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Booming doomsday industry exploits anxiety — and can be very dangerous

Have you done your apocalypse shopping yet?

Have you done your apocalypse shopping yet? You could drop $30,000 on a space in a luxury underground bunker, or a cheaper "survival kit" that can help you eat grass. Apocalypse literature is a booming industry, with sales from the "Left Behind" book series worth almost $1 billion.

It's a quantum leap from the paper "pardons" sold as insurance against judgment day in the Middle Ages. Many experts trace the birth of the apocalypse industry to the Millerite movement, when preacher William Miller launched a well-funded campaign with its own newspaper to promote his vision of doomsday in the 1840s.

"Systematic commercialization first arose from fear of nuclear war in the 1960s with companies building bomb shelters," says Lorne Dawson, sociologist and author of "Prophetic Failure and Millennial Movements." "That showed the business opportunity, and it continued with the survivalist movement of the 1970s and the growing fear of an eco-catastrophe."

The years 2000 and 2012 have increased the focus on doomsday, and Dawson believes it taps into a basic human desire. "Simple psychology shows that people need to believe they do not live in chaos, that there is a higher purpose."

Apocalypse preaching has engendered a backlash following tragic cases such as the death of British teenager Isabel Taylor, who committed suicide in 2011 partly through fear of the end. "It's an industry that exploits anxiety and can be dangerous," says Bill Hudson, astronomer and editor of the 2012hoax.org blog.

Even if 2012 passes without incident, do not expect the industry to stop. "Even when a theory is debunked, a core group tends to become even more fervent," says Hudson. "True believers are locked in. You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into."

Prophecy injecting billions of dollars into Mexican economy

It may be the end of the world, but certainly not for Mexico’s economy. The Mayan prophecy will have attracted more than $15 billion in tourist revenue by the end of 2012, as millions flock to the country to discover its indigenous civilization.

Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism predicts 52 million visitors will have come to Mexico by the end of 2012, many of whom will have visited the Mundo Maya (Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche states).

“Today we are the 10th power for tourism in the world, and we are working hard to be in the Top 5,” outgoing president Felipe Calderon said. Mexico put aside $10 million for a Mundo Maya 2012 project last summer and invited four countries with historic Mayan ties to collaborate.

Party like a Mayan

About 500 Mayan-themed events will have taken place by the end of the year to celebration Mexico’s native culture.

Festival Mundo Maya
: A folk festival that celebrates Mayan traditions in the Mexican city of Campeche until Dec. 30.

The End of the Long Count Mayan Calendar: The 365-step pyramid of Chichen Itza will host a ceremonial event on Dec. 21.

Visit here: The Gran Museo del Mundo Maya: Located in Yucatan’s capital, the museum holds precious Mayan artifacts.

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