a government contact working in computers Jeff has spent most of his time on the farm tending to the livestock and general chores such as planting grass or keeping his equipment in working order. On the farm is a 200 yard rifle range where Jeff teaches hunter education and gun safety. (Reuters/Chris Keane) #
Mike Holland reviews his stock of dry food storage in a trailer at the Holland family property in Warrenton, North Carolina, on December 13, 2012. Prepper Mike Holland lives with his wife, four children and three other men on their 13 acre property where they raise, chickens, turkeys, goats and a cow for milk. In addition to livestock they also have a greenhouse and a few trailers that house food storage including multiple freezers. Outside of food preparations Holland has ammunition and firearms, a safe room, security cameras and a military grade generator for power. (Reuters/Chris Keane) #
Gendarmes drive on a road in Bugarach, France, in order to secure the area around the peak, on December 19, 2012. The Peak of Bugarach, the highest point of the Corbieres massif, in southwestern France, surrounded in legend for centuries, has become a focal point for many apocalypse believers as rumors have circulated that its mountain contains doors into other worlds, or that extraterrestrials will return here on Judgment day to take refuge at their base. Residents of the tiny southern French hamlet, are witness to a rising influx of Doomsday believers convinced it is the only place that will survive judgment day, December 21, 2012, as an era closes in the Maya Long Count calendar. (Reuters/Jean-Philippe Arles) #
Bottles of wine with labels reading "the end of the world", on sale in Sirince, a village in western Turkey, on December 20, 2012. Believers in the Mayan calendar's doomsday prediction for December 21, 2012, are flocking to Sirince, a small village in Turkey's Izmir province, which some believe is the only safe haven from the impending apocalypse because the Virgin Mary is said to have risen to heaven from there. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images) #
A spherical pod, named "Noah's Ark", designed by Chinese inventor Liu Qiyuan floats on a river during a test in Xianghe, Hebei province, on December 12, 2012. (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic) #
Farmer Liu Qiyuan sits inside one of seven survival pods that he has dubbed "Noah's Ark", in a yard at his home in the village of Qiantun, Hebei province, south of Beijing, on December 11, 2012. Inspired by the apocalyptic Hollywood movie "2012" and the 2004 Asian tsunami, Liu hopes that his creations consisting of a fiberglass shell around a steel frame will be adopted by government departments and international organizations for use in the event of tsunamis and earthquakes. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
This photo taken on December 11, 2012 shows farmer Liu Qiyuan posing with survival pods that he created, in the village of Qiantun, Hebei province. As people across the globe tremble in anticipation of next week's supposed Mayan-predicted apocalypse, this Chinese villager says he may have just what humanity needs: tsunami-proof survival pods. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
Liu Qiyuan looking out from one of his survival pods, in Qiantun, Hebei province, on December 11, 2012. Liu has built seven pods which are able to float on water, some of which have their own propulsion. The airtight spheres with varying interiors contain oxygen tanks and seat belts with space for around 14 people, and are designed to remain upright when in water. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
Hugh Vail inventories his food storage at his home in Bountiful, Utah, on December 10, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Phil Burns, a firearms instructor, holds a handgun that he carries as part of his survival supplies at his home in American Fork, Utah, on December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart) #
Patrick Troy, a force security instructor with Jay Blevins's preparedness group, poses with firearms including a M1 carbine rifle and an AR-15 rifle, on December 5, 2012 in Berryville, Virginia. Jay Blevins and his wife Holly Blevins have been preparing with a group of others for a possible doomsday scenario. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images) #
Jay Blevins shows a "get home" bag, a bag with supplies to get home from his work on foot if necessary, he keeps in his car December 5, 2012 in Berryville, Virginia. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images) #
Jay Blevins and his wife Holly Blevins and their children Samuel Benjamin Blevins, 7, Elliana Grace Blevins, 9, and Evangeline Joy Blevins, 4, pose beneath one of their apple trees with survival gear including an AR-15 rifle and a hunting bow, on December 5, 2012 in Berryville, Virginia. Blevins and his wife have been preparing with a group of others for a possible doomsday scenario where the group will have to be self sufficient due to catastrophe or civil unrest. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images) #

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