The question in the title of this article can be answered quickly: No, we are not all going to die on December 21, 2012. Will there be natural disasters somewhere? Probably, as there are somewhere in the world every day, on whatever scale. If a beaver's dam is demolished by a flood, to the beaver that's clearly a "natural disaster." But we need not worry about the "End of the Word" in December.
This apocalyptic mythology surrounding the purported end of the Mayan calendar cycle can be forensically dissected to demonstrate where it came from and where it is faulty. One such dissection may be found in the paper of University of Kansas anthropologist Dr. John Hoopes entitled, "A critical history of 2012 mythology," published in the "Oxford IX" International Symposium on Archaeoastronomy Proceedings (IAU Symposium No. 278, 2011).
"To summarize the criticism of the 'End of the World' paradigm associated with the Maya, the dating is defective, the mythology surrounding the Mayan calendar is flawed, and the conclusions are erroneous."
In the meantime, I am currently composing a monograph on the religious and mythological parallels between the Old and New Worlds that contains much fascinating material. In this regard, I must proffer my opinion as concerns Hoopes's derision of previous scholars and researchers in this field as "crackpots."
For example, Lord Kingsborough was not a "crackpot" simply because he attempted to trace the Mesoamerican culture to the "Lost Tribes of Israel." Kingsborough was a pioneer in his day who suffered great hardship to make sure that the surviving Mexican codices were made available to the public. After spending much of his fortune on the massive, expensively produced volumes called Antiquities of Mexico, Kingsborough ended up dying from the harsh conditions of a British debtor's prison, with no assistance from the European elite, apparently, who had benefited from his labors.
Today, many people still must rely on Kingsborough's enormous and costly publications in order to study the codices. I myself have consulted his original large and brilliantly hand-illustrated volumes, in the special library at UCLA. His interpretation through Judeo-Christian eyes is entirely understandable, especially since the parallels between the Old and New World appeared to be astonishing. For a bibliolater and believer in the biblical god, what else could it be? And he was obviously not alone, as the original Christian invaders themselves remarked with great astonishment upon these commonalities as well, and had likewise traced them to either Jews or to Christ himself as the Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl proselytizing the "Indians." Indeed, the missionary St. Thomas - also equated with Quetzalcoatl - was said to have flown on the back of an eagle to the Americas, thus explaining the similarities.
As a response, Dr. Hoopes has written me in a private email the following (published here with his permission):
Yes, I think you're right. "Crackpot" is too harsh for Kingsborough. He was operating with a flawed interpretation but is to be commended for nonetheless putting a huge amount of documentation into the hands of scholars. I think I'd be okay with a similar fanatic doing likewise today.
Kingsborough was building on hypotheses suggested by no less of a scholar than Humboldt. The fact that these interpretations swayed Joseph Smith, Jr. and the even the U.S. Congress (with the Indian Removal Act of 1830) shows that other intelligent men found these myths compelling, too. Do you know the work of Josiah Priest (especially American Antiquities)? I think it's essential for putting this work in context. None other than Brasseur de Bourboug (discoverer of the Popol Vuh) thought he saw connections. The legacy of these ideas is still with us today...
In any event, Hoopes's paper represents an important study of the 2012 mythology into the current era, including the works of Santillana & Von Dechend, Terence McKenna, Carlos Castaneda, Jose Arguelles and others. Hoopes concludes:
The 2012 phenomenon is an astrological and cultural event, not an astronomical one. Apart from the winter solstice and the proximity of the sun to the galactic center of the Milky Way (something invisible to the naked eye that has been occurring every December for over a decade), there is little special that happens on December 21, 2012. However, assertions that the ancient Maya associated this date with unique astronomical events are unconvincing. The hullaballoo is a projection of present-day astrological concerns on an ancient culture by earnest believers in New Age lore. It is primarily a manifestation of pop culture.
The 2012 phenomenon is both amusing and disconcerting. The latter, because it casts suspicion on scholars.... The public's perception of scholars has been colored by a string of individuals who have identified themselves as credentialed scholars while engaging in unfounded and even pseudoscientific speculation....
The 2012 phenomenon brings a fascinating intersection of astronomy and culture. At the very least, it has made a huge audience aware of Maya calendrics and the winter solstice.... As with flying saucers for Jung, the 2012 phenomenon may be far more interesting as a window into our contemporary culture - especially how our scholarship is consumed in ways we intend or not - than for anything its reality reveals about the ancient Maya.
The scientific conclusion as to what 2012 truly represents reflects there will be no "end of the world." Therefore, to counter this perspective, I have crafted a presentation entitled "2012: A New Beginning," focusing on the above-mentioned religious and mythological parallels that reveal a unity of human culture we can examine and enjoy, rather than emphasizing our differences and possible self-fulfilling destruction.