Appendix 5: Water, Air & Land
Secular Chronology Confirmation
How current trends corroborate the Bible’s revealed timeline
WATER, AIR & LAND
Seven billion souls can make an impression on a planet like ours, as unlikely as it sounds considering our infinitesimal insignificance. If we don’t pay attention to the consequences of our actions, our rivers can become slow-flowing sewers like the Ganges; our cities can become decaying war zones like Beirut or Detroit; our forests can disappear faster than Brazil’s; our skies can become the thick brown haze of a Beijing afternoon.
That’s not to say (as today’s secular humanists would have you to believe) that all of the earth’s environmental woes are “man-caused disasters”—and that if only there were a lot fewer of us (preferably of the same political mindset as theirs) then all would be well. Anyone with a firm grasp on history can spot the fallacy in that opinion from a mile away. There have been “ecological disasters” here since God put the first simple life-forms in place. The anaerobic bacteria that inhabited the primeval oceans might have considered the oxygen that their fellow algae and lichens were pumping into the atmosphere to be an “environmental catastrophe” of the first order, but in reality, it was merely the next step in Yahweh’s well-ordered plan to prepare this planet for the higher orders of the fifth and sixth “days” of creation—including us. The asteroid that caused the demise of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago did not catch Yahweh flat-footed. Nothing happens on the earth (or anywhere else, for that matter) that takes God by surprise. He planned—or at least planned for—everything that has (or will) come to pass.
Christ’s Olivet Discourse made it clear that our planet’s next great paradigm shift would come about not through a single catastrophic upheaval (a la Noah’s flood), but rather would be characterized and heralded by a confluence of many smaller (albeit serious) stressers upon the earth and its inhabitants—false Messiahs, widespread deception, wars and rumors of war, famines, diseases, earthquakes (and the Greek word used would include oceanic events like hurricanes and tsunamis), hatred, betrayal, lawlessness, and a general forsaking of brotherly love. As you can see, the signs of the Last Days fall roughly into two camps: the sins of mankind, and a corresponding decrease in the earth’s “hospitality” toward our race—a measurable decline in its suitability as a home for mortal man.
I’d like to reserve the earth’s “structural” issues (earthquakes, pole shifts, and hazards from outer space, etc.) for a later chapter, and concentrate here on the indicators found in man’s biosphere that are conspiring to inform us that perhaps mankind has just about worn out his welcome on this planet.
I can’t help but be reminded of Yahweh’s promises of either blessing or cursing upon Israel (listed in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). If they followed God’s Instructions, their lives in the Land would be blessed—they’d have good weather, bountiful crops, safety from potential enemies (both human and animal), and so forth. But if they refused to heed Yahweh’s word, they’d be cursed with drought, famine, defeat in battle, and eventually eviction from the Land itself. These blessings and cursings weren’t necessarily proactive rewards or punishments meted out by God in response to how well or how poorly the Israelites “toed His line.” Rather, for the most part, they were the natural result of following the “good advice” of the God who had designed and built the Land—and the whole world—to be a habitation for man.
Part of that, of course, is maintaining a close, personal relationship with Yahweh—something that was described as if in pantomime in the “Levitical” or “priestly” parts of the Torah (the majority of the text, by the way). But the “practical” parts, like the dietary laws, the Sabbath year and Jubilee, and all those precepts concerning property, justice, and relationships, often carry with them their own rewards—or punishments. Should we be surprised, then, to find that our abuse of our world, and our antagonism toward its Architect, would manifest themselves sooner or later in the planet’s reluctance to keep providing for our every need without complaint?
The Promised Land the Israelites entered after their four-century sojourn in Egypt was described as “a land of milk and honey.” That is, it was well watered, lush, and green, supporting pastures, orchards, vineyards, and fertile fields. The key, of course, was constant and timely rain blowing in off the Mediterranean Sea. Moses described it thus: “For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which Yahweh your God cares; the eyes of Yahweh your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:10-12) In Egypt, they were “self-sufficient” in their slavery because they had to be: their gardens had to be laboriously irrigated if they didn’t want to starve to death. But in Canaan, God provided the “early and latter rain” as a direct blessing. You couldn’t irrigate the terrain of eretz Israel using Egyptian methods if you wanted to. In the Promised Land, God’s timely rain is essential.
But anyone who has visited Israel lately (say, in the past two thousand years) knows that it can no longer be described in such verdant terms. God forsook this land (temporarily) when He removed the rebellious Israelites from it—and not for the first time—in the wake of their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. It wasn’t just Emperor Hadrian’s salting of Judea’s once fertile fields in the wake of their unsuccessful second-century rebellion that caused the desertification of the Levant, either. The very weather patterns changed, leaving the Land barren and inhospitable, alternating between desert wilderness and fetid swamp. It was a land nobody really wanted—for reasons other than religious fervor, anyway—for about seventeen hundred years: that is, until European and Russian Jews began showing renewed interest in the place in the mid-nineteenth century.
Now—well over half a century since the Jewish national state was reestablished in Israel—the Land is once again beginning to “blossom like a rose” (see Isaiah 35:1), but only through the herculean efforts of the Israeli people. Yahweh’s future blessing (a prophetic fait accompli, by the way) will be required to restore the Land to its former status as a “land of milk and honey.” But there is evidence that even now, the fields, orchards, and forests that the Israelis have planted have actually taken their first tenuous steps toward shifting the weather patterns back from dry desolation to “rain in its season.” The Jerusalem Post reported that “Over four million trees have been planted [in the Yatir Forest], mostly coniferous trees—Aleppo Pine and Cypress, but also many broad leafed trees such as Atlantic Terebinth, Tamarisk, Jujube, Carob, Olive, fig, Eucalyptus and Acacia, as well as vineyards and various shrubs. Yatir Forest has changed the arid landscape of the northern Negev, despite the pessimism of many experts. It has proven to be a prime ecological instrument, halting the desertification on the heights northeast of Beersheba.”
The sad fact, however, is that “desertification”—the encroaching of barren desert into formerly fertile areas—is the norm in our world. The question is: why? It would be a gross oversimplification to lay the blame for the process solely on increasing numbers of humans (as the textbooks imply), for it has been going on for quite some time—since long before the world’s population began “exploding” a few hundred years ago. Expanding deserts played a role in the demise of such empires as Carthage, Greece, and Rome. Much of the vast (and still-growing) Sahara desert was once well watered savannah grasslands, populated and prosperous.
As the theory goes, a growing population means deforestation for lumber and firewood, and expanding croplands leading to overcultivation, leading in turn to soil depletion and “dust-bowl” conditions. Keeping domesticated animals can lead to overgrazing, if they’re kept in place (as opposed to nomadic herding, in which the flocks follow the region’s rainfall). All of this contributes to bare soils, resulting in encroaching deserts. It’s all true (as far as it goes), but there’s more to it. While deforestation can lead to lower rainfall totals and higher temperatures, logged-over regions don’t automatically turn into deserts. And too many animals? Vast herds of bison once roamed the American prairies, causing no appreciable ecological damage. The same is true of the immeasurable herds of grazing animals that populated sub-Saharan Africa for millennia on end. The bison may be gone and the gazelles endangered, but only because of man’s arrogance and greed, not the conversion of their grazing lands into desert wastes. So a burgeoning human population, while certainly not helping the situation, is not the only root cause of desert expansion in the world.
Today, about 40% of the world’s land area could be characterized as “dry lands”—either deserts or regions vulnerable to some degree to desertification. A similar percentage of the world’s poorest people live there—in places where the fertility of the land is an “iffy” proposition at best. A billion people today live in areas where deserts are actively encroaching upon their ancestral homes, prompting mass migrations. One example: scholar Wang Tao reports that over the past fifty years or so, some 24,000 villages in northern and western China have been abandoned, at least partially because of desert expansion.
Lester R. Brown writes, “A 2006 U.N. conference on desertification in Tunisia projected that by 2020 up to 60 million people could migrate from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and Europe.” He goes on to say, “In Iran, villages abandoned because of spreading deserts or a lack of water [something we’ll discuss in a moment] number in the thousands. In Brazil, some 250,000 square miles of land are affected by desertification, much of it concentrated in the country’s northeast. In Mexico, many of the migrants who leave rural communities in arid and semiarid regions of the country each year are doing so because of desertification. Some of these environmental refugees end up in Mexican cities, others cross the northern border into the United States. U.S. analysts estimate that Mexico is forced to abandon 400 square miles of farmland to desertification each year.”
It’s a global problem, one that’s accelerating. The U.N. reports that “Arable land loss [today is] estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate…. Due to drought and desertification each year 12 million hectares [that’s almost 30 million acres—over 46,000 square miles] are lost (23 hectares/minute!), where 20 million tons of grain could have been grown.” Their proposed solutions (admittedly easier said than done) include: “Reforestation and tree regeneration; Water management—saving, reuse of treated water, rainwater harvesting, desalination, or direct use of seawater for salt-loving plants; Fixating the soil through the use of sand fences, shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks; Enrichment and hyper-fertilizing of soil through planting; Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), enabling native sprouting tree growth through selective pruning of shrub shoots. The residue from pruned trees can be used to provide mulching for fields thus increasing soil water retention and reducing evaporation.”
That’s all good advice, as far as I can tell, though I can’t imagine what kind of brute force it would take to implement it on any kind of globally significant basis. As usual, humanity has recognized the problem and met it head on—while totally ignoring God’s input on the matter. Let’s face it: the real root cause of expanding deserts in the world is not too many people, or overgrazing, or deforestation, or overcultivation of farmland. It’s far more basic and fundamental: there’s not enough rainfall. I know that sounds simplistic, but it’s true. The global elite can’t just come out and admit this, however, because rain is God’s department, and they don’t (or won’t) believe that He exists, nor can they do anything significant to make the rain fall where and when it’s needed. (Cloud seeding, beside being hit-or-miss and woefully inadequate for the task, is a classic case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”)
Bearing in mind that the Torah, God’s Instructions to Israel, apply in principle to everyone, Jew and gentile alike, we need to review His solemn promise: “if you diligently obey the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe carefully all His commandments… Yahweh will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.” (Deuteronomy 28:1, 12) That’s right, folks: if you want adequate rainfall, all you have to do is carefully observe all of Yahweh’s commandments. What are they? Read and heed the Torah, or, if further insight is need, might I humbly suggest consulting my thousand-page analysis of the Torah, entitled The Owner’s Manual. In the meantime, boiled down to their essentials, “all Yahweh’s commandments” consist of honoring Him and loving other people—something the vast majority of humanity refuses to do, hence their little problem with the world’s deserts threatening to swallow them in their sleep.
Put another way, the question is: was the drying up of the earth inevitable? Is it the unavoidable result of having “too many” people on the planet? Are the secular humanist scientists justified in proposing that if ninety-plus percent of the world’s population can be “eliminated,” then the earth will automatically heal itself? Or is it merely the direct and predictable result of mankind’s stubborn refusal to heed Yahweh? I am reminded that even during the Millennium, drought will follow rebellion as night follows day: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, on them there will be no rain.” (Zechariah 14:16-17) That is, when Yahweh reigns personally upon the earth, there will be a direct cause-and-effect correlation between rebellion and drought. We would be foolish to suppose that God isn’t already running His world according to this principle.
Is it really so hard to comprehend? The world is turning into a big round desert because we don’t honor the God who made it. If the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, a further million square miles of farmland—roughly a fifth of all the land under irrigation today—will be lost to the encroaching desert.
It is said that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession.” Whether or not that’s true, cutting down trees has to be a close runner-up. Since time immemorial, men have used wood from downed trees to fuel their fires, make their tools and weapons, and build their shelters. And the domestication of grain crops prompted us to cut down indigenous forests to make room of open fields in which to grow them, or to graze our livestock—a process that is proceeding apace to this very day. A song from my youth kind of said it: “They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum / And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em. / Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. / They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”—Joni Mitchell: Big Yellow Taxi.
In a way, deforestation is the flip side of desertification. The earth’s land surface was once about sixty percent wooded. (That is, out of a land surface of 57 million square miles, approximately 34 million square miles were once woodlands.) Today that figure is down to about half of that (15-17 million square miles). Recent estimates by the UN suggest that around 50,000 square miles of the world’s forests are now being lost to deforestation every year, with South America alone losing more than fifteen thousand square miles annually. If you’ll recall one key statistic from our previous section, that 50,000 square miles of lost forests is very close to the 46,000 square miles of deserts that are added to the world’s landscape every year. It’s not the same acreage, of course, but it is an indicator that the world’s ecology in general is being steadily degraded—and the pace at which it’s happening.
For the primary/old-growth forests that remain (found primarily in Canada, Russia, and the Amazon basin) the overall statistics total roughly half that amount: we’ve been reduced to about 7 million square miles of mature, primary growth forests in the world. It has been estimated that “unless significant measures (such as seeking out and protecting old growth forests that have not been disturbed) are taken on a worldwide basis, by 2030 there will only be 10% remaining, with another 10% in a degraded condition.”—Wikipedia. It would appear that one indicator that “civilization” has arrived to a region is that the old-growth forests have been cut down. One measure of the “civility” of such a civilization is how they’ve made use of the land they’ve cleared: did they replant the trees they cut, looking ahead to future timber needs? Did they retask the land as productive cropland or pasture? Or did they merely take the money and run?
As I said, there’s nothing new about the process of deforestation. What’s news is the rate at which it’s happening. One factor in flux is the reasons the forests are being cleared. A hundred years ago, subsistence farming—with its slash-and-burn techniques—accounted for about half of the world’s deforestation activity, followed by clearing the land for commercial agriculture, and of course, logging operations. Government-sponsored programs encouraging transmigration in places like Latin America, India, and Southeast Asia, made deforestation seem to make sense, at least in the short term. But within the past thirty years or so, a shift has taken place. What’s driving deforestation now is global industry: commercial logging, large scale cattle ranching, and agriculture on a grand scale. This is all being prompted, of course, by the sudden and alarming increase in human population growth.
While the exact figures are in dispute, everyone seems to agree that (1) the pace of deforestation has picked up dramatically during the past half-century, and (2) it’s only a matter of time before we’ve done irretrievable damage to the earth. Let us reflect upon this from a Biblical perspective. God isn’t in “creation mode” anymore. I may be reading too much into this, but during the Millennial reign of Christ, He has promised to heal the land—not re-create its entire biosphere. That means that there’s a fuse on this bomb, and it has already been lit: something will have to be done—and soon—to halt the devastation of the world’s forests before they’re all gone. And when will that be? Environmental scientists calculate that that tropical rainforests 50 years ago covered fourteen percent of the world’s land surface, but they now cover only five to seven percent. At this pace, all of the tropical forests will be gone by the middle of the 21st century. Granted, there is more to deforestation than tropical rainforests, but they’re a unique and irreplaceable haven of biodiversity, something the human race depends upon, whether we know it or not.
But stopping the deforestation process is easier said than done. It’s one thing for academics, scientists, and bureaucrats to sit in their ivory towers and declare that the cutting of the rainforests must cease and desist forthwith. It’s different in the real world, where things are not quite so simple or straightforward. The University of Michigan website offers some cogent insights into the complexity of the issue: “Deforestation has many causes. Population pressures, profits, and internal social and political forces can all push up the rate of forest loss. Access to markets, requiring roads and capital, is an additional powerful force, recently expanded due to the suite of changes referred to as globalization. Poor countries with expanding populations, inequitable distribution of wealth and power, and possibly corrupt governments are especially vulnerable.”
The Bible reminds us that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil. That is certainly true when it comes to deforestation: “In Indonesia, powerful families allied with government rulers control large and highly valuable timber concessions. These forests are being rapidly liquidated, at enormous profit.” In South America, the economics of rainforest encroachment are being driven from another direction: “In Brazil, many of the rural poor are moving to cities for work, and not finding it. Productive farmland is controlled by a wealthy elite with a long history of land ownership, and so many of the rural poor are landless. By opening its frontier—the Amazon forest—to its landless poor, Brazil seeks to provide a safety valve for what otherwise might be an explosive political situation. In many areas, poor people have few options to make income, and forests have few protectors, so land is cleared for agriculture and valuable timber is sold for profit.” So this is kind of like the guy on LSD who tries to fly off the roof of a tall building—while handcuffed to a friend who’s begging him not to jump.
Americans and Europeans may cluck self-righteously at this, but the fact is, we “harvested” our own forests in this very same way centuries ago—reaping profits and building our nation by exploiting/utilizing (I’ll let you decide which) our God-given woodland natural resources. One factor to consider is that the more prosperous the nation, the less deforestation is likely to take place: in countries with a per capita GDP of $4,600 or more, net deforestation rates level off or decline. That is, though native wood is still being used, it is being replanted (or at least allowed to regenerate). The land isn’t merely abandoned or converted to pasture. Indeed, as I look out the window of my Virginia study, I can see nothing but hundred-foot-tall oaks, hemlocks, maples, and other hardwood trees, although I know that sometime within the last sixty or eighty years, this entire area was logged over. It’s no longer an “old-growth” forest—but it is a forest.
We have been speaking as if it’s a “given” that deforestation is a bad thing, but is it, necessarily? What do forests do for our planet that couldn’t be done just as well with croplands, pasture, or prairie? It’s a common misconception that rainforests contribute most of the world’s breathable oxygen, but that’s not really true—all green plants give off oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, and just as important, they all take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, “sequestering” it as biomass as long as the plant lives. So on that score, it would seem that alfalfa or corn might keep our atmosphere in just as good a condition as rosewood trees and ferns do.
But there’s more to it. Forests effectively manage fluctuations in two significant greenhouse gasses. One of them—carbon dioxide (CO2)—gets loads of “bad press” these days, while the other—water vapor—is virtually ignored. Let us again consult with the University of Michigan: “Forests influence climate. The within-year fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 in the temperate zone include a spring-through-autumn decline due to plant photosynthesis during the growing season, and an autumn-through-spring rise in CO2 as respiration and decomposition exceed photosynthetic uptake.” In other words, when the leaves are on the trees in the summer, atmospheric carbon levels decrease, and when they fall off in the winter, CO2 levels rise correspondingly. But quite a bit of carbon will have been absorbed into the trunk and branches—the structure of the tree—and it will remain there as long as the tree is alive.
The forests’ handling of water vapor is far more significant in tempering climate: “At a more regional scale, forests influence local climate and weather. Rain forests transport great quantities of water to the atmosphere via plant transpiration. (Water is taken up by plant roots, bringing dissolved minerals into plant tissues. Plants exchange gases with the atmosphere through openings in their leaves, and lose water in the same way. That water loss provides the plant with a means to transport materials upwards, and so is beneficial, so long as water loss is not excessive). Much of that transpired water replenishes the clouds and rain that maintain the rain forest. If the forest is cut, much more of that rain will become river water, flow to distant seas, and the region will become permanently drier. No rain forest can regenerate if this occurs. Forests maintain local climate and strongly influence global fluxes of oxygen and carbon dioxide.”
Obviously, once the forest is gone, all sorts of problems can begin to compound upon each other. Flooding, topsoil erosion, and soil nutrient depletion are only the beginning. “Forests protect the top soil and husband important nutrients. A famous study of Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire found that, after forest harvest, summer streamflows greatly increased (because the forest was no longer transpiring water) and nutrient outflow also increased greatly. The annual flood crest of the Amazon River has increased over recent years without any concomitant increase in rainfall, presumably due to deforestation. Damaging floods are one frequent consequence of deforestation.”
But as I said, the atmospheric culprit that today’s “environmentalists” invariably rail against is carbon dioxide, not water vapor. We have all heard horror stories in the news claiming that CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere is the primary cause of global warming, and if we don’t hang up the keys to our SUVs, we’ll all be dead by Tuesday. (Well, it used to be global warming; now it’s called “climate change,” because the earth’s temperature hasn’t really risen at all in the past twenty years. Oops. In the 1970s, in fact, they were hysterical about global cooling.) It has become all too apparent that political ambition and economic advantage are what’s really driving these carbon terrorists—excuse me, “climate scientists.” (Real concern for the environment might have suggested to Al Gore that perhaps he should not fly around in his own personal Gulfstream jet, which puts out more CO2 than a small volcano.) If they can vilify carbon dioxide and make their case stick, the green elite can sell “carbon credits” to the rich (allowing them to pollute all they want, for a price) and make themselves filthy rich in the process.
So let’s make something perfectly clear: the air we breathe has so little CO2 in it (comparatively speaking), it’s almost silly. By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases, including a varying amount of water vapor, around 1% on average. Let that sink in: the earth’s atmosphere contains less than four one-hundredths of one percent carbon dioxide. There is almost twenty-four times as much radiogenic argon in the atmosphere as there is CO2. (Don’t be alarmed: argon is totally inert, even though it sounds scary.) There is also about thirty times as much of “the other greenhouse gas,” the dreaded dihydrogen oxide (otherwise known as water vapor—H2O) in dry air than there is carbon dioxide, but you don’t hear of ivory tower academics waging war on water. Let’s face it: CO2 is a natural—even essential—component of our atmosphere. All green plants depend upon its presence, utilizing it in the process of photosynthesis to replenish the oxygen in the atmosphere.
That being said, in spite of its relatively small concentration in the atmosphere, CO2 is ecologically significant. Because of the wavelengths at which it absorbs and emits infrared radiation, it does play a role in the earth’s “greenhouse effect,” a process in which thermal radiation from the ground is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, raising the surface temperature above what it would have been had not the greenhouse gasses been present. It’s sort of like throwing an extra blanket on your bed to keep you warmer in the winter. This rise in the earth’s temperature could (in theory) melt the polar ice caps, stopping the “conveyor” that circulates the earth’s oceans (something driven by the density differential between salt water and fresh). That would be a bad thing.
So what effect does deforestation have on rising CO2 levels? As it turns out, a lot. Living forests “sequester” carbon. That is, carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by the leaves of living plants—the trees of the forest—and it is slowly released back into the atmosphere from fallen leaves and dead tree trunks. Mature forests (over 200 years old) are found to be at carbon equilibrium, releasing as much CO2 from decaying biomass as is taken in through photosynthesis. When a forest is cut down, though, whatever carbon it held in “trust” is released. Exacerbating this, of course, is that, especially in the tropics, the land is often further cleared by burning the logging residue—projecting megatons of carbon into the atmosphere all at once. So not only is the mechanism for future carbon sequestration destroyed, the sudden release of the forest’s stored carbon into the air is like rubbing salt into the earth’s wound.
The “carbon police,” however, concentrate their efforts instead on discouraging the use of fossil fuels—petroleum, coal, natural gas, etc., the things that allow our mobile, affluent, comfortable, electricity-dependent way of life to exist. They haven’t given up their own limousines and private jets, though they have persuaded their sycophants to trade in their SUVs for Priuses. (Gee, I wonder if these folks have done the environmental math on hybrid battery life, replacement costs, and disposal.)
The hypocrisy factor aside, there is a far more obvious carbon culprit to address. To quote from the University of Michigan again, “Tropical deforestation contributes as much as 90% of the current net release of biotic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This change may represent as much as 20%-30% of the total carbon flux due to humans—i.e., rivaling the carbon release due to fossil fuel burning. Deforestation thus is an important potential source of carbon.”
In other words, just as much carbon is pumped into the atmosphere in the process of decimating the world’s rainforests as all the fossil fuels used for electricity generation, home heating, and transportation—combined. Considering the fact that living forests actively sequester carbon, it would seem the natural, logical course of action to throw one’s efforts into preserving and restoring the world’s tropical rainforests—especially in the Amazon basin. But of course, you can’t really make a quick buck doing that, so don’t hold your breath.
Nor can you control, regulate, or profit by the other 40-50% of carbon dioxide sources. In the interests of full disclosure, let us again consult Wikipedia: “Most sources of CO2 emissions are natural, and are balanced to various degrees by natural CO2 sinks. For example, the natural decay of organic material in forests and grasslands and the action of forest fires results in the release of about 439 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year, while new growth entirely counteracts this effect, absorbing 450 gigatonnes per year. Although the initial carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the young Earth was produced by volcanic activity, modern volcanic activity releases only 130 to 230 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which is less than 1% of the amount released by human activities (at approximately 29 gigatonnes). These natural sources are nearly balanced by natural sinks, physical and biological processes which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, some is directly removed from the atmosphere by land plants for photosynthesis and it is soluble in water forming carbonic acid. There is a large natural flux of CO2 into and out of the biosphere and oceans. In the pre-industrial era these fluxes were largely in balance. Currently [only] about 57% of human-emitted CO2 is removed by the biosphere and oceans.” Deforestation, then, is a fool’s bargain—selling the future well being of the planet for a relative pittance in short-term profits.
How much atmospheric carbon dioxide is too much? It’s something nobody seems to know for sure, and it’s certainly something no one wants to find out the hard way. One thing is certain: since the industrial revolution, CO2 levels have risen dramatically. Over the past half a million years or so, atmospheric CO2 levels fluctuated (in sync with ice ages) between roughly 200 and 275 parts per million. Over the past 10,000 years (judging by Antarctic ice cores), the concentration has held steady at about 260-280 ppm. At the time of this writing, the concentration stands at 397 ppm—and is still rising. The esteemed British meteorologist Brian Hoskins (among others) has suggested that the “tipping point”—the level at which bad things can be expected to start happening—is 400 ppm. Granted, this is still well below the peak CO2 level in our planet’s history, reached about 500 million years ago. That being said, the scientists swear we’re now on the precipice of a carbon dioxide “event horizon.”
What can be done? The only two sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide that might respond to human intervention—together totaling half the world’s CO2 emissions—are fossil fuels and rainforest destruction. Eliminating the use of fossil fuels altogether would instantly plunge the developed world back into the dark ages—literally. Millions would starve to death—if they didn’t freeze to death first. But an immediate halt to (and preferably, reversal of) the rape of the rainforests would tend to (1) stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels worldwide, (2) reduce flooding, (3) preserve soil nutrients, and (4) maintain topsoil levels. But the governments who are currently allowing their rainforests to be cut down have little or no direct incentive to stop the practice—so the carnage continues apace.
Another factor we haven’t yet discussed could prove to be of immeasurable importance as well. Rainforests are the earth’s last bastions of biological diversity, but fewer than one percent of the tropical plants within them have yet been studied. Those that have been screened have in many cases proven to be unique and useful sources of medicines or food crops. For example, vincristine and vinblastine are effective anti-cancer drugs that were developed from a wild periwinkle found in the forests of Madagascar. I am reminded of a prophetic notice concerning trees found in the New Jerusalem: “And [the angel] showed me [John] a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) God apparently likes trees and plants. He made lots of different kinds. It would seem a shame to destroy them before we’ve even had a chance to study and appreciate them.
If we succeed in killing the world’s forests, we will have killed ourselves. And yet, we humans seem bent on doing precisely that in the name of progress, political expediency, and quick profits. If the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, the destruction of the world’s rainforests will have reached the point of no return, forever altering the earth’s weather patterns, destroying the soil structure of vast tracts of land, and making it impossible (short of divine intervention) for our planet to adequately cope with ever increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Once again, even if you aren’t willing to receive the Bible’s revealed timeline, you’re going to have to face the parallel reality of a rapidly decaying world—an ecological paradigm shift of “Biblical proportions,” happening precisely when the prophets said it would.
I hypothesized a while back that the earth could easily support two or three times its present population if only there was enough water when and where it was needed. And I have noted that drought—the absence of sufficient water resources—is one of Yahweh’s promised responses to rebellion against Him. So when deserts expand and forests shrink, we should be aware that there is a reason for this—it isn’t all just bad luck, or even poor stewardship on the part of mankind (though that certainly doesn’t help matters).
The timely, predictable rain from the heavens that made the Levant “a land flowing with milk and honey” at the time of the exodus came with a built-in back-up plan. Wells and springs dotted the landscape since the days of the earliest patriarchs, making water available even during the dry season. (See for example, Genesis 21:25.) Rain in its season doesn’t all just run off or evaporate. Some of it sinks in, held in the porous soil beneath our feet. These underground reservoirs are known as aquifers. Given adequate rainfall and snowfall, the world’s aquifers feed reliable wells and springs in areas where no obvious water source—like a river or lake—is present. In fact, there is approximately thirty times as much fresh water held in aquifers beneath the earth’s surface as there is in all of the world’s fresh surface waters.
People tend to take such things for granted, because we learned to dig wells thousands of years ago. But we shouldn’t. Underground water sources are as impressive a geological engineering feat as anything we’ll find on earth—and they’re specifically identified in scripture as the work of God. John writes of a time (yet future) in which the witness of godly men will no longer be heard on the earth, so an angel—a spirit messenger—is sent to bear witness to the truth. John writes, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” (Revelation 14:6-7) The angel is heard bidding men to make a choice: to honor the God of creation, Yahweh, for He (manifested as the risen and glorified Christ) is coming to judge the earth. That is, He is coming to separate those who, when confronted with this choice, decide to be on God’s side, from those who will opt instead to ally themselves with Satan and his “Antichrist.”
When this angelic announcement is made, there is still time to choose—to voluntarily align oneself with Yahweh (even though the world is solidly arrayed in the enemy’s camp and is prepared to bring enormous pressure to bear on the repentant “politically incorrect” rebels). Christ has not yet returned at this point, so no “proof” of the angel’s claim of impending wrath is forthcoming. What evidence does he offer that God is serious about the coming judgment? What credentials does he present? Only that the God who is coming to judge the earth is the same One who “made the sea and springs of water.” In “normal” times, this would be an exceedingly odd thing to say, because the world’s seas have always been full of life, and the earth’s groundwater has sustained humanity since the dawn of civilization. As late as a half century ago (when there were half as many people inhabiting the planet), most people thought that the world’s fresh water supply was unlimited. We have since learned that it is not.
The implication, then, is that by the time the angel delivers his warning to the nations, the seas are dying (see Revelation 8:9 and 16:3), and the earth’s aquifers are no longer reliable (Revelation 11:6). Whether the waters have “turned to blood,” or they just aren’t there anymore, getting a simple drink of water is no longer as easy as it once was. It’s turning out to be one more in a long string of forensic clues that we are indeed living on the doorstep of the Last Days. Something as monolithic as the earth’s groundwater supply doesn’t disappear overnight. It takes decades to set a trend like this in motion, and once moving, it can be expected to be equally hard to stop.
You know you’re in trouble when they start setting “standards” defining just how bad it’s gotten—or might become, should the current trend continue. In the case of the availability of fresh water, one such gauge is the Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator, which states that a country or region is experiencing “water stress” when the annual water supply per person drops below 1,700 cubic meters, at which point periodic or limited water shortages can be expected. And when water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, the country officially faces “water scarcity.”
Even the lower “water scarcity” figure may sound like a lot of water for personal use, since I know you struggle to get down your recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. But there’s a whole lot more to it than what you drink. You bathe, wash the dishes and your clothes, and maybe water the garden. You may wash your car now and then. (I mostly just wait until it rains.) Then there’s the matter of sewage; you do flush your toilets, right? But all of that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The food you eat takes lots of water to grow and prepare. Grains and vegetables are water intensive, but meat production is totally out of proportion compared to anything else we might eat. For example, it takes 60 pounds of water to grow one pound of potatoes; 108 pounds of water for one pound of wheat; 168 for corn; 229 for rice; and 240 for soybeans. But it takes 12,000 pounds of water to bring one pound of feedlot beef to market. Thus it’s really no wonder the Food and Agriculture Organization (an agency of the United Nations) states that “by 2025, 1.9 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.”
The simple fact is that now that there are over seven billion people inhabiting this planet (all of whom like to eat and drink), we are using up our fresh water resources faster than nature can replenish them. The left likes to blame “climate change,” (which they prefer to attribute to CO2 emissions from industrial sources they can tax) but the problem stems more directly from two other causes, (1) deforestation (as explained above), and (2) a vast increase of meat—specifically (and more to the point) grain-fed feed-lot meat, as opposed to pasture-fed farm animals—as a component of the average human diet over the past half century.
Wikipedia reports that “The New York Times article, ‘Southeast Drought Study Ties Water Shortage to Population, Not Global Warming,’ summarizes the findings of Columbia University researcher on the subject of the droughts in the American Southeast between 2005 and 2007. The findings were published in the Journal of Climate. [How’s that for convoluted provenance?] They say the water shortages resulted from population size more than rainfall. Census figures show that Georgia’s population rose from 6.48 to 9.54 million between 1990 and 2007. After studying data from weather instruments, computer models and measurements of tree rings which reflect rainfall, they found that the droughts were not unprecedented and result from normal climate patterns and random weather events. ‘Similar droughts unfolded over the last thousand years,’ the researchers wrote. ‘Regardless of climate change, they added, similar weather patterns can be expected regularly in the future, with similar results.’”
Loath to endanger their funding, however, the Columbia report included this schizophrenic conclusion: “During the post 2005 drought it appears that evaporation was reduced as well as precipitation. There is no clear signal of anthropogenic climate change in this drought. The post 2005 drought therefore appears to have been caused partly by atmosphere-ocean climate variability and partly by internal atmosphere variability, all of which is typical of what has been happening in the region for hundreds of years. The serious stress the drought put on social and agricultural systems in the region came about purely due to lack of adequate planning based on knowledge of regional climate variability. Belated planning now must also take into account the possibility that climate change will increase stress on regional water resources.” In other words: man-caused climate change had nothing to do with the drought in the American southeast, but we need to plan for future issues caused by man-caused climate change, ’cause that’s the villain we believe in. I guess it would be too much to ask for them to acknowledge that “The reason y’all have been suffering from drought is that you’ve turned your back on the God who sends the rain.”
Overdrafting from aquifers (extracting groundwater in volumes beyond the safe yield or equilibrium) can lead to parallel problems that further exacerbate the unavailability of regional water resources. They can become polluted with pesticides and fertilizer runoff; salt water intrusion can make them unfit for human consumption, farming, or industrial uses. And ground subsidence can occur when too much water is extracted from weight bearing strata; if this happens, the capacity of the aquifer is reduced: it cannot be recharged to its primeval level.
You needn’t take my word for any of this, of course. But perhaps we should heed the warning of the prestigious American Geophysical Union who, in an article ominously entitled “Groundwater Depletion Rate Accelerating Worldwide” (September 23, 2010) confirmed that our planet’s aquifers are in deep trouble. “In recent decades, the rate at which humans worldwide are pumping dry the vast underground stores of water that billions depend on has more than doubled, say scientists who have conducted an unusual, global assessment of groundwater use. These fast-shrinking subterranean reservoirs are essential to daily life and agriculture in many regions, while also sustaining streams, wetlands, and ecosystems and resisting land subsidence and salt water intrusion into fresh water supplies. Today, people are drawing so much water from below that they are adding enough of it to the oceans (mainly by evaporation, then precipitation) to account for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, the researchers find.”
Did you catch that? The “green lobby” would like you to believe that the earth’s rising seas are caused solely by anthropogenic global warming (which we’ve already established is due as much to rainforest decimation as to industrial causes), but a sizable component of the rise in sea level is actually due to the overtaxing of our groundwater resources. (By the way, you may be wondering if sea-level rise is a big threat to our planet. For the past sixty years it has been rising at an average rate of 1.7 millimeters (about 1/16 of an inch) per year. Is that significant? You tell me.)
The AGU article continues: “Soaring global groundwater depletion bodes a potential disaster for an increasingly globalized agricultural system, says Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and leader of the new study [designed to compare estimates of groundwater added by rain and other sources to the amounts being removed for agriculture and other uses]. ‘If you let the population grow by extending the irrigated areas using groundwater that is not being recharged, then you will run into a wall at a certain point in time, and you will have hunger and social unrest to go with it,’ Bierkens warns. ‘That is something that you can see coming for miles.’” I must agree. “Hunger and social unrest” sounds exactly like what Yahweh’s prophets warned us was to come upon the earth during the days leading up to the Tribulation. Yahshua called it “famine, wars, and rumors of war.” Not surprisingly, I perceive that we will “run into the wall” (as Bierkens puts it) precisely when the scriptures indicated: the fourth decade of the twenty-first century. Bad news for the world, but hey, at least the signs are consistent.
“Bierkens’ team taps a database of global groundwater information including maps of groundwater regions and water demand. The researchers also use models to estimate the rates at which groundwater is both added to aquifers and withdrawn. For instance, to determine groundwater recharging rates, they simulate a groundwater layer beneath two soil layers, exposed at the top to rainfall, evaporation, and other effects, and use 44 years worth of precipitation, temperature, and evaporation data (1958–2001) to drive the model.
“Applying these techniques worldwide to regions ranging from arid areas to those with the wetness of grasslands, the team finds that the rate at which global groundwater stocks are shrinking has more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, increasing the amount lost from 126 to 283 cubic kilometers (30 to 68 cubic miles) of water per year. Because the total amount of groundwater in the world is unknown, it’s hard to say how fast the global supply would vanish at this rate. But, if water was siphoned as rapidly from the Great Lakes, they would go bone-dry in around 80 years. Groundwater represents about 30 percent of the available fresh water on the planet, with surface water accounting for only one percent. The rest of the potable, agriculture friendly supply is locked up in glaciers or the polar ice caps. This means that any reduction in the availability of groundwater supplies could have profound effects for a growing human population.”
Not surprisingly, “The new assessment shows the highest rates of depletion in some of the world’s major agricultural centers, including northwest India, northeastern China, northeast Pakistan, California’s central valley, and the midwestern United States. ‘The rate of depletion increased almost linearly from the 1960s to the early 1990s,’ says Bierkens. ‘But then you see a sharp increase which is related to the increase of upcoming economies and population numbers; mainly in India and China.’
“As groundwater is increasingly withdrawn, the remaining water ‘will eventually be at a level so low that a regular farmer with his technology cannot reach it anymore,’ says Bierkens. He adds that some nations will be able to use expensive technologies to get fresh water for food production through alternative means like desalinization plants or artificial groundwater recharge, but many won’t.” It’s worth noting that the one nation on earth that’s a lightning rod for the world’s irrational and unrelenting hatred (mostly because Yahweh has declared His undying love for her) is Israel. And Israel is (not coincidentally) the undisputed world leader in water desalinization technology. So attack Israel if you feel you must, but be prepared to go thirsty for your trouble.
The trend toward the depletion of the world’s aquifers seems to be accelerating. This statistic is typical: “According to a 2013 report by research hydrologist, Leonard F. Konikow, at the United States Geological Survey (USGC), the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer [the great mid-American groundwater system stretching from South Dakota to Texas] between 2001–2008, inclusive, is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion during the entire 20th century.”
I hate to sound like a broken record (though that’s kind of the point of this whole exercise, isn’t it?). If the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, the depletion of the world’s aquifers will be causing disastrous water shortages—which can’t help but translate into food shortages, sanitation issues leading to disease, and even fuel shortages (since shale-oil and coal production are also water-intensive endeavors). And if the prophetic scriptures are to be taken seriously (as I believe they must) then the second half of the Tribulation (2030-2033, by my watch) will be plagued with a dearth of rainfall as well (see Revelation 11:6), which will make recharging the already overtaxed aquifers impossible. But even if you think God doesn’t exist and the Bible is all a big fairy tale, you still have to look forward to living in a world in which getting a simple drink of water is a huge problem.
On the other hand, the Bible clearly states that God isn’t done with the earth: He’s going to need it for at least another thousand years after it has been cleansed by fire. Do these dire statistics I’ve been quoting imply that the Millennial kingdom of Christ will take place on a dry, desert planet in which a dearth of fresh water is a constant plague—Messiah or no Messiah? No. Aside from God’s unquestioned ability (and eagerness) to bless the earth with rain if and when its inhabitants honor Him, there is another, untapped source of fresh water, one we have no idea (as yet) how to safely utilize.
Morgana Matus, writing for Inhabitat.com (December 13, 2013), says, “Humanity just found an incredibly valuable resource hidden under the ocean floor, and it’s more precious than fossil fuels or minerals. Scientists discovered vast aquifers of fresh water underneath the sea. A study published in the December 5th edition of the journal Nature reveals the existence of nearly 120,000 cubic miles of low-salinity water beneath South Africa, North America, Australia, and China. This figure amounts to a volume 100 times greater than all of the fresh water used since the beginning of the twentieth century. According to the UN, half of the globe will be struggling to find clean, fresh sources of water by 2030. As countries begin to ramp up their efforts to build desalination plants, the discovery of fresh water below the sea may help ease the pressure on exploding populations.” Both the deadline (2030—smack in the middle of the Tribulation, if my chronological observations are correct) and the world’s only viable alternative water source (desalination—something the hated Israelis do better than anybody on earth) are fraught with prophetic portent.
This isn’t ordinary ground water. “The water became trapped in its present location hundreds of thousands of years ago back when oceans were not nearly as deep.” What’s that? The seas have been rising for hundreds of thousands of years? They have not been caused by yuppies driving their SUVs? Selling “carbon credits” won’t solve the problem? I’m shocked! (Not really.) “Scientists hypothesize that rainwater could have seeped through the ground and deposited itself into aquifers. When the polar ice caps began to melt around 20,000 years ago, the level of the sea rose and layers of either clay or sediment protected the reservoirs from salty contamination.”
Knowing man’s propensity for screwing up whatever He touches, trying to tap this resource without the wisdom of God Himself would seem foolhardy indeed. At the very least, hydrologists would be well advised to study the problem from every conceivable angle for twenty or thirty years before plunging ahead. Oh, wait! Half the world will have died of thirst by then. Matus writes, “Accessing the water may prove difficult. Drilling comes with a whole host of environmental concerns including ecosystem damage and salt intrusion. The reserves would also need to be used sparingly, because once they are tapped they will not be replenished until sea levels drop once more. With the specter of climate change, this scenario is unlikely to happen for an extremely long time. Still, the human race may have found a vital new resource to ensure its survival into the future.”
Of course, to enjoy this precious (and timely) new resource, you have to be here, and as we’re learning, the inhabitants of the earth have done everything humanly possible to make themselves an endangered species during the next couple of decades—starting with turning their backs on the God who made them. If I were you, I’d follow the advice of the angel of Revelation 14: “Fear God and give glory to Him…. Worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” That’s my strategy, anyway.
I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles during the 1950s. My first visceral experience with “pollution” was smog—air pollution so thick that on bad days, my lungs would actually begin to ache. I also remember that my chores included taking our household trash out to a backyard incinerator (a sort of concrete-block free-standing oven designed to burn rubbish) and lighting it up. In retrospect, it seems backyard incinerators were a really dumb idea in a place with a natural inversion layer that tended to hold the heat and pollutants in place.
The phenomenon of “smog” was part of the character of the Los Angeles basin even before there was a Los Angeles in any form we’d recognize today. Author Richard Henry Dana wrote of a voyage he made as a common seaman during the 1830s in his autobiographical work, Two Years Before The Mast. The journey took the ship Pilgrim around Cape Horn and up the coast of the American continents. Dana notes that even back then, the native American name for what would become the L.A. basin was “the Land of Mists,” because of the pervasive haze that hung over the area, though there were comparatively few people living there, and no industry at all.
The air over my boyhood home got better as the years wore on, no doubt the result of some simple and logical regulations designed to rein in the worst sources of air pollution in the area. By the time the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) came online in the early 1970s, air quality in Southern California was already vastly improved. Now, half a century later, we are still searching for that elusive balance between the undeniable benefits of policing environmental pollution and the disadvantages of living under excessive and incentive-crushing government regulation, wielded by a monolithic, unaccountable, self serving bureaucracy—one of dozens that have been grasping increasing levels of power and influence in America since I was a boy. It’s the perennial conundrum of the human condition: something strong enough to help you is by definition also powerful enough to destroy you.
Say what you will about government overreach, though, the pollution picture in America has gotten better over the past few decades. Our air and water quality (by some measures) have improved. Of course, some portion of that improvement is due to the fact that the industries that were the worst polluters have either been forced out of business, or have found friendlier economic climates elsewhere—in other countries—who are (as we once were) more concerned with making a profit than with leaving the world a habitable place. Let’s face it: as every Christian should know, “running clean” is a costly endeavor. What is true for morals is also true for manufacturing. Slave labor and belching smokestacks are (like sin in general) both unsustainable and deadly; but that doesn’t mean unregenerate men won’t find taking short cuts in pursuit of quick profits an unacceptable strategy.
Here’s the rub. The EPA’s legal mandate is to establish and enforce standards that are neither more nor less stringent than necessary to protect public health and welfare. But in so doing, under the law, the EPA may not consider the costs of implementing those standards. So the patient, so to speak, may be cured of cancer, only to die of a heart attack when he sees the bill for the doctor’s services. Detroit and Pittsburg may be dead or dying—the result of our automobile and steel industries being on life-support in this country (partially due to stringent environmental quality regulations), but Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, not to mention Tokyo and Delhi, are more than happy to take up the slack. According to the World Bank, sixteen of the world’s twenty most polluted cities are in China. America’s pollution problems didn’t disappear; they merely got up and moved to new locations. Meanwhile, we don’t really make much of anything anymore. We merely move dollars around, like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Although we all intuitively know pollution when we see it, we should probably pin down a more definitive description. The American Heritage Science Dictionary describes pollution as “contamination of air, water, or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms. Pollution can occur naturally, for example through volcanic eruptions, or as the result of human activities, such as the spilling of oil or disposal of industrial waste.” It also helps to be aware that substances don’t have to be “bad,” necessarily, to function as pollutants. They merely have to be out of balance with the natural order. The textbook Understanding Environmental Pollution says, “Anything is toxic at a high enough dose. … Even water, drunk in very large quantities, may kill people by disrupting the osmotic balance in the body’s cells.” Another example: “Potatoes make the insecticide, solanine. But to ingest a lethal dose of solanine would require eating 100 pounds of potatoes at one sitting. However, certain potato varieties—not on the market—make enough solanine to be toxic to human beings. Generally, potentially toxic substances are found in anything that we eat or drink.” And I might add that with the advent of genetically modified foods, that is more obviously true that it ever was.
Pollution, then, is where you find it, and it happens pretty much automatically wherever people congregate—once again identifying the world’s burgeoning population as a proximate cause of the problem. But you don’t have to have seven billion souls on the planet to experience pollution. We are reminded that the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom, running south of the old city of Jerusalem, was the site of perpetual trash fires: it was the “city dump,” so to speak (not to mention being the site of the child sacrifices of Molech worship in the bad old days, and the place where the corpses of executed criminals were unceremoniously dumped in Roman times). Yahshua Himself recruited the place as a metaphor for hell—not sheol, you understand (the grave, the pit, the abode of the dead), but hell itself, the eternal state of unrelenting conscious torment for those who have embraced Satan’s spirit. He calls the place Gehenna—a transliteration of the Greek Gehinnom: the place (or land: ge in Greek) of Hinnom.
So (according to liberal logic) if we get rid of the people, we’ll get rid of the pollution. They love to fantasize about how wonderful the world would be without all the humans. We’ve previously discussed their insane “progressive” pipe dream of killing off 90-95% of the world’s population with ebola or some similar plague. But they’ve forgotten one slight glitch to their plan: the corpses of their slain would in themselves comprise the worst sort of pollution. On the face of it, graveyards occupy far more of the earth than landfills do, but with that many dead, nobody’s body would get properly buried.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news (again) folks, but your wildest fantasies are about to come true—though not exactly as you envisioned them. You see, Yahweh’s prophets foretold of a time in which the vast majority of the people would be slain: “For thus says Yahweh concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.” (Jeremiah 16:3-4) The near-term fulfillment of this squishy prophecy was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. But as you know, these things invariably have both near and far fulfillments. What happened to Jerusalem in 586 BC (and again in 70 AD under the Romans) is merely a preview, a foretaste, of what will happen worldwide during the Tribulation.
Don’t believe me? Jeremiah gets more specific a bit later on, and this time he’s not coy about identifying the whole world as the ultimate object of God’s wrath: “Thus says Yahweh of hosts: Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And at that day the slain of Yahweh shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.” (Jeremiah 25:32-33) The reasons for this tragedy are exactly the same as those suffered by the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar and Titus: they—the entire human race this time—have turned their backs on Yahweh. The translators are oh-so-polite here: the word translated “refuse” (in both passages) actually means dung, excrement. Even Al Gore would have to admit this inconvenient truth: forget CO2 and global warming—the worst sort of pollution imaginable is your own stinking corpse lying on the ground, unburied and unmourned. The fact that seven billion of your closest friends are rotting there with you is not much comfort, is it?
Like so many of these potential world killers (like shrinking aquifers, deforestation, desertification, soil depletion, genetic corruption, explosive population growth, creeping poverty, and the demise of the family, etc.) pollution as a threat to humanity didn’t just show up on our doorstep one day. It took decades—even centuries—to become the crisis it is today. The website DoSomething.org offers the following multi-point assessment of pollution’s current threat to our world (note: I’ve reordered their list):
“1. Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. That’s comparable to global diseases like malaria and HIV.” While that may pale in comparison to some other potential threats, like malnutrition, war, heart disease, and cancer, it is more preventable than most hazards—or would be, if only we embraced Yahweh’s mandate to take care of this nice planet He gave us to live on. Unfortunately, the demographics of pollution fall heaviest upon the shoulders of the poor, the helpless, the young, and the needy. In the world’s most polluted locales, far more babies are born with birth defects, and children can suffer losses of up to 30 to 40 IQ points—making working or thinking your way out of your troubles harder than ever. Worse, life expectancies can drop as low as 45 years because of cancers and other diseases.
“2. While children only make up 10% of the world’s population, over 40% of the global burden of disease falls on them. More than 3 million children under age five die annually from environmental factors.” The Bible admonishes us to “allow the little ones to come to Christ,” and to “show mercy to widows and orphans.” Callously and unnecessarily polluting the world is a subtle form of “oppression” against the very people God commanded us to protect.
We’ve already seen how pollution of the soil (with herbicides and pesticides, including GMOs) has compromised our ability to get a nutritious meal. The same sort of thing is true of contaminants in the air. “3. People who live in places with high levels of air pollutants have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than people who live in less-polluted areas.” The World Health Organization reports that an estimated 6,400 people die annually because of air pollution in Mexico City (the most populous city in North America), and a million more there suffer from chronic breathing problems. Meanwhile, air pollution in modern industrial China has become legendary. What’s not so widely known is that smog generated there can change weather patterns here. It takes just five days for the jet stream to carry heavy air pollution from China to the American continent, where it can prevent clouds from producing badly needed rain and snow. The scriptures, of course, warn of skies so polluted they make the sun look “black as a sackcloth of goat’s hair,” and the moon “like blood.” During the Tribulation, people will be longing for the “good old days” when a smoggy afternoon in Beijing was about as bad as it ever got. But something tells me that by that time, folks will no longer be living long enough to die from cancer.
And the water? “4. Over one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. 5,000 people die each day due to dirty drinking water.” If you’ll recall, the prophetic prognosis for the availability of fresh water (like clean air) will reach crisis proportions during the second half of the Tribulation. But apparently, we’ve got a pretty good start on it already.
The more affluent we become, the more stuff we throw away. The question is, how careful are we when doing so? “5. Fourteen billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the ocean every year. Most of it is plastic.” The problem with plastic, of course, is that it’s not very biodegradable. That plastic bottle of overpriced tap water you bought for convenience will still be around, in its original form, hundreds of years from now. “6. Over one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year.” A fair proportion of that carnage is from trying to eat our indigestible trash.
There’s more to it than that, of course: “7. The Mississippi River carries an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of nitrogen pollution into the Gulf of Mexico each year, creating an oxygen-depleted ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf each summer about the size of New Jersey.” The nitrogen, if you’ll recall, was supposed to stay in the soil, where it could do some good, but our agribusiness farming practices “flush it down the drain,” so to speak. The BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010, as harmful as it was, took the rap for more than its share of the lifelessness in the Gulf of Mexico. But because the chemical and agribusiness giants like Monsanto are a “protected species” by the liberal elite, the “evil” oil company got one hundred percent of the blame in the press. Well, in this case, I guess there was plenty of blame to go around.
The published studies usually focus on pollution in America these days, since we (along with Europe, Canada, and Australia) tend to be more attuned to the problem than the emerging world is. China’s (and India’s) pollution problems are arguably far worse, but they’re making so much money these days picking the bones of American industry, they can’t be bothered dealing seriously with the problem—any more than we did a hundred years ago. “8. Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, stormwater, and industrial waste are dumped into U.S. water.” Untreated sewage and industrial waste are obvious hazards; stormwater, not so much. Yes, we would expect a fair proportion of the rainfall to run off into streams and rivers, but if you’ll recall, the deforestation of our nation a century or two ago exacerbated flooding, topsoil erosion, and soil nutrient depletion. Streamflows always radically increase after deforestation because the forest is no longer transpiring water vapor back into the atmosphere. But the stormwater pounding our deforested land is taking with it (as we saw in point #6) millions of tons of nitrogen-based fertilizer residue, not to mention pesticides and herbicides. So does this next statistic come a big surprise? “9. Approximately 46% of the lakes in America, and 40% of our rivers, are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.”
Here in Central Virginia, I once bought a truckload of supposedly super-fertile “river bottom soil” to mix with compost for use in my garden (since the native soil around here is a dense, sticky red clay; any Southerner knows what I’m talking about). I didn’t use all of it; so the remaining dirt pile just sat there—for years. After a while I noticed something. Nothing grew in my little heap of left-over river bottom soil. No grass, no baby trees from the surrounding forest, not even weeds. Nothing would take root in that stuff. And I finally figured it out: it had once been topsoil that had washed off reclaimed farmland—formerly forest—over the past couple of hundred years. There were so few nutrients and so much herbicide in that “soil,” it wouldn’t support life of any kind. I think I’ll start calling that little foot-tall dirt hill “Mount Doom.”
Waste seems to follow affluence as night follows day. “10. Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the U.S. produces an estimated 30% of the world’s waste and uses 25% of the world’s resources.” I can sort of understand why Americans throw away 220 million worn out tires and 1.8 billion disposable diapers every year. But 30 billion foam cups? What ever happened to using real glasses and cups, and washing the dishes?
I, for one, refuse to apologize for being a citizen of an affluent nation, for I realize that our historic standard of living is the direct result of our historic reverence for God. Of course, since comparatively few of us anymore revere Yahweh as our forefathers did, our affluence (on a national scale) will soon be a thing of the past as well. We’re already headed that direction like a runaway freight train. But affluence and waste need not be “joined at the hip.” We need to examine what comprises our “trash,” and why we throw things away. Are we disposing of our possessions because they’re used up and worn out, or merely because they’re out of style or inconvenient? More to the point, are we careful with the resources God has given us, and thankful for them, or are we driven by institutional idolatry and cultural covetousness? If we’re ungrateful for our possessions, we won’t appreciate them—or the God who provided them.
In some respects, we’ve made progress in the way we handle our trash: “11. Recycling and composting prevented 85 million tons of material away from being disposed of in 2010, up from 18 million tons in 1980.” The question is: why? What are our motivations? Do we really think we can “save the planet” by composting our garbage, or are we merely doing it because it’s the right thing to do? Our motives are important to our Maker. Are we acting responsibly because we don’t trust God to work His will in our world, or simply because of our of love for our fellow man?
LiveScience offers the following insights into the pollution crises we will face in the next couple of decades. It’s geared toward America’s pollution problems, but the lessons and challenges are universal.
“Land pollution: Land can become polluted by household garbage and by industrial waste. In 2010, Americans produced about 250 million tons of garbage consisting of product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint and batteries. That’s about 4.3 pounds of waste per person per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A little over half of the waste—54 percent—is gathered in landfills. About 34 percent is recycled or composted, and 12 percent is burned at combustion facilities.” In the big picture, very little land is dedicated to landfills in this country. But the problem is not so much finding space for our trash, as it is ensuring that the toxins and contaminants won’t leach into the soil, contaminating ground water, or evaporate into the atmosphere. It can be done, but the science doesn’t come cheap.
“Commercial or industrial waste comprises a significant portion of our solid waste. Much of it is classified as non-hazardous, such as construction material (wood, concrete, bricks, glass, etc.) and medical waste (bandages, surgical gloves, surgical instruments, discarded needles, etc.). Hazardous waste is any liquid, solid or sludge waste that contain properties that are dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. Industries generate hazardous waste from mining, petroleum refining, pesticide manufacturing and other chemical production. Households generate hazardous waste as well, including paints and solvents, motor oil, fluorescent lights, aerosol cans, and ammunition.” The amount and type of waste a civilization generates, of course, is directly linked to the prosperity and population of that group. A handful of stone-age headhunters in the jungle don’t have to worry about disposing of tons of antiquated computer equipment—but they still have bones and feces to deal with. My point is that we need not feel guilty about having trash we must throw away. There is no moral turpitude in simply living one’s life—even if there are left-overs. Liberal angst is but one more subtle form of idolatry. But we are responsible for treating our home (Earth, that is) with respect.
“Water pollution: Water pollution happens when chemicals or dangerous foreign substances are introduced to water, including chemicals, sewage, pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural runoff, or metals like lead or mercury. Worldwide, more than 500 million people drink water that could be harmful to their health.” Polluted water contains disease-causing microorganisms or toxic chemicals. E. coli, giardia (anaerobic flagellated protozoan parasites that live inside the intestines of infected humans or animals), and typhoid bacteria, are all present within the water systems in India, China, Bangladesh, and Africa. Due to inadequate sanitary facilities, seventy-five percent of the world’s population must deal with water and food that has come in direct contact with animal and/or human feces and urine.
“Water pollution can also affect marine life: oil and chemical pollutants can harm anything living in water. Sewage causes pathogens to grow, while organic and inorganic compounds in water can change the composition of this precious resource. Warming water can also harm quality—thermal pollution can happen when a factory or power plant that is using water to cool its operations ends up discharging hot water. This makes the water hold less oxygen, which can kill fish and wildlife.” This, of course, is one of the issues people have with nuclear power generation, though enterprising lobster ranchers have discovered that the delectable crustaceans thrive in the warm waters just outside seaside nuclear power plants.
“Air pollution: The air we breathe has a very exact chemical composition; 99 percent of it is made up of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Air pollution occurs when things that aren’t normally there are added to the air. A common type of air pollution happens when people release particles into the air from burning fuels. This pollution looks like soot, containing millions of tiny particles, floating in the air. Another common type of air pollution is the release of dangerous gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, creating acid rain and smog.
“Other sources of air pollution can come from within buildings—secondhand smoke is a large problem in many buildings. In developed countries, people often spend 80 percent or more of their time inside the home, so exposure to chemicals or smoke there can also be harmful. Finally, air pollution can take the form of greenhouse gases—such as carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide—that are warming the planet through the greenhouse effect.” I must reiterate that CO2 and water vapor are “greenhouse gasses” that not only occur naturally, they’re essential components of our earth’s atmosphere. They’re only problematical when they get out of balance with air’s other components.
“Noise pollution: Even though humans can’t see or smell noise pollution, it still impacts the environment. Noise pollution happens when the sound coming from planes, industry or other sources reaches harmful levels. Research has shown that there are direct links between noise and health, including stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can regulate machine and airplane noise. Underwater noise pollution coming from ships has been shown to upset whales’ navigation systems and kill other species that depend on the [sounds of the] natural underwater world. Noise also makes wild species communicate louder, which can shorten their lifespan—not that different from making people scream to be heard their whole lives.”
To this, I might add “information overload.” That is, the sort of “noise” pollution that invades and overtaxes one’s brain—entertainment, advertisement, news, etc. Quiet reflection—meditation, if you will—is practically a lost art. You can’t walk down a city street anymore without being assaulted by sights and sounds, all simultaneously screaming: “Look at me!” Kids today are utterly lost without their “mobile communication devices” (you can’t just call them “cell phones” anymore). You want to stop and smell the roses? There’s an app for that. This constant bombardment of images and ideas, invited or not, comes at the expense of what our minds and hearts were designed to do: to meditate on Yahweh’s precepts and contemplate His ways (see Psalm 119:15).
Here’s one most of us never think about. “Light pollution: Most people think that electricity-powered lights are modern convenience, and couldn’t imagine living without them. For the natural world, though, lights have changed the way that days and nights work. Some birds sing at unnatural hours in the presence of artificial light. Scientists have determined that long artificial days can affect migration schedules, as they allow for longer feeding times. Streetlights can confuse newly hatched sea turtles that rely on starlight reflecting off the waves to guide them from the beach to the ocean. They often head in the wrong direction. Turning on so many lights may not be necessary: researchers estimate that over-illumination wastes the equivalent of about 2 million barrels of oil per day.”
We could prattle on for hundreds of pages explaining the nature of the pollution that threatens us these days. But let us “cut to the chase.” Is there a pollution crisis on our horizon (as we’ve discovered with so may other factors)? And more to the point of this essay, is there any correlation between the timeframe in the scientists’ minds and the timeline revealed in scripture? The following three sources (among dozens I could have cited) seem to think so.
Let us address water pollution first. Pravda, the venerable Russian news source, states, “Many respectable scientists all over the world believe that there is not too much time left to wait for the moment when fresh water, not oil, becomes most expensive substance on Earth. About 1.1 billion people living on the globe already suffer from a serious lack of fresh water. By 2025 this number will increase to three billion—over 40 percent of the entire population.
“Director of the Institute of Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, believes that it is easy to predict the time when the global water crisis is going to hit the planet. The current growth of population automatically leads to the growing consumption of water. The amount of economically available water decreases. The crisis will thus occur during 2025-2030. About a half of world’s population will face a serious shortage of water. Pollution of water reservoirs and countless violations of ecological norms can only intensify the reduction of water reserves on the planet.”
We see that timeframe referred to time and time again in the literature. The futurists foresee environmental catastrophe looming between 2025 and 2030. I hate to say I told you so, but my reading of scripture (i.e., the prophetic timeline I noticed over a decade ago) places the beginning of the Tribulation on November 14, 2026, running until October 8, 2033 (at which time Yahshua the Messiah will assume His rightful throne and begin the Earth’s healing process. You can call God a liar if you want, and me a fool for digging into His word and pointing out the unpopular conclusions to which I’ve been led, but the fact remains that even without God’s proactive wrath, the world is still going to be in big trouble—precisely when He told us it would be.
How about air pollution? Qz.com (March 12, 2013) reports on the plight of China, the nation currently laboring under the world’s worst air pollution conundrum: “China’s myriad plans to deal with pollution don’t look so promising. In a research note today, Deutsche Bank analysts gloomily conclude that, barring extreme reforms, Chinese coal consumption and increased car ownership will push pollution levels 70% higher by 2025.” You’ve seen the pictures of how bad it is now, right? My lungs hurt just thinking about it.
“Even if China’s economy slowed to 5% growth each year, its annual coal consumption would still rise to 6 billion tons by 2022, up from the current 3.8 billion tons. Car ownership is expected to increase over the years to 400 million in 2030 from the current 90 million.… For China to meet its goal of reducing particulate matter to 35 micrograms per cubic meter by 2030, China will need to implement aggressive measures, the bank says, like reducing pollutants from coal-fired plants, cutting the number of cars on the road, and massively building up public transportation. Even then, the air pollution level would still be above the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (25 micrograms per cubic meter).”
Alas for China: just when they are on the verge of reaching their goal of affluence and prosperity for their immense population (by standing upon the bloated corpse of American industry) the harsh reality of reaping profits without taking responsibility will fall over them like a shroud on their coffin. The lesson (one nobody seems to have learned) is that if you’re going to rape a planet, make sure she doesn’t have AIDS.
And leave it to the liberal American mainstream media to point out the lateness of the hour on the world’s greenhouse-gas ticking time bomb. CBS News (May 27, 2009) reports: “The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide seeping into the atmosphere will increase by nearly 40 percent worldwide by 2030 if ways are not found to require mandatory emission reductions, a government report said Wednesday.” Mandatory? Since this is a worldwide problem, would it not require a global government to implement? Solving it in the United States (whose heavy industry is all but dead already) wouldn’t make a dent in the issue—though of course it would make some politicians and powerbrokers very rich indeed). Lurking behind the assessment is a plea for a one-world government with total control over everything: cue the Antichrist (whose reign, not coincidentally, will begin in the spring of 2030).
“The Energy Information Administration [the U.S. government agency that issued the report] said world energy consumption is expected to grow by 44 percent over the next two decades as the global economy recovers and continues to expand. The biggest increases in energy use will come from economically developing countries such as China and India. Substantial growth is expected in the use of renewable energy sources such as hydropower, wind, and solar, the report said. But it also said overall growth in demand will require continued reliance on fossil fuels, especially oil and coal.” It should be noted that hydroelectric power generation (like nuclear, which wasn’t mentioned in the report) is an anathema to dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists. The reason dam building peaked in the U.S. in the 1960s is that they are invasive, disruptive, and terrain-altering. Animals (and sometimes people) are forced to find new habitats. But hydroelectric power is the only “renewable” energy source that can even remotely compete with fossil fuels on a cost-per-kilowatt basis. Wind and solar technologies (as well as pipedreams like geothermal, marine energy, and biofuels) have proven to be so inefficient, the only way to make them palatable to the energy-hungry populace seems to be to artificially drive the cost of competing fossil fuels up to comparable levels.
“As a result, the analysis predicted a steady increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that scientists say threatens a serious warming of the Earth later this century. Between now and 2030… global carbon dioxide pollution is expected to increase by 39 percent. That translates to 33 billion metric tons in 2015 and 40 billion metric tons by 2030, compared to 29 billion metric tons in 2006, the report said.” If you’ll recall, climate scientists swear we’re at the tipping point now, at almost 400 ppm. What will raising the CO2 levels to this level do to us by 2030? I have no idea, but the timing is fraught with portent, at the very least. Something tells me, however, that by 2030, radioactive fallout from thermonuclear weapons will be considered a much more serious worldwide problem, but that’s just the prophecy researcher in me spouting off again.
One thing seems certain. If the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, man’s pollution of our home planet—the corruption of the air, the water, the soil, and our very souls—will have reached critical mass. The hands-on “wrath of God” won’t be needed to explain the carnage: the very planet will have begun defending itself against us.
Marine Oxygen Depletion
Water is, by definition, the H2O molecule. That is, it has plenty of oxygen in its very structure. But this oxygen can’t be utilized by the living creatures that swim within it. They depend, rather, on free oxygen molecules (O2) dissolved in the water. A typical body of water can accommodate a finite amount of dissolved oxygen, expressed either as milligrams per liter, or as a percentage of maximum possible saturation. The maximum amount varies with salinity and the temperature of the water—ranging from 5.95 mg/L at 45°C (113°F) up to 14.6 mg/L at the freezing point. In other words, cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water can—which explains why the fishing is so good (relatively speaking) off the Alaskan coast or in the north Atlantic: all other things being equal, fish tend to congregate where there’s plenty of oxygen.
The problem is that the amount of dissolved oxygen in our oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers can be reduced, either through natural or anthropogenic causes. A healthy aquatic environment should seldom dip below an 80% oxygen saturation level. Most fish can’t live if the dissolved oxygen level sinks below 30% (a condition known as “hypoxia.” If no O2 at all is present, the aquatic system is termed “anerobic” or “anoxic.”
There are two primary (though closely related) causes for oxygen depletion. Manmade chemical pollution, of course, is a serious problem these days: industrial waste discharges, sewage, and farm runoff—pesticides and herbicides—all contribute the reduction of available O2 in the waters downstream. But another sort of pollution also causes havoc. It’s called eutrophication, and it’s the result of too much plant-based nutrient material being present in the water. That may seem potentially beneficial at first glance (since growing things need nutrients), but it can very easily become too much of a good thing.
You see, when large quantities of nutrients like nitrogen- and phosphorus rich farm runoff or plant biomass accumulate and decay in the water, algae and phytoplankton blooms are encouraged. (Nitrogen sources include nitrates (the most common form), nitrites, ammonia, and organic nitrogen in the form of plant biomass. Phosphorus shows up primarily as phosphates and orthophosphates.) Up to a point, that’s a good thing, for they’re the foundation of the aquatic food chain. They actually increase oxygen saturation levels during daylight hours (when photosynthesis is taking place). But through respiration, they reduce dissolved oxygen saturation levels at night. It’s sort of like breathing, and ideally, the process finds itself in equilibrium—one deep breath per day. But just as people can suffer from pneumonia or emphysema, our oceans and seas too can experience “shortness of breath.” The trouble begins when phytoplankton cells die (instead of being eaten by more advanced creatures, as they were designed to do): they sink to the bottom and are decomposed by bacteria—a process that removes even more dissolved O2 from the water. If a great enough imbalance occurs, hypoxia results, killing fish as well as less mobile life forms like worms and clams.
Such runaway eutrophication can result in “dead zones” in and beyond the estuaries of large rivers. As I mentioned previously, one such oxygen-depleted dead zone the size of New Jersey recurs near the mouth of the Mississippi River every summer. Unfortunately, the nutrients in this scenario don’t get very far. They tend to remain near the shoreline, in shallow water, where they eventually contribute to the oxygen-depleting bottom sediment. In the process, they are prevented from performing their intended role as the foundation of the food chain, being food for the creatures whose job is to become food for the larger fish in the open ocean. (That’s a whole other subject, one we’ll address shortly.) The ideal scenario would be to have a moderate level of nutrients spread evenly throughout the ocean. But that’s no longer the reality. The trend today is oxygen-starved estuaries and nutrient-starved deep oceans.
Is there a solution? Theoretically, yes, but this is like so many of these doomsday scenarios we’ve been studying: though something could be done—though we know (in theory) how to reverse the trend—the forces of economics, demographics, and political inertia will conspire to ensure that nothing will be done to alleviate the situation before it’s literally too late to do anything about it.
For what it’s worth, Wikipedia offers the following analysis of what to do about aquatic oxygen depletion: “To combat hypoxia, it is essential to reduce the amount of land-derived nutrients reaching rivers in runoff. This can be done by improving sewage treatment and by reducing the amount of fertilizers leaching into the rivers. Alternately, this can be done by restoring natural environments along a river; marshes are particularly effective in reducing the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen (nutrients) in water. Other natural habitat-based solutions include restoration of shellfish populations, such as oysters. Oyster reefs remove nitrogen from the water column and filter out suspended solids, subsequently reducing the likelihood or extent of harmful algal blooms or anoxic conditions.” As usual, these measures imply exercising either wisdom and restraint in our farming practices, showing diligence in nature preservation, throwing vast amounts of money at the problem, and/or getting rid of most of the people on this planet. So although these solutions could implemented, they won’t be.
As an aside, I might note that God provided our world with a perfectly good mechanism for keeping our waters in decent balance, from a dissolved oxygen saturation point of view. He gave us shellfish—oysters, in particular—not for us to eat, but to remove nitrogen and other contaminants from the water. We were specifically instructed (in Leviticus 11:9-12) not to eat any animals from the waters except those with fins and scales—in other word, true fish. But no! We must have our lobster thermidor, crab legs, clam chowder, scallops, and oysters on the half shell, mustn’t we? Look: it doesn’t matter if shellfish are tasty. They’re not food. Their job is not to be eaten by people, but to make sure fish can breathe. When are we going to learn to trust Yahweh, to take Him at His word, even if we don’t fully comprehend the ramifications of His Instructions?
NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) fleshes out the hypoxia problem for us: “Evidence associates oxygen depletion with changes in landscape use and nutrient management that result in nutrient enrichment of receiving waters. Increases in nutrient inputs clearly and directly relate to population density in watersheds draining to coastal areas, and population-driven increases in nutrient loading are causing problems in the form of oxygen depletion, habitat loss, fish kills and the frequency of harmful algal blooms.” There’s nothing really new here (except for the opaque jargon): the story is pretty much the same no matter whom you consult.
Where is the problem the worst? Apparently focusing on the western hemisphere, NOAA reports: “There are distinct regional differences in the occurrence of hypoxia. Most hypoxia occurs in the Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico regions because of the volume of nutrients discharged and the physical factors that control the processing of the nutrients within the estuaries there. The Mid-Atlantic region is the most densely populated region, having greater than twice the number of people per square mile in any other region.” Asia’s hypoxia problems are no less severe, of course. Off the west coast of North America the current is much colder than on the Atlantic side, flowing as it does from north to south—automatically making hypoxia less of a problem.
“In addition to the sewage-based nutrients that accompany large population density, the significant agricultural activity in the Mid-Atlantic region provides nutrients through runoff. Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (e.g., from fossil fuel combustion and forest fires) is also a large contributor of nutrients. In South Atlantic estuaries, the warmer climate leads to stratification in some estuaries and subsequent hypoxia.” That is, the water separates into distinct layers on the basis of temperature, salinity, etc., and one stratum of the water column may become hypoxic, but not the others. “Agriculture and animal husbandry (hog farms) lead to high organic nutrient production that depletes dissolved oxygen. In the Gulf of Mexico estuaries, the occurrence of hypoxia is likely due to the warmer climate and high loads of nonpoint source nutrients.” As I said, higher water temperatures naturally reduce water’s ability to retain dissolved oxygen. Add to that the agricultural runoff from half a continent via the Mississippi River, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
“Many coastal ecosystems have been subject to changes in nutrient inputs that reflect patterns of land use in their respective watersheds and airsheds. Growth in population, changes in land cover, and increases of fertilizer use and animal husbandry have resulted in two- to tenfold increases in the level of nutrient inputs during this century.”
In other words, the trend is getting worse, not better. The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) agrees: “The global nitrogen input from rivers to the oceans is expected to continue to rise, and projections for 2030 show an increase of 14% compared to 1995…. Inorganic nitrogen fertilizers used in agriculture represent 60% of the total anthropogenic nitrogen released. The same study states that less than half of the nitrogen applied is taken up by plants—the rest is lost to the air, or dissolved in surface waters and groundwater.”
So as long as we continue using current agribusiness models, the deck is stacked against the poor, defenseless fish. The more people we try to feed by farming with artificial (i.e., inorganic) fertilizers, the more oxygen-robbing nitrogen will find its way into the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay, and a hundred other offshore locations. “To sustain a growing global population the total amount of fertilizer use, will, according to UNEP (2005), have to increase from the present level of 140 million tons to 167-199 million tons per year by 2030.” This will deplete the offshore waters of dissolved oxygen to an even greater extent than we’re witnessing today. If the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, the seas will no longer be able to support a commercially viable fishing industry because the seas and oceans of the world will have become too depleted of dissolved oxygen to support large shoals of fish.
The oceans, it seems, are dying. Unfortunately, marine oxygen depletion is but one of many factors threatening our seas. Read on, if you dare…
The prophetic scriptures (you know—the ones I’ve been insisting will come to a head with the ascension of the returning Messiah to the throne of earth on October 8, 2033—Tishri 15, the Feast of Tabernacles) speak of two separate events that will decimate life in the earth’s seas: “The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8:8-9) The second trumpet judgment (in context) has as its proximate cause the catastrophic eruption of a mid-ocean volcano (in the Atlantic Ocean, I’d surmise, since with its adjacent seas it comprises about “a third” of the world’s surface waters). The logical candidate is the long-overdue Cumbre Vieja volcano, on Isla de La Palma in the Canary Islands—an unstable beast with the unique added threat of having the potential to split in two, dropping a chunk of rock twice the size of the Isle of Man into the Atlantic, and in the process causing the most devastating tsunami in the history of humanity. We’re not told how a volcanic eruption could “turn the sea to blood.” But (since this is the word of God) there’s not a thing we could do to prevent it in any case.
And then we read, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.” (Revelation 16:3) We aren’t given much of a hint in this case as to what the cause of the disaster is. But the “blood of a corpse” reference implies that perhaps the killer is water that has become, like a dead man’s blood, devoid of usable oxygen, yet is still red in color. Sound familiar? It should. That’s precisely the description of the dead zones that recur near the estuaries of the world’s major rivers: red tides—algal blooms—that even now can stretch hundreds of miles across.
I’m not suggesting that humans will directly cause either of these two prophetic judgments—that our misuse of farmlands, pollutants, inorganic fertilizers, GMOs, oyster beds, or any of a hundred other factors will be single handedly responsible for the death of the world’s oceans during the Tribulation as described in scripture. What I am suggesting is that by the time God’s judgment comes (and it is coming), it will find the world’s oceans in an already vulnerable and weakened condition. From all indications, Yahweh won’t take a healthy, thriving marine ecosystem and kill it because He’s angry at mankind (though that is His right, and it’s certainly within His power). Rather, He will merely administer the coup de grâce, a mercy killing, so to speak, to a patient who is already terminally ill, so that He, the Author of life, might be free to start over with a clean, uncorrupted slate. In this regard, the flood of Noah as described in scripture—which was specifically said to be symbolic of the Last Days—should be sufficient to establish Yahweh’s modus operandi. (And I can’t help but reflect that the “sea” is a consistent scriptural metaphor for the gentile nations, as Israel is for the “land.” Could it be that what will happen to life in the oceans is a metaphor for what Yahweh intends to do with (and for) the world’s gentiles? Will He have to virtually wipe out the nations in order to breathe life back into them?)
We have already examined quite a few of the “diseases” that are infecting our world with increasing virulence today—things that are conspiring to bring our planet to its ecological knees. I’m afraid that many of them are the fault of man. When God told us to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) He didn’t mean we were to abuse our home planet until it could no longer support us. Yes, we were to thankfully enjoy its bounty, appreciate its beauty, and utilize its resources. But we had no mandate to rape and plunder our way across the surface of the globe, reaping without sowing, harvesting without planting, and burning through the gifts God gave us with no thought of future generations.
With all of that in mind, let us examine one more “problem” the world faces. Fish have been on the menu since the dawn of human history. But although our oceans are vast, it appears that fish may be on the verge of “practical extinction.” That is, if we keep on “harvesting” more than the seas can reproduce, within a few decades, the seafood we eat may not exist in numbers sufficient to make the effort worthwhile anymore.
“Population collapse” is defined as when a given species has fallen to ten percent of its highest known numbers. And, as unlikely as it sounds at first blush, there are people—experts—who are predicting that there will be no seafood left worth catching by the middle of this century, due to overfishing—in particular, with one especially invasive fishing technique: trawling. A 2008 article posted on the Animal Planet website, authored by Julia Layton, states that, “According to researchers, there will be no seafood left to catch by 2048, except for jellyfish, which will thrive in the new, collapsed ecosystem…. Overall, what they see as the looming eradication of marine life would be the result of a lack of diversity in ocean ecosystems that comes from the overfishing of particular types of fish.
“To arrive at the conclusion that there will be no more fish by 2048, the scientists looked at a number of data sources, including global fishing data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, fishing data from all 64 major global marine ecosystems between 1950 and 2003, results from individual studies of marine areas by local scientists—including a study of the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding rivers—and data from 48 marine areas protected by conservation measures. What they found isn’t pretty. In the case of the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding rivers, as reported in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, scientists looked at population data going back a thousand years and discovered that ‘... more than 90 percent of the original water-dwelling species in those waters have lost at least half of their populations.’ In addition, 30 percent of those species had collapsed at one point but recently came back into safer numbers. It seems that with loss of even a few species, the rest of the marine environment degrades more quickly. Diversity seems to play a key role in keeping marine ecosystems alive.” It isn’t hard to see why: eliminating species creates gaps in the food chain. If you kill off all the sardines, for example, lots of other fish are going to go hungry. Mature tuna can’t survive on plankton. Small or young fish have completely different diets than their larger or older cousins do. It wouldn’t matter if grown-up cod had plenty to eat if they had all starved to death when they were fingerlings.
“The research points to a number of practices as contributing to the vulnerable state of marine ecosystems worldwide. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices like trawling, where fishers drag a weighted net along the sea bed and just grab up everything down there, whether they can sell it or not, deplete some species to point of collapse. When certain species no longer play their role in the ecosystem, the imbalance makes the ecosystem more susceptible to harm, for example, in the form of an overgrowth of toxic life like algae blooms that deplete the oxygen content in the water. This depletion of oxygen content leaves other species of fish less likely to thrive….” We’ve already seen how agricultural runoff contributes to oxygen depletion in huge areas of open sea. Fish, of course, can often swim to friendlier waters, but the creatures they eat may not be so lucky.
“Whether the short track to fishlessness is accurate or not [and some researchers swear that it’s not], the study’s finding that nearly 30 percent of fish species are already collapsed due to overfishing is at the very least a warning signal. To prevent the end of marine life as we know it, the study suggests that world act quickly—in a couple of decades, they say, the damage will be too far gone to undo. Experts promote enacting global protections and increasing current conservation efforts while ocean life is still diverse enough for the ecosystems to recover.” The disagreement, then, is not about whether or not the marine ecosphere is in trouble due to overfishing, but rather about whether man can (or will) be able to fix the problem in time to avert the death of the oceans. Swell.
Any way you analyze it, it’s clear that man’s intervention is at the heart of the problem. The seas are becoming less and less bountiful because we have been (1) adding chemicals to them that tend to contribute to deoxygenation, leading to eutrophication, and (2) overfishing: removing far more biomass from the seas than can be reproduced in the normal course of events, and in the process, diminishing the aquatic biodiversity so crucial to the ocean’s health.
If you’d like to research this issue further, I’d highly recommend a website written by Debbie MacKenzie called fisherycrisis.com. In an essay entitled “The Marine Nutrient Cycle,” she writes, “The interdependency of marine life is more circular than we seem to generally visualize it. We intuitively understand the dependence of the bigger things (fish) on the littler things (plankton) but maybe forget that the little stuff (plankton) equally depends on the presence of the big stuff (fish)—it’s a nice, if complex, symbiosis: ‘You feed me and I’ll feed you.’ That’s why I characterize human entry and participation in the marine scene as being “parasitic.” (We like to describe ourselves as a “top predator” in the sea, but all that we really do is kill and carry away fish.) The real “top predators” that naturally evolved in the sea have been replacing nutrients appropriately all along. Their approach ‘works’ and does not degrade or diminish the system. Our nutrient replacement program, on the other hand, leaves rather a lot to be desired.”
MacKenzie points out that since “nutrients,” those nitrogen based compounds that encourage algal blooms, are being pumped into the seas in such prodigious quantities, some scientists conclude that the oceans “can’t” be experiencing nutrient shortages. But that, she says, is like saying a farmer “can’t” be experiencing a drought because another farmer two states over is enduring a flood. The nutrients aren’t evenly distributed throughout the seas, nor can organic nitrogen-based runoff fertilizers be readily utilized by anything larger than phytoplankton. What makes algae grow in the Gulf of Mexico is of little use to cod out in the Grand Banks.
What overfishing robs from the picture is the biomass that would ordinarily feed the middle and top of the food chain. Think about it. What happens to the ocean’s “top predators” when they die? Their carcasses sink to the bottom, feeding a myriad of smaller sea creatures. A dead whale can feed an entire ecosystem (in successive stages) for months, even years. But conversely, if entire shoals of cod or tuna or salmon are removed, the aquatic food chain will eventually be found to be missing a few links.
MacKenzie opines, “Due to mounting oxygen loss in ocean waters, I now conclude there is no safe way to implement any broad-scale diversion of human food waste usefully into the ocean ecosystem. Animal life surviving today will be unable to consume our food waste efficiently, so by default it will rot, which will only accelerate the current general degradation of the ocean environment. The only thing we can do to enhance healing of the weakened web of sea animal life is to leave it alone. Stop fishing now. A ton of living, swimming fish holds an immeasurably greater ecological value than a ton of broken down fish flesh components. All living sea animals naturally fertilize the sea itself, actively driving the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they stimulate food production for their own benefit. Accepted theory has underestimated or missed this point.)… For myself, I still hold out hope that the ocean is only critically ill with some chance of recovery. However, there is precious little time to turn it around.” (Italics mine.)
A MacKenzie essay entitled “The Dying Ocean” (a summary of her thesis presented in the no-longer-active online Magazine Orato.com, February 14, 2008) tells it like it is: “The ocean is dying, in the sense that animal life overall is losing strength and faltering. Centuries of human fishing is the major cause, not only of diminished human fisheries, but also of generalized breakdown patterns that are increasingly apparent today, from starving fish, whales and seabirds, to bursts of runaway growth of algae and bacteria, seen as ‘red tides’ and ‘dead zones.’
“Our removal of so many active, living sea animals has unexpectedly impaired the very nutrient cycling engine of the marine ecosystem itself, because every living, moving sea creature always helped to stabilize and energize the whole system. The incredible bulk of marine animal life that existed a few centuries ago is now gone. And by its removal the ocean web itself has been injured, virtually gutted by fishing. According to accepted scientific theory, that was never supposed to happen. But it has, and the evidence is everywhere….
“The best way to describe the change in my lifetime is a decline in everything. There has been a major decline in large ocean animals, including fish; this much is fairly well known. However, it is important to realize that you can scale this observation down as well; there are now no large snails, there are no large mussels, there are not really even large seaweeds like there once were. Plants and animals that flourish now tend to be smaller, fine and fuzzy—lower energy things, that are more efficient and adapted for low nutrient feeding.
“Food production in the ocean has slowed overall, and this is reflected in the condition of the few large fish still surviving. All are unusually small and thin today. Tuna, swordfish, cod, you name it, that is the reality. I see a whole ocean system downshift; where I can watch plankton-feeding barnacles and mussels declining here in Nova Scotia, I see a parallel in the die-off of plankton-feeding corals in the tropics.
“What does this mean? It means there has been a slow-down in overall productivity and energy flow into the ocean, which means photosynthesis and carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean has also slowed over time….
“Fertilization of the ocean is definitely a major key to removing more carbon from the atmosphere—the ocean is the biggest thing on the planet capable of taking in carbon. Fertility of the ocean is crucial, and, although science has been slow to acknowledge it, living fish, whales, seals and seabirds all naturally speed up the fertility of the ocean, essentially by their very active movement. The web of marine animals has always been self-fertilizing!
“This realization shows us that the ‘sea animal deficit’ we have caused has inevitably caused a natural ‘ocean fertility deficit’. If we now leave marine animals alone, the ocean animal web will have a natural tendency to repair itself; a natural tendency to rebuild and accelerate fertility on its own. Maximizing the living presence sea animals on the planet, including as many as possible of the larger types, will produce the best result, ocean-fertility wise. The safest way for humans to get the ocean to lock more carbon away will therefore be to stop all fishing, whaling and seal hunting. The idea is politically unpopular, to say the least, but it would help turn the ocean around.
“The fishing industry currently admits that it must deal with the direct impacts of fishing that people can see and understand. Fishermen will have to stop bottom-trawling, catching things that they aren’t targeting, killing turtles and dolphins, birds and juvenile fish. However, what the industry cannot or will not square with is the mounting scientific evidence of damaging indirect effects of fishing: the energy draining impact on the ecosystem overall.”
So once again, we see human population pressures driving industrial scale harvesting of the earth’s resources, with little or no thought for replacing what we’ve taken. We’ve seen it with our use of the soil, with forests, with groundwater reserves, and now with the aquatic biosphere. What strikes me is that the crisis point in all of these areas (and so many more) is looming at roughly the same point in time. I mean, it’s not like the groundwater / desertification issue came to a head in the middle ages, followed by soil nutrient depletion becoming a world crisis during the renaissance, pollution reaching critical mass during the industrial revolution, and overfishing becoming problematical only now. No, everything seems to be falling apart at roughly the same time—on the same schedule, mind you, that my study of Biblical prophecy led me to conclude was Yahweh’s plan ten years before I began paying any serious attention to the health of the earth. So once again, I am compelled to say it: if the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, the world’s already fragile oceans will prove unable to recover from any more adverse environmental pressure.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if the issue of undersea methane plays into our “earth-is-toast” scenario or not. The fact is, the scientists who track such things can’t seem to agree on what’s going on, how dangerous it is, and when (if ever) the release of the gas into the seas and atmosphere could be expected to pose a problem for the planet. None of the people willing to voice their “expert” opinions on the subject are attuned to scripture, so the wisdom of man (such as it is) is all we’ve got to go on in any specific way. Worse, my observations about the timing of so many other “doomsday factors” seem to be confirmed in this case only by the most hysterical fringe element of the “earth-first” crowd—which is not to say they’re wrong, necessarily. So be advised: I’m bringing up the subject of methane clathrate (a.k.a., methane hydrate, hydromethane, methane ice, fire ice, natural gas hydrate, or gas hydrate) only as food for thought, a springboard for further study. I’m merely endeavoring to “cover the bases.”
The substance I’m talking about isn’t ordinary methane gas deposits (CH4—the primary component of natural gas). It is, rather, a naturally occurring form of methane—methane clathrate hydrate—in which methane is held as a solid within the crystalline structure of frozen water. It is the world’s biggest (and largely untapped) reservoir of natural gas. The USGS has estimated that the total reserve of undiscovered methane hydrate ranges up to 157.8 trillion cubic feet. It looks just like ice, but it will actually burn (hence its moniker “fire ice”), separating the methane from the water components. Its chemical formula is (CH4)4(H2O)23; that is, four methane molecules bonded to twenty-three of water. It will remain frozen (that is, maintain a solid state) in cold water (to 2°C—35.6°F) and has been found in Antarctic ice cores said to be 800,000 years old. Like water ice, methane clathrate will float, and if the ice component melts, the methane will be released into the atmosphere (or conversely, if the water temperature rises where the frozen clathrate deposit is held submerged, the methane will be released into the water). It is also extremely compact: one cubic meter of methane hydrate will yield 160 cubic meters of natural gas. Since methane is not only flammable but is a potent greenhouse gas—said to promote global warming (excuse me, climate change)—the very presence of so much of it is alarming to most climate scientists.
I first encountered methane clathrate when casting about for a logical reason for the death of a third of the world’s oceans, a result of the second trumpet judgment. If I may reprise an observation from an earlier chapter in this book (#17, “Winners, Losers, and Wannabes”)… “I was at a loss for a possible mechanism for marine death on this scale until the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster of April 20, 2010. It wasn’t the escaping oil that caught my attention: God has built nature with an amazing capacity to heal itself, with or without man’s intervention. (I know, such talk is considered blasphemy in environmental circles. I don’t care.) But one of BP’s failed attempts to solve the oil spill problem raised a largely overlooked issue that has the potential to provide a prophetic mechanism in which “a third of the living creatures in the sea died.” (Revelation 8:9) In early May, BP deployed a 125-ton dome over the largest of the well’s leaks at a depth of 5,000 feet, in hopes of capturing up to 85% of the escaping oil. The measure failed due to an unforeseen buildup of methane clathrate inside the dome—adding buoyancy and obstructing the flow of crude oil.
“It turns out that this hydrate of methane exists naturally in huge quantities in or near the continental shelves of the world’s oceans. Normally, it’s quite stable, existing in solid form (sometimes referred to as “burning ice”) that is believed to have been formed in situ in ocean floor sediments by migration of microbially produced methane gas, rising from depth along geological faults. It is precipitated or crystallized into solid form upon contact with cold sea water, in depths down to about 2,000 meters. If for some reason the ocean temperature rises, or if the pressure drops, the form of the methane can change from its solid state to liquid, and then to gas. This fact, of course, has the environmental community all atwitter, first because there is twice as much carbon tied up in undersea methane clathrates than in all of the fossil fuels on earth, and second because there’s no politically correct way to control it. (Horrors!)
“So what might happen in our admittedly speculative nuclear war scenario in which somebody decides to eliminate the threat from his enemy’s missile submarines by nuking the North Atlantic ocean? Along with the potential for underwater tectonic disaster, you’d now have the added factor of a couple of trillion cubic feet of methane under Greenland being instantly released from its frozen state—along with the “match” to light it up. Nuclear explosions are said to generate lots of heat—a million degrees Kelvin or so, roughly 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. (I have no idea how hot it might get if you set off 192 of them all at once.) Then add enough free methane in the water to keep the fire going for six or eight thousand miles. You tell me: is it possible to boil an entire ocean? Could anything survive such a holocaust? Naturally, I must assign this whole scenario a high Speculation Factor—SF8 or 9 (out of a possible 10). But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.”
All of that, of course, foresees a possible “trigger mechanism” that is based on what we see in scripture—the first trumpet judgment: nuclear war. But we’re talking now about what can be expected to transpire even if Bible prophecy were a load of holy hogwash. If there is no sudden “trigger” to release the trapped methane, is it still a potential hazard in the short term—the next few decades? The opinions vary, but clearly, the entire “climate science” community is becoming increasingly attuned to the potential threat.
For example, Andrew C. Revkin wrote in the blog DotEarth.com (December, 2011) “…In its news release, the National Science Foundation, which helped underwrite the research, described the [methane clathrate] emissions as taking place ‘at an alarming rate.’ But are these emissions new, or simply newly observed? Does this mean that the Arctic system is coming unglued, and that a great outpouring of this heat-trapping gas is about to upend the global climate system?” The very fact that the question was asked at all should give us pause.
The danger, as climate scientists see it, is that as the oceans warm up, the methane now trapped in clathrate hydrates will be released, beginning a cascading, self-perpetuating global warming catastrophe. But are the oceans actually warming up to the point where methane could suddenly be released in unprecedented amounts, or is what they’ve recently noticed merely “business as usual” for the earth’s processes? As Revkin puts it, “Are these emissions new, brought on by increasing temperature of bottom waters, or have they been there unnoticed for decades or longer? Based on our atmospheric observations, I suspect they have been there. We saw an increase in CH4 growth rate in 2007 in the Arctic (likely from very warm temperatures in wetland regions increasing microbial CH4 production), but it did not increase in 2008.
“Also, the difference in annually averaged CH4 between Arctic and Antarctic latitudes is a sensitive indicator of changing CH4 emissions at high northern latitudes. The only persistent large change in this difference we’ve observed was from 1991 to 1992 when the economy of former Soviet Union collapsed. The difference has varied since then, but has not recovered.” One year’s data, it appears, does not a trend make.
“Dr. Dlugokencky [one of the top federal scientists tracking methane trends] has told me previously that, for the moment, it appears that methane releases from warming Arctic soils and other sources constitute a potentially amplifying warming influence, in which warming releases more gases that contribute to further warming. Such a ‘positive feedback’ adds to the logic for working to limit human-driven warming, many climate scientists say.” At this point it might be appropriate to reiterate what we’ve observed in the past few studies: trading in your SUV for a Prius isn’t going to be remotely enough. The only ways to cut down significantly on anthropogenic carbon emissions (without taking human civilization back to the 18th century) would be to halt all deforestation in the tropics, and cease all commercial fishing worldwide—immediately. And we all know neither of those things is going to happen, given the entrenched economic and political realities. It’s the epitome of irony: if atheistic secular humanist “environmentalists” want to see the planet saved, they’d better pray for the kind of upheaval prophesied in Yahweh’s scriptures, in which the vast majority of humans are predicted to kill each other off in genocidal insanity, leaving the world alone to heal itself under the care of the same wise God who created it in the first place.
Revkin continues: “But Dr. Dlugokencky, like quite a few other scientists assessing Arctic warming, sees no evidence for a ‘tipping point’ beyond which this cascades uncontrollably. That doesn’t mean this is impossible, just that there’s no evidence pointing to such a prospect.” How reassuring.
“Martin Heimann, who wrote an accompanying analysis in Science and is a researcher at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, sent this cautionary note: ‘Indeed, at this point, it is impossible to tell whether these Arctic emissions are directly caused by recent Arctic warming or whether they have been persistent over at least much of the Holocene. This can only be answered from longer time series; complemented, maybe, by borehole measurements in this shelf permafrost. Therefore, these new emission estimates do not allow yet a quantification of the permafrost methane-climate feedback. Personally, I do believe that this feedback exists, but it doubt very much that it is “catastrophic” with large emissions over relatively short time scales (20-50 years) as implied by the “tipping point” metaphor. Even under strong warming the melting of permafrost takes time and the release of greenhouse gases will be quite gradual and will manifest itself as increased leakages.’” In other words, he too thinks the world is doomed—just not this week.
But as I said, consensus on the danger posed by methane clathrates in oceans that are warming (if they are) is non-existent. We’ve heard several voices from the “Don’t Panic” school of thought. In the interests of airing all points of view, I now call to the witness stand the expert representing the “We’re All Doomed” camp, climate scientist Guy McPherson. In an essay he wrote in October, 2009 entitled (hysterically enough) Apocalypse or Extinction, he reported, “Last month, the United Nations Environment Programme concluded we’re committed to an increase of 3.5°C by 2100, thus leaving little doubt about human extinction by then.” He’s so coy, so subtle; I just love that.
“Last week, Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme indicated we can kiss goodbye 2°C as a target: four is the new two, and it’s coming by mid-century. In a typical disconnect from reality, the latest scenarios do not include potential tipping points such as the release of carbon from northern permafrost or the melting of undersea methane hydrates. But even the mainstream media [who are presumed to be clueless pawns] know a 4°C increase spells the end of the line for our species.” Did you catch that? He calculates that we’re all going to die from the effects of global warming, not by the end of this century, but by about 2050—and that “late date” is arrived at only if you ignore one of the most potentially prodigious CO2 sources on the planet—undersea methane.
McPherson continues: “Giving the response I’ve come to expect from politicians, the Obama administration calls any attempt to reduce emissions ‘not grounded in political reality.’ Have you noticed a set of patterns? Each assessment is quickly eclipsed by another, fundamentally more dire set of scenarios. Every scenario is far too optimistic because each is based on conservative approaches to scenario development. And every bit of dire news is met by the same political response.” That response, alas, is the bane of western civilization: We will not do anything that isn’t calculated to enhance our personal political influence and increase our authority; if we try to kill off an industry in the name of the environment (like coal, for instance) it will only be because those who depend upon it (whether producers or consumers) aren’t deemed a large enough voting block to unseat us from our lofty positions of power and pride.
“Is there any doubt we will try to kill every species on the planet, including our own, by the middle of this century?” Honestly, Guy, I don’t thing anybody is really trying to wipe out life on earth—though Satan definitely is. It’s mostly just a matter of billions of people attempting to live their lives without reverence for—or deference to—their Creator. “At this point, it is absolutely necessary, but probably not sufficient, to bring down the industrial economy. It’s no longer merely the lives of your grandchildren we’re talking about. Depending on your age, it’s the lives of your children or you. If you’re 60 or younger, it’s you.” That’s the typical “progressive” solution to this conundrum—blow civilization back to the seventh century—the “good old days.” No industry, no electricity, no food you don’t grow or kill yourselves, no transportation, no information. If that sounds idyllic to you, you need to study your history a little more closely. Human nature doesn’t need carbon-dependent technology to be utterly corrupt.
McPherson writes, “In 2002, as I edited a book about global climate change, I concluded we had set events in motion that would cause our own extinction, probably by 2030.” Interesting date, from a prophetic perspective. “I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. About five years ago, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time.” Sorry, dude. With the advent of fracking, petrochemicals are at the dawn of a whole new age. Only the locations have changed: as the “easy” oil of the Middle East wanes, the new players—the nations with the huge untapped energy reserves—will prove to be America, Canada, and Israel, much to the world’s chagrin. You may resume mourning now.
“If we abandon the industrial culture of death, we might persist until your children are old enough to die a “normal” death. But the odds are long and the time short. Barack Obama epitomizes the actions of every politician in the world by ensuring, with every political act, a miserable future and insufferable death for his wife and children.” I don’t know why McPherson picks on Mr. Obama like this. After all, the 44th president did more than any of his predecessors to fulfill the liberal-progressive dream of “bringing down the industrial economy” of the United States. “Now I mourn because the solution is right in front of us, yet we run from it. We fail to recognize our salvation for what it is, believing it to be dystopia instead of utopia. Are we waiting for the last human on the planet to start the crusade?”
Such is the inevitable pessimism (or is it realism?) of those who are honest about the impending doom of planet Earth but at the same time remain clueless about God’s prophetic “exit strategy” for the ecosphere He created here. McPherson is bravely willing to jettison the liberals’ vision of “utopia,” realizing that without the God he refuses to acknowledge, dystopia—a society characterized by ubiquitous human misery, squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding—is the only hope for the continued survival of earth’s biosphere. In other words, he believes man must live like an animal if anything is to survive on this planet for more than a few more decades.
Ironically, his gloomy title for this essay, Apocalypse or Extinction, bears within it the seeds of humanity’s rebirth, although he doesn’t seem to realize it. McPherson assumes that extinction is humanity’s certain and well-deserved fate, but Yahweh speaks instead of Apocalypse—which means “revelation” more than it does the modern caricature of a “doomsday war” that (according to scripture) will culminate in the revealing of the Messiah. The whole point of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story of Yahweh’s plan for the rescue and redemption of a fallen race of men. But let’s face it: apart from His intervention, we are a race whose demise is apparently just as Guy McPherson pictures it: a sure thing, and only decades away—or at best capable of a few centuries’ reprieve if our entire race can be reduced to living like brute beasts. In the end, McPherson envisions the only hope for mankind as a return to his evolutionary ideal—survival of the fittest, the strong killing and devouring the weak, with man a mere pawn of nature, not its steward. He would vehemently disagree with Alfred Lord Tennyson, who acknowledged that Man… “Who trusted God was love indeed / And love Creation’s final law / Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw / With ravin, shriek’d against his creed.” (In Memoriam, 1850) In the mind of the logical liberal, the only way to save man from himself is to allow his “god,” Nature, to rapaciously seize and devour him as prey. Yahweh, however, has other plans.
How can one remain joyful in the face of such grim prospects—dying seas, corrupted air, and barren lands? It’s because Yahweh (who does not lie) speaks of a holy city where righteousness and peace reign, where the river of the water of life flows, with the tree of life bearing fruit, and whose leaves heal the nations. He promises to wipe away our tears, remove the curse of sin, turn our swords into plowshares, and dwell among us as our God. Extinction is for people with no hope; I am looking forward, rather, to Apocalypse. The dangers of these various environmental “swords of Damocles” hanging over our heads tend to precipitate three competing reactions, depending upon our varying philosophies. The godless either try to use the data as a springboard for self-serving political activism, or they adopt a fatalistic posture: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Meanwhile, Christians and the politically conservative (groups that overlap to some extent, but are by no means coterminous) tend to ridicule the data, along with (or perhaps because of) the political “hay” the liberals are trying to make while the sun shines. My position, however, is that all three reactions are wrong.
For example, there is no question that CO2 concentrations are building in the atmosphere. We have discussed many of the reasons for this phenomenon, and the prevailing theories concerning the disasters that could result. The environazis therefore warned us years ago that by the summer of 2013, the polar ice caps would have completely melted. What happened? By September of 2013, the north polar icecap had increased in size by a million square miles, much to the glee of the naysayers. The climate-change enthusiasts were left scratching their heads, or doubling down on their predictions of doom, despite the evidence. God, meanwhile, (who’s got His own agenda and His own timetable) is “adjusting” the climate of the earth by controlling magnetic activity on the sun: just when we were supposed to be going into an eleven-year sunspot peak, these harbingers of heat were nowhere to be found. (The “low-information” group remains blissfully unaware of the whole controversy, of course.)
Once again, I find myself out of step with virtually everybody. I believe that: (1) We should not purposely remain clueless to the issues and challenges that confront our world. Ignorance is no defense against anything. (2) We should not presume that mankind is wise enough, powerful enough, advanced enough, or beneficent enough to solve the environmental problems the Earth faces without honoring the God who made the place for us to live on. And (3) we should not automatically assume that the world’s ecological problems don’t exist, simply because the scientific and political elite are trying to make a quick buck at our expense by “solving” them. Rather, we should be pondering the big picture—the plan of God, the plight of man, and our own utter inability to save ourselves. At some level, these environmental crises are real. The only things that are bogus are man’s efforts to head off disaster.
Perhaps the whole thing should be taken as a parable of sorts, teaching us something about our own spiritual condition. Anyone who thinks about it (though granted, not many do) will readily conclude that we—the human race—are in need of salvation, for we are fallen, sinful creatures. Even if we don’t “believe in God,” we still find ourselves doing things we somehow know are “wrong.” The solution is not to ignore the problem, numbing our consciences with the pursuit of pleasure or the distraction of merely trying to survive our busy days. Neither is the answer to impose manmade solutions (that is, “religion”—the process of man defining God) upon our fellows. If God had wanted us to “think” our way into His presence, He would not have simply told us how to get there. Nor can we get to where we need to be by mocking or ridiculing those we think are “less enlightened” than ourselves. In spiritual matters (which are the only ones that count, in the long run) we would be wise to use the same method—the only method—that works with the ecology of our planet: pay attention to what Yahweh said to do.
It’s ironic that most of the information that serves to warn us about impending catastrophe in the earth invariably comes from the same people who would scoff at any notion of divine vengeance, of God’s coming judgment. Frankly, I just hate getting my data exclusively from people who think the universe, our galaxy, solar system, planet, and life itself were all just the fortuitous outcome of a remarkable string of incredibly unlikely accidents. But the only people making their living tracking “climate change” (and what might cause it) get their funding by expressing the opinion that the multitudes of miracles that were responsible for getting us here, balanced on a razor’s edge of infinitely receding improbability, were not performed by a wise and powerful “Creator-God,” but rather by blind, stupid, undirected chance—a “creator” with an IQ of zero. A scientist working in academia today has to be extremely secure in his position to even admit the possibility of God in a public forum. It happens, but it’s incredibly rare.
My point is that there is enormous pressure for scientists these days to disregard the most obvious and fundamental “fact” of all—that a Being of immense intelligence and foresight created and sustains life. In what universe would it be conceivable that such a Supreme Being would not be aware of the stresses we have put on the world? Yes, we humans are probably “clever” enough to figure out how to destroy all life on earth. God’s human manifestation, Yahshua the Messiah, as much as told us so when He said, speaking of the times we are discussing in these pages, “If those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Matthew 24:22) Christ was hinting that the world will not be allowed to whimper to its sad, inevitable end, a victim of its own inhabitants’ pride, greed, and lack of reverence for their Creator. Before any of these “risk factors” we’ve been discussing are allowed to kill us all off, Yahweh will (once again) intervene to save us from ourselves.
Mass Animal Die-offs
Consider these news headlines: 70,000 sheep and cattle killed by snow in Bolivia… 990,981 birds killed by Avian Flu in Bhaktapur, Nepal… Over 1,500 cattle freeze to death in southern Paraguay… Five dead whales found beached along southeast coast of Brazil… Millions of fish die suddenly in a reservoir in Henan, China… Mass die-off of Pigeons due to disease in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine… 250,000 Alpacas dead from freezing weather in Puno, Peru… Tons of dead fish from the Baltic Sea wash up on beaches in Germany… 1,000 dead fish found in a stream in La Bresse, France… 10,000 dead salmon found scattered along Lake Koocanusa in Montana… Mass fish kill washes up along the shores of a river in Kharkiv, Ukraine… Thousands of ducks dying “due to disease” in Klamath Basin, Oregon… Thousands of bees found dead after mosquito spraying in York County, Virginia… 100+ elk found dead on ranch near Las Vegas, Nevada… Thousands of fish turn up dead in a pond off Iowa river… Thousands of dead fish wash ashore in Nienhagen, Germany… 200,000 pounds of fish have died in a reservoir in Yiyang, China… 100% of oyster beds dead in St. Lucie River, Florida… Another mass die off of fish washes up in Karachi, Pakistan… Tens of thousands of fish found dead in fish farms in Nong Khai, Thailand… Three more dolphins wash up dead off Jersey coast… Mass mortality of poultry due to third outbreak of bird flu in Ferrara, Italy… Mysterious die off of fish and animals along a river in Ouled Rabah, Algeria… Thousands of dead fish wash up in a lake in Bolu, Turkey… Pigeons are dying en mass due to disease in Kiev, Ukraine… 900 fish die due to lack of oxygen in a lake in Hellum, Netherlands… Ten tons of dead fish discovered in a lake in Rio, Brazil….
It would be alarming if these headlines about mass animal die-offs covered an entire decade. Even more so for one year. The carnage would be truly horrifying if that news covered but a single month. But it doesn’t. That list reports the extinction events of only one week—the last week of August, 2013 (chosen quite at random, I’m afraid). (Thanks to end-times-prophecy.org for compiling the list, by the way.) And those are only the die-offs that made the news; there could be many more. The media reports whatever facts it can: the numbers, the species, the locations, and sometimes (if they can be determined), the immediate causes. (Those “causes,” of course, are occasionally enough to make a dyed-in-the-wool earth-worshiper break out in a cold sweat: it has been determined that at least 95 endangered eagles have been killed by renewable-energy-generating wind turbines since 1995—65 of them within the past five years. Saving the planet can be so frustrating.)
No one seems to know why so many animals, of such a wide variety, are dying in such huge numbers all over the world in the last few years: birds (both wild and domesticated), bees, bats, fish (salt water and fresh, wild and farm-raised), marine mammals (whales, dolphins, porpoises, manatees, seals, and sea lions), a wide variety of other ocean dwellers (starfish, oysters, clams, eels, turtles, stingrays, sharks, lobsters, crabs, krill, shrimp, squid) large quadrupeds (elks, antelopes, deer, goats, sheep, cattle, horses, alpacas, pigs, elephants, water buffaloes), and the list goes on.
There is no single answer, no sole all-encompassing identifiable root cause, for the hundreds of mass die-off events that are reported every year. The researchers and reporters seem content to scratch their heads and take each episode as a separate, stand-alone phenomenon. A flock of blackbirds will suddenly take wing in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, fly around for a while, and then suicidally dive-bomb the earth. The necropsies reveal no environmental cause of death, other than the obvious: blunt force trauma caused by high speed collisions with the ground. An entire pod of whales will beach themselves for no reason any human can discern. Hundreds of thousands of dead fish float to the surface of three different lakes—on three separate continents. A pile of dead honeybees 60,000 strong is discovered, but the cause of their demise remains undetermined. Even when the cause is known—for example, millions of chickens and ducks dying (or being preemptively slaughtered) because of bird flu in China—the cause of the next die-off, of the next species, in the next country, is completely different. It’s almost as if the animal world has lost the will to live. Do they sense something we don’t?
Well over half of the news articles report massive fish die-offs. Having studied the symbology of living things as presented in scripture (see the resulting thesis: The Torah Code, elsewhere on this website) I was compelled to figure out what Yahweh is thinking about when He speaks of “fish.” Introducing that chapter, I wrote, “On the theory that God never tells us anything by accident or does anything on a pointless whim, it would seem that fish in scripture represent Yahweh’s ‘quarry,’ those He would like to ‘reel in’—we who are, if you catch my drift, the whole reason He ‘bought the boat’ in the first place. Like any fisherman, He knows from the outset that He’s not going to ‘catch’ all of us, and that some who end up in His nets are dead—or worse, poisonous [see Matthew 13:47-50 for context]. But there’s a sea of humanity out there who are lost and vulnerable. So although you can’t bend this metaphor too far without breaking it, God asks us to pay attention to what He said about fish.”
If my take on the “fish” symbol in scripture is correct, the stresses we see on the world’s fish population in these last days—from a plethora of causes—seem to comprise a prophecy of sorts. Note first that a fish’s “job” is twofold: to procreate, and then to be eaten by something higher up the food chain. (The top predators are destined to die as well, but their corpses nourish the bottom of the food chain—an elegant, even poetic, arrangement.) Some fish, of course, are there to feed people (see Leviticus 11:9-12, Luke 11:11).
So these mass die-offs of fish can be seen as a picture—a preview—of something about which we’re blatantly warned elsewhere in prophetic scripture. After the rapture (the harvest of the “good” fish mentioned in Matthew 13), and especially during the Tribulation proper, many of those souls whom God desired to “catch up” in His net of love will die before they ever get close to Him. It’s not that they will all be scooped up in the nets of the adversary (though many will). But the sea of moral pollution through which they must swim, the dearth of spiritual nutrients in the water, and the absence of available oxygen (read: the Holy Spirit), will all conspire to make pointless death the “new normal” in the days following the rapture. Most of these “fish,” the souls left behind, will never fulfill their intended role in life—to pass their life (in the spiritual sense) on to the next generation—something that comprises the central instruction of the Great Commission—or to provide nourishment (again, in the spiritual sense—godly wisdom) to anyone in their own generation. Their lives, to put it bluntly, will be wasted. Not only will they not do what they were put here on earth to accomplish, their rotting corpses will provide the characteristic scent of the Tribulation: eau d’decomp, the pungent odor of wasted life. By the time the Tribulation has run its course (a short but lethal seven years), most of the “fish” in the sea (a common scriptural metaphor for the gentile world) will be dead.
You may conclude that I’m merely being hysterical—about both the fish in the sea and the lost people they (to my mind) represent. The prophetic stuff will vindicate itself soon enough (or not), though since it’s yet future, there’s no way to verify it. But the general demise of the world’s fish—and indeed, the entire aquatic biosphere—is (as we have seen) becoming a fait accompli before our very eyes. We’ve already examined several villains: overfishing, pollution, and the deoxygenation / eutrophication of huge swaths of the ocean. But there’s one factor affecting the world’s largest ocean that nobody saw coming: nuclear radiation.
I’m speaking, of course, of the aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011: the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power facility, an event with ongoing and ever-widening environmental consequences. Fukushima is generally regarded to be the second-worst nuclear accident in history (after Chernobyl) but time and circumstances may conspire to give Japan’s disaster the unenvied “number one” spot. What’s different is that the Fukushima reactor was cooled with Pacific Ocean water, and radioactive waste water is still (two and a half years later, as I’m writing this) being vented into the open sea. If it isn’t killing the fish outright, it’s doing something even worse—causing harmful genetic mutations on an industrial scale, mutations that could be passed on to successive generations of sea life, should the fish be “lucky” enough to live long enough to procreate.
Such is the premise put forth in an op-ed piece by Gary Stamper on the website CollapsingIntoConsciousness.com. It’s entitled, apocalyptically enough, “At the Very Least, Your Days of Eating Pacific Ocean Fish Are Over.” Stamper writes, “The heart-breaking news from Fukushima just keeps getting worse…a lot worse…it is, quite simply, an out-of-control flow of death and destruction. Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company] is finally admitting that radiation has been leaking to the Pacific Ocean all along.
Stamper takes this personally, as perhaps we all should: “I find myself moving between the emotions of sorrow and anger. It now appears that anywhere from 300 to possibly over 450 tons of contaminated water that contains radioactive iodine, cesium, and strontium-89 and 90, is flooding into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima Daichi site every day. To give you an idea of how bad that actually is, Japanese experts estimate Fukushima’s fallout at 20-30 times higher than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in 1945.
“There’s a lot you’re not being told. Oh, the information is out there, but you have to dig pretty deep to find it, and you won’t find it on the corporate-owned evening news.” One exception? “An MSNBC article in April of 2012 reported that seals and polar bears were found to have ‘external maladies’ that consisted of fur loss and open sores, obvious signs of radiation burns from the Fukushima meltdown, despite the conclusions of the article. Fukushima radiation appears to be causing an epidemic of dead and starving Sea Lions in California and the FDA has refused to test for radiation.” A skeptic might conclude that official government agencies like the FDA know where their funding comes from—and they’re not about to bite the hand that feeds them.
The article goes on to cite the Huffington Post (5/9/11), saying, “The reactors used ‘dirty fuel,’ a combination of plutonium and uranium (MOX), which means we can never return to this place again. This comes from a Russian nuclear physicist who is an expert on the kinds of gasses being released at Fukushima.” It predicts that “almost a third more US West Coast newborns may face thyroid problems after Fukushima nuclear disaster,” something that only time will tell. “Contaminated water from Fukushima reactors could double radioactivity levels of US coastal waters in 5 years.” Just don’t expect to see it on the evening news.
Stamper asks, “What’s going on with the Pacific Ocean food chain?... Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine Earth Science and Technology reported in early 2012 that they have detected radioactive cesium from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in plankton collected from all 10 points in the Pacific they checked, with the highest levels at around 25 degrees north latitude and 150 degrees west longitude. [That’s roughly 700 miles north-northeast of Hawaii.] Plankton, and the radiation they contain, moves right up the food chain through fish, whales, seals, etc., and when larger fish eat smaller fish.” German computer models foresee Cesium-137 contamination from Fukushima reaching the West Coast of the United States by early 2014. Eventually, the entire Pacific Ocean will be affected. This will not remain a “localized” disaster for long. By the way, the half life of Cesium-137 is thirty years.
“Scientists previously reported higher-than-expected concentrations of radiation in fish off Japan. Now there are calls for testing of seafood sold in the U.S. Although contaminated air, rainfall and even radioactive debris from Japan have drifted toward the U.S. West Coast since the disaster occurred 2½ years ago, scientists are unclear about how the contaminated waters could impact the health of Americans…. Nuclear experts are calling on the U.S. government to test West Coast waters and Pacific seafood sold in the U.S. in the wake of Japan’s alarming admission about an ongoing radiation leak, something the EPA and the FDA have so far refused to do, as they are only testing imported fish, not wild-caught. Why?”
Good question, Gary. Our government, it appears, is concerned only with regulating us, not protecting us—and not even warning us. Such things are apparently bad for business. So Stamper opines, “The only way to protect your children and grandchildren is by not eating seafood from the Pacific Ocean until we have better information. Information posted at the website of The Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California recommends not buying any fish from the Pacific Ocean or western states, including Baja.” I find it eerie how the advice parallels that of researcher Debbie McKenzie, quoted above, though offered for entirely different reasons. Humanity, it would seem, has worn out its welcome in the world’s oceans, at least for the next century or so.
Since the FDA refuses to do their job, Stamper has prepared this short list of “What you haven’t been told about fish contamination” for our edification:
1. Tissue samples taken from 15 bluefin caught in August, five months after the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi all contained reactor byproducts cesium-134 and cesium-137.
2. The 15 fish tested were only exposed to radiation for a short time. But bluefin arriving in California now will have been exposed to the Fukushima radiation for much longer.
3. Unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium does not quickly sink to the sea bottom but remains dispersed in the water column, from the surface to the ocean floor. Fish can swim right through it, ingesting it through their gills, by taking in seawater or by eating organisms that have already taken it in.
4. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no safe level of radiation … and radiation consumed and taken into the body is much more dangerous than background radiation. (Washington’s Blog)
5. Scientists tagged a bluefin tuna and found that it crossed between Japan and the West Coast three times in 600 days: All Pacific migratory fish are likely Fukushima-contaminated. (The Telegraph)
6. Why have contaminated Alaskan halibut been found even though halibut don’t migrate? The [airborne] cesium-134 contamination from radioactive plumes doesn’t just fall on land [but also onto the ocean’s surface].
7. A study shows Fukushima nuclear pollution becoming more concentrated as it approaches the U.S. West Coast—the plume crosses the ocean in a nearly straight line toward North America, and appears to stay together with little dispersion. (enenews.com)
8. Pacific herring in Canada [were found] bleeding from eyeballs, faces, fins, tails. ‘I’ve never seen fish looking this bad… All 100 examined were bloody.’ Officials were informed of the hemorrhaging soon after 3/11, but the government is ignoring problem. (enenews.com)
9. Unprecedented: Sockeye salmon are at dire historic low on Canada’s Pacific coast. ‘We think something happened in the ocean’… ‘The elders have never seen anything like this at all.’ Alaska and Russia are also affected. (enenews.com)
10. Fukushima Daiichi radioactive water problems seem ‘uncontainable.’ [They are] believed to be wreaking environmental havoc upon Pacific Ocean. (Japan Times)
11. Crisis deepening at Fukushima nuclear plant; Upgraded to ‘Level 3 Serious Incident.’ Represents a 100-fold increase in ‘severity of a radiological release.’ Tepco says highly radioactive leakage continues, but the source is unknown. (Reuters)
Stamper concludes, “It’s more than obvious that Tepco officials have no idea what they’re doing, and the big question is why aren’t world governments jumping in to contain what’s going on? Meanwhile, the Pacific Ocean may very well be dying.” Mr. Stamper, for all his correct (though alarming) observations, has made one critically errant assumption. He thinks man should be able to fix this. But man is a morally corrupt species, and not nearly as smart as we think we are: we are incapable of saving ourselves (though we seem to be pretty proficient at getting ourselves into trouble, and we’re positively brilliant at passing blame and covering up the truth).
BeforeItsNews.com seems to agree with me. On August 22, 2013, they posted this: “From the first day onwards, the U.S. government has massively underplayed the scale of the [Fukushima] disaster— and its effect in particular on North America itself. In the text of stenography [a reference to incriminating documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act], there are repeated references to ‘play down the level of fallout,’ ‘our line should be there’s no cause for alarm’ and so forth. But the bottom line is that somewhere in the region of 1.3 million Americans will be dead as a direct cause of Fukushima by 2030.”
Well, they might be dead by then if they live long enough to fall victim to Fukushima’s slow radiation poisoning. But if you’ll recall, the scriptural timeline seems to call for global thermonuclear war (the first Trumpet Judgment) in late 2028 or early 2029. With one quarter of the Earth’s population dead as a result of the war and its attendant woes, “1.3 million Americans” won’t even make a dent in the total carnage. The secular-humanist elites insist on thinking of humanity as nothing more than a race of really smart animals. If you accept their definition, I guess the Tribulation (during the third and fourth decades of the twenty-first century), will be the cause of the greatest “mass animal die-off” of all. The world doesn’t want to hear it, but I’ll say it (again) anyway: our only hope is life in Yahweh. That has always been the case, but in these last days, it is becoming so obvious, even a scientist can see it.
Extinction Threats—Disappearance of Wildlife and their Habitats
Man was given his marching orders in the Garden of Eden: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’… And God blessed [Adam and Eve]. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26, 28) Having been created “in the image of God” implied that we (mankind) were to care for God’s creation as He did. Yahweh provided each species with food, an appropriate place to live, the tools to make use of one’s environment (whether fangs and claws, horns and hoofs for defense, a shell to hide in, or wings with which to make an escape), natural balance in numbers, and instincts informing each kind of animal how to best make use of God’s gifts. That is, Yahweh’s approach toward the natural realm He had created was to foster life, health, fecundity, and balance. Man’s job, then, was to figure out ways to reflect and promote these divine attitudes. So when God told Adam to “subdue the earth and have dominion over its creatures,” He wasn’t authorizing him to go out and kill everything he could, out of a misplaced sense of greed, fear, or arrogance. Just because man was to be the “top” species on this planet—uniquely invested with the privilege of making moral choices—God never intended for him to work toward the goal of becoming the only species. As God created and sustained life, man was to preserve it to the best of his ability.
Adam’s “day job” is revealing. He was tasked by God to get to know each and every kind of animal He had created, giving them the names by which they would be known. “So out of the ground Yahweh, God, formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens.…” Note that the animals had all been made of the same basic “raw material” the man himself was made of—the elements of the earth. And if it’s not too eisegetical, perhaps a sideways confirmation of our common DNA structure can be implied from this as well. “And [He] brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.” (Genesis 2:19-20) Thus “subduing” and “having dominion over” the animals of the earth had less to do with controlling them than it did understanding them. Adam was to be a steward, not a subjugator—a caretaker, not a conqueror.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must note that by the time of the flood of Noah, the animals who had once been so docile and trusting under Adam’s caring hand had learned (the hard way) to be wary of mankind. God told Noah, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (Genesis 9:2-3) We are left to speculate why a vegetarian diet would no longer be deemed sufficient for man’s needs. But it is as if, from this point onward, the animal kingdom instinctively knew that men were not to be trusted. In fact, man himself was apparently the last “animal” to figure that out.
If nothing else, we had proved that given free will, we (as a fallen race) would choose poorly most of the time. Our need for reconciliation with the Creator from whom we had estranged ourselves was suddenly brought into sharp focus. Noah and his three sons knew this (hence the sacrifices recorded in Genesis 8:20), but their offspring, not so much. Within three generations, religion had been perpetrated upon the earth (the invention of Nimrod, the son of Ham’s son, Cush), the “mystery religion” of Babel—the vestiges of which still trouble us to this very day. God had made Adam in His own image; Noah’s great grandchildren now decided they could reinvent God in theirs.
But I digress. We were talking about the human race and our degenerating relationship with the animals God put here on the earth with us—in our care. It is no secret that many species are in danger of extinction today. But extinction on our planet is nothing new. It has been going on since life first appeared. Based on the fossil record, it appears that a typical species becomes extinct, on average, about ten million years after it first appears. This in turn implies that 99.9% of all species that have ever walked the earth are now gone. The only factor that is raising eyebrows nowadays is the rate at which species are going extinct—far in excess of the historical pace. Conventional wisdom, of course, blames this acceleration of extinction on anthropogenic causes—and they may be right.
Perhaps I should pause and explain my view of life in God’s universe, for it is “out of step” with that of many of my Christian brethren—not to mention what I myself used to believe. I am fully aware, of course, that God described His creation process as taking “six days” to achieve. But it is obvious (at least to me) that the creation account is delivered in purely symbolic language—in terms designed to inform us not about how or when Yahweh built our universe and the life that resides within it (other than the fact that He did), but rather to reveal the nature and timeline of His ultimate plan for the reconciliation of mankind—the central (and perhaps only) theme of the Bible.
The creation account introduces a pattern that is repeated ad nauseum throughout scripture: the pattern of sevens, always presented as six of one thing, followed by one of another. It’s the prototype of the Sabbath principle: that man would have six “days” (read: six thousand years) to exercise his free will, make his moral choices, and “work things out with God,” and that on the seventh “day” (i.e., the final Millennium, coterminous with the earthly kingdom of Yahshua the Messiah) we would “rest” in the consequences of those choices. At the end of the “week,” the eternal state would commence. (This “week,” by the way, is the inspiration for the title of this book, The End of the Beginning. The “beginning” is comprised of fallen man’s entire seven-thousand-year mortal tenure upon the earth. Eternity is everything that follows.)
The “glitches” in the creation account tell the tale. For instance, God created light on the first day, but the sun, moon, and stars didn’t show up until the fourth day—after plant life on earth! God isn’t stupid. He didn’t invent photosynthesis without providing a source of light to power the process. No, He was posing a spiritual puzzle for us to ponder. Another clue appeared in the final chapter of the Hebrew scriptures, where we’re told that the Sun of Righteousness would arise with healing in her wings. That “Sun,” it would transpire, would be the Holy Spirit working in and through the Messiah, Yahshua. And when would this take place? The Genesis account told us the sun appeared on the “fourth day,” and sure enough, Yahshua “healed us” at the very end of the fourth day—that is, the fourth millennium—of the tenure of fallen man upon the earth. That is, His ministry and passion took place four thousand years after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin—the event that precipitated the need for a plan of redemption in the first place.
So the Biblical creation account wasn’t intended to teach us dead, dry scientific facts, but rather living, delicious spiritual truth. That leaves it up to us to figure out on our own (since God also made us curious and resourceful) what the timeline of creation actually was—not that it matters all that much from a spiritual point of view. It is to our shame that the only reason we humans looked into the subject at all was a burning desire to “prove God wrong.” The tacit theory was that if life arose and evolved spontaneously—without a Creator—then we humans could ignore God, since He “didn’t exist” (or so we hoped and prayed), nor did we owe Him anything—like love, obedience, friendship, thankfulness, or respect.
So the “state religion” (which is pretty much a worldwide “scientific consensus” these days) insists that, without the input or direction of any intelligent Creator, life spontaneously invented itself. Then, over vast eons of time, random mutations (which in our real experience are virtually always deleterious) altered the impossibly complex DNA molecules that had assembled themselves, giving rise to more and more complex and well-suited life forms—in direct violation of the second law of thermodynamics as well as every shred of empirical evidence ever collected.
The theory, though never actually possible, was at least plausible as long as it was presumed that all these processes had an infinite amount of time in which to operate. But then it was discovered (through red-shift analysis) that the universe wasn’t formed until about 13.7 billion years ago (in an event derisively termed “the big bang” by one of its detractors, the astronomer Fred Hoyle—a proponent of the rival “steady-state” theory, which was later soundly disproved by the observation of cosmic microwave background radiation patterns in the ’60s). Worse (for the evolutionists), it was discovered that our universe is not only continuing to expand, but its ongoing expansion is actually accelerating. Then, it was calculated that the age of our solar system was a “mere” 4.6 billion years (give or take). The amount of time available for uncreated life to appear, and for undirected evolution to proceed, was suddenly far too short for the theory to be evenly remotely plausible—which is not to say the scientists were ready to embrace the idea of an intelligent Creator instead.
But it gets even worse. Life could not have arisen on the earth until after the moon was formed (through violent collision with another large body in space—perhaps as big as Mars—that completely destroyed the primeval earth) and the “dust” had had time to settle into the two interdependent spheres we know today. Most put this event at about 4.5 billion years ago, but the prestigious Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory places the date as recently as 4.36 billion years ago, based on its analysis of lead, samarium and neodymium found in ancient lunar rocks. Whenever it took place, the impact left both the earth and the moon (that is, the material that would become them) as unformed masses of molten magma, cooling over millions of years, and formed by the force of gravity into the spherical shapes with which we’re so familiar. More to the point, the process allowed the heavy iron component of the planet to sink to the core of the molten mass, providing the magnetic field that’s so uniquely crucial in protecting our planet from the cosmic rays that could otherwise strip away our upper atmosphere, including the ozone layer that protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. All of this happened eons before there was an atmosphere on this planet, you understand. Call me overly zealous, but it seems obvious to me that the Creator’s guiding hand was all over this from the very beginning. The Earth, it would appear, was prepared specifically to be occupied by living creatures. Moreover, if life like ours exists elsewhere in the universe, it’s because Yahweh went out of His way to make it happen—just as He did here.
Evolutionists universally opine that life began in the sea (as opposed to dry land). So we should also track the formation of the earth’s aqueous environment. The oceans as we know them today are a moving target, because of continental drift. But giving the evolutionists every possible advantage, I think we can all agree that seas could not form until the earth was cool enough for water to precipitate out of its vaporous state into liquid. Note that H2O is the second most prevalent molecule in the galaxy (after CO, carbon monoxide). It is not a stretch to envision that our water was present here from the very beginning—from the initial formation of the planet from interstellar dust. In other words, there is no reason to suppose (as one theory puts it) that all of the earth’s water had to be transported here by comets over eons of time. But evolutionary theory demands that it had to be in a usable state—pooled in liquid masses on the surface, not in a vapor canopy hovering above the planet, and not bound in geologic structures within the earth’s crust or mantle.
By the way, recent discoveries have determined that the moon may have water as well—not on the surface, of course, but under it, especially at the poles. Science.com (August 27, 2013) reports, “Evidence of water spotted on the moon’s surface by a sharp-eyed spacecraft likely originated from an unknown source deep in the lunar interior, scientists say. The find—made by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe—marks the first detection of such ‘magmatic water’ from lunar orbit and confirms analyses performed recently on moon rocks brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts four decades ago, researchers said.” (You didn’t know America had outsourced its moon shots to India, did you?) The discovery tells me that the primeval earth and/or the planet-killer asteroid/comet that hit it when the moon was formed probably had lots of H2O in its/their makeup.
Because of a fortuitous (or is that well-planned?) series of remarkable “coincidences,” the Earth is perfectly situated to allow the presence of liquid water on the surface—and it’s the only heavenly body we know of with this property. It is precisely the right distance from the sun. Any closer, and the seas would boil off, leaving the planet as dry as the surface of the moon. Much farther away, and any water that was there would be locked up in the form of ice (as on Mars)—thus not conducive to life as we know it. If the earth were much smaller, there would not be sufficient gravity to prevent water vapor from escaping into space (as is the case with our moon). But if the planet were much larger—say, the size of Jupiter or Saturn, the proximity to the sun necessary to allow liquid water would also tend to pull the planet toward (and eventually into) the sun, unless its rate of orbit were at the same time extremely high. (And not to wander too far off topic, but observed gas giants in our galaxy that do orbit as close as we do to their stars tend to create a magnetic hell, in which solar superflares millions of times more violent than the big X-class flares we sometimes witness here on earth are triggered by magnetic interaction between the planets and their stars—once more making life untenable.)
Remember, the “steady-state” theory of the universe (which posits that new matter is continuously being created as the universe expands) was philosophically dear to evolutionists during the first half of the twentieth century because it provided the virtually infinite amount of time that the spontaneous generation of life from non-living matter would presumably have taken. Only cold, hard scientific facts forced the theory into retirement, replaced with the philosophically repugnant “big bang” theory, which states that the universe is of a finite age—now determined to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 13.7 billion years. We have further determined that the earth and moon were seething masses of molten rock and metal as late as 4.36 billion years ago, meaning that surface seas could not have formed here before about 4.2 billion years in the past.
So did life have 4.2 billion years to evolve on the earth? No. Life showed up a long time ago. The earliest evidence of life discovered thus far is in sedimentary rocks from western Greenland, called the Isua sediments—formed, it is deduced, in a deep and ancient ocean. The evidence of life comes not from traditional fossils, but from a unique and telltale chemical signature formed only by living organisms—prokaryotes, primitive bacteria-like organisms whose cells lack a membrane-bound nucleus. Primitive or not, these organisms are still based on DNA, an incredibly complex molecule that only a person with really bad math skills would claim to be capable of assembling themselves and coming to life by undirected random chance. Even the simplest single-cell prokaryote is quite complex, complete with its capsule, cell wall, plasma membrane, cytoplasm, ribosomes, plasmid, pili, nucleoid (containing its DNA genetic profile), and a bacterial flagellum. They have such “advanced” features as biological feedback loops, semi-permeable one-way membranes, and the ability to self motivate and asexually reproduce. There’s nothing “simple” about life.
The rocks in which this evidence of life was found have been dated at 3.8 billion years old. This means that the evolutionists have a terrible problem. Instead of having the luxury of the infinite eons of time that Darwin counted on, they are now forced to accept the impossible proposition that life sprang from non-life on this planet within a geological blink of an eye—a mere 400 million years. Or less: just because they’ve found rocks with evidence of life going back 3.8 billion years, there is no reason to suppose the gap between the preparation of earth and introduction of life upon it couldn’t be even shorter—recorded in rocks they haven’t found and examined.
And why did prokaryotes appear first, and remain the only life forms on the planet for hundreds of millions of years? Another “accident?” The evolutionist is forced to say “yes,” but I can’t see it. Call me stubborn, but it seems to me that the first order of business the Creator would have attended to is to build an atmosphere on the planet, one that could be utilized by more and more complex creatures. In simplified terms, prokaryotes (especially cyanobacteria) and their slightly more advanced (nucleus-equipped) cousins, the eukaryotes, engage in photosynthetic respiration, which produces free oxygen as a byproduct—oxygen which now makes up almost 21% of the air we breathe. Either we have been really lucky on this planet, or God has been at work here. Not only is an oxygen-rich atmosphere really handy for breathing (if you’re into things like that), but it has as an added bonus the ability to burn up most asteroids as they approach the planet. A look at the surface of the moon will tell you instantly what a “shooting gallery” our celestial neighborhood is: it’s like living in Southside Chicago in the summertime. But earth’s atmosphere protects us from all but the largest hits—and it mitigates those.
By the way, evolutionists think they have sidestepped the “not-enough-time” problem by suggesting that life first flew here on asteroids from elsewhere in the galaxy. That theoretically gives them a little more time (though not nearly enough), but it doesn’t solve their problem. Such life (since it supposedly “seeded” that on the earth) would have had to be based on the same incredibly complex DNA that even the simplest creatures here on earth have. By tweaking the variables, laboratory experiments have “spontaneously” generated simple non-living amino acids by manipulating the environment (which sort of proves the need for an Intelligent Designer, doesn’t it?). But to get from there to a structure as complex as a DNA molecule, you’d need to be exceedingly lucky: the chances of lining up all of the elements correctly without manipulating them are something in the neighborhood of one in 10123—that’s one chance in the number 10 with 123 zeros behind it, which (to put things in perspective) is approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times the total number of atoms in the whole visible universe, something known in sane society as “impossible.” But it’s even worse for the evolutionist. Even if you were lucky enough for all of the atoms to line up properly, you still wouldn’t have anything that you could call “alive.” All you’d have was an inert (a.k.a. “dead”) DNA molecule. If such a lifeless blob is not infused with a nephesh (the Hebrew word for soul, used four times in the first chapter of Genesis to describe living creatures)—all by random chance, mind you—then you’ve still got nothing. Your little science experiment couldn’t eat, respire, reproduce, or perform any function that we might attribute to a living organism. Chemistry and life may be compatible, but they’re not remotely the same thing.
All of that being said, the reality is that life appeared on planet Earth virtually as soon as the infrastructure was cool enough (and wet enough) to support it. You say you still don’t allow the possibility of a Creative Being to have a role in this? You’re still placing your faith in blind luck? Fine. Insanity is still legal, I guess. Let’s start there, then—with one primitive “species.” How did we get from microbes to man? Darwin’s model predicts a slow and steady increase in complexity and “fitness” over time, assuming as it does that natural selection operated on randomly generated mutations in the living genome. Never mind the fact that virtually all such mutations are harmful (or at the very least neutral, as far as we can tell). The reality is that most mutations present nothing to “select.” The theory is that some advantage is gained through the mutation, thereby making the individual less likely to be eaten by his neighbor, or more likely to breed. But none of that is germane in a world where every living thing reproduces asexually and synthesizes food from sunshine and minerals.
And then there’s the inconvenient (for the evolutionist) sudden appearance of all sorts of new life-forms about 540 million years ago (using the “accepted” evolutionary chronology). It’s called the “Cambrian explosion,” a time when almost all of the animal phyla we know today appeared over the relatively short span of 20 million years. Before this, as we have noted, virtually all organisms were rudimentary single-celled creatures, operating either alone or in colonies. (The only phylum that shows up “late” in the fossil record is the Bryozoa—or “moss animals”—tiny aquatic invertebrates which appeared about 50 million years later, as far as we can tell. But it seems to me that if your fossil carcass is only half a millimeter long, you’d be easy to miss.) This rapid and unprecedented diversification of fauna by itself destroys the Darwinian view of evolution. Darwin knew of the fossil evidence for the Cambrian explosion, and it gave him nightmares. He hoped and prayed (to the God whose reputation he was trying to sabotage) that this evidence was due to an incomplete fossil record, but in the century and a half since he published The Origin of Species, the fossil evidence has only gotten stronger: life as we know it fairly leaped onto the world stage within a very short span of time a little over half a billion years ago.
And worse (for them), the gaps between basic kinds of animals—a phenomenon evolutionary theory insists shouldn’t be there—have grown more and more distinct as the fossil record became more complete. The “missing links” they so hoped to find simply don’t exist. Of course, this is exactly what you’d expect to find if a Creator-God purposely introduced life-forms onto the planet the way He described the process in Genesis 1. The Cambrian explosion is apparently the fossil record of the fifth day of Creation. As the earth became ready to receive and support them, God placed (not evolved) more and more advanced animal kinds into the biosphere. (The desperate “punctuated equilibrium” theory of Eldredge and Gould tries to make sense of the scripture-supporting evidence, but all it really does is prove that as a theory, evolution is unfalsifiable, and hence unbelievable.)
All of that places us on the doorstep of our present topic: extinction. As I mentioned a few pages back, the fossil record implies that a typical species goes extinct about ten million years after it first appears, give or take. This means that 99.9% of all species that have ever walked the earth are now extinct. But perhaps those statistics are a bit misleading. They speak of “species,” while the Bible speaks of “kinds.” The Hebrew word used is min, meaning a kind, class, or taxonomical type of entity. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon notes: “Groups of living organisms belong in the same created ‘kind’ if they have descended from the same ancestral gene pool. This does not preclude new species because this represents a partitioning of the original gene pool.” And here’s the key: “Information is lost or conserved, not gained. A new species could arise when a population is isolated and inbreeding occurs. By this definition a new species is not a new ‘kind’ but a further partitioning of an existing ‘kind.’”
It’s relatively easy to see that dogs, wolves, coyotes, and hyenas could all be of the same Biblical “kind.” Perhaps a bit harder to see, but still plausible as far as I can see, is that all “cats” are of the same kind. House cats, bobcats, ocelots, panthers, mountain lions, lynxes, leopards, lions, tigers, and everything in between could easily have descended and developed from a single versatile gene pool. At some point, I envision God introducing a male and female of this proto-cat “kind,” from whose offspring, over thousands of generations, came the myriad cat species we now know—including those that have gone extinct, such as the smilodon (the saber-toothed cat).
This shoots another fatal bullet into the heart of the theory of evolution: sexual reproduction. Under what conceivable set of circumstances could a single-celled organism whose progenitors all reproduced asexually—by simple cell division—all of a sudden give rise to a sexually reproducing species? It would have to have two massive mutations in a row—splitting into a male and female versions of itself, both of whom could no longer asexually reproduce. (Or an even more ludicrous scenario: two different organisms would need to have mirror-image mutations at the same time, in the same place—one becoming female, the other male.) These two new mutants would be responsible for finding each other in the primordial soup and inventing sex (which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly intuitive if you’re a eukaryote) on the spot. The probabilities against this development absolutely boggle the mind. But as I said, a requirement for being an evolutionist is that you have to be really bad at math. For what it’s worth, I am of the opinion that God introduced sex into His creation in order to provide a picture of what the relationship between us (God and mankind) is supposed to be like: one of interaction, communication, devotion, fruitfulness, and yes—love.
But I digress (again). The number of species recognized by modern taxonomists has little or nothing to do with the number of “kinds” God introduced into the biosphere. The extreme example of this principle, I suppose, is the insect world. There are more than a million described species of insects on record, and scientists suspect that there could be as many as six or eight million species out there still waiting to be discovered. They are certainly among the most diverse kinds of animal inhabiting the earth today, potentially comprising nine out of every ten extant species. How many insect species have gone extinct is anybody’s guess. The question is: how many “kinds” of insect did God actually introduce? We’ll never know, of course, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t “millions.” It was probably more like hundreds, maybe even dozens.
The point is that even if species (as modern scientists recognize them) go extinct, the “kinds” of creatures God placed upon the earth at various times are still here—most of them, anyway. Individual species are merely subsets of the gene pool of the original “kind” introduced by the Creator. Each new species we find reminds us that genetic information has been lost in transit—there is no way to get back to the original faunal form once a subset has inbred for enough generations. Even cross-species fertility (such as still exists between lions and tigers, for example) will be lost, given enough generations in isolation.
These spin-off (or “daughter”) species often live on when the parent species goes extinct. As an example, the extinct Hyracotherium appears to be an ancestor of the modern horse. Technically, then, scientists consider it to be what they call “pseudoextinct” (rather than extinct) because there are several extant species of Equus, including horses, zebras, and donkeys. I don’t suppose the distinction matters to the poor Hyracotherium. The gene pool lives on, albeit in a fragmented, overspecialized way.
So the process of evolution is not at all as Darwin imagined it: nothing new is being created when a new “species” emerges. Rather, the new form looks different because genetic information has either been suppressed or lost altogether. Therefore, “evolution” is a misleading term—we should probably be calling the ongoing process of speciation “devolution.” We are not in the process of “getting better.” We are only becoming more specialized.
All of that being said, extinction proceeds apace, and by any measure, that pace has quickened. Wikipedia reports that “Biologist E. O. Wilson estimated in 2002 that if current rates of human destruction of the biosphere continue, one-half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years. More significantly, the rate of species extinctions at present is estimated at 100 to 1000 times ‘background’ or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of planet Earth. However, some groups are going extinct much faster. Amphibians, for example, are disappearing as much as 45,000 times their extinction rate at the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event of 65 million years ago.” To put things in perspective, our current extinction rates, year by year, are (as far as we can tell) between ten and a hundred times higher than any previous mass extinctions in the history of planet Earth—including the demise of the dinosaurs. And this time, plant species are going extinct as well, not just animals.
Not surprisingly, the presence of “too many people” is said to be driving the trend, so they’re calling it the “Holocene extinction” or the “Anthropocene extinction.” A survey of four hundred biologists, conducted by New York’s American Museum of Natural History in 1998, revealed that seventy percent of these science professionals had looked at the data and concluded that we were now “in the early stages of a human-caused extinction.” The conclusion was that within 30 years (that is, by 2028), up to 20 percent of all living populations could become extinct.
All of the usual suspects are blamed: climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gasses; the devastation of the oceans through overfishing and pollution; the desertification and deforestation of lands as a result of man-centric forces; genocidal hunting practices; infectious diseases like the swine or bird flu; the introduction of non-native species of flora and fauna; and the retasking of huge swaths of land that were once the domain of wild animals and native plants. (Ten to fifteen percent of the earth’s land surface is now being used either to grow row-type agricultural crops or is tasked for urban or industrial use.)
There are literally thousands of species that have been declared endangered or threatened today. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, the animals at risk include 361 mammal species; 317 birds; 126 reptiles; 38 amphibians; 167 fish species; 90 clams; 46 snails; 72 insects; 23 crustaceans; and even 12 kinds of arachnids (spiders). In addition, 858 plants are at risk. They say a total of 2112 species are either endangered or threatened worldwide.
The World Wildlife Federation isn’t quite so optimistic. Their website declares: “In the time is takes you to read this page [which isn’t all that long], one of our planet’s unique species will become extinct. By this time tomorrow, a further 150-200 will have disappeared forever. And by this time next year, over 50,000 more.” I don’t know whether the WWF is exaggerating or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife people are understating the facts, but either way, it’s reasonably clear that we’re going in the wrong direction: we’re supposed to be protecting God’s creation, not killing it off. “This alarming rate of extinction is 100-1,000 times, and perhaps even 11,000 times, greater than the expected natural rate. One in four of the world’s mammals are now threatened with extinction in the near future. So are one in eight birds, one in five sharks, one in four coniferous trees, and one in three amphibians.”
Who do they blame? “By and large, the cause of this decline is human activities. The land we use for living space, food, clothing, housing, fuel; the things we buy; and the waste we produce—all this contributes to the main causes of species loss: habitat loss; unsustainable trade; bycatch [i.e., when fishermen hook or trap sea life other than their targeted catch, often the result of destructive techniques like trawling]; climate change; Invasive species; pollution; and human-animal conflict.”
Elsewhere, they admit: “Nobody knows how many species are being lost each year, nor the total number of species that exist. What we have: Biologists estimate there are between 5 and 15 million species of plants, animals, and micro-organisms existing on Earth today, of which only about 1.5 million have been described and named. The estimated total includes around 300,000 plant species, between 4 and 8 million insects, and about 50,000 vertebrate species (of which about 10,000 are birds and 4,000 are mammals). And what is being lost? Today, about 23% (1,130 species) of mammals and 12% (1,194 species) of birds are considered as threatened by IUCN [the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which claims to be the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network].”
GenerationExtinction.org (a.k.a., the Alliance for Global Conservation), agrees with the WWF about pretty much everything except the numbers. They say, “More than 18,000 species are known to be at risk of extinction. Right now, most are continuing to edge towards oblivion. That’s why we all need to get involved and urge the U.S. and other nations to do more to help protect the ecosystems where these animals live.” Urge them? We’ve already discussed what it would take. It isn’t going to happen.
Here’s the reality. If the Biblical scenario doesn’t come to pass on schedule—something that involves two back-to-back world wars, nuclear holocaust, worldwide famine, disease on an unprecedented scale, meteor strikes, volcanic eruptions, the rise of an all-powerful satanic one-world government, religious genocide, and “the big one,” an earthquake powerful enough to level mountains and sink islands all over the world—then the world’s biosphere will continue to fall prey to the dozens of ongoing man-caused disasters that we’ve been discussing in these past few chapters. No one will “do more to help protect the ecosystem” if it’s not in his own perceived short term self-interest. Such a thing is just not in the nature of our fallen, sinful race—whether you believe in God or not. You know it’s true: even if people recognize the problems and agree with the proposed solutions, they will not willingly let their own families starve to support a theory, however noble they perceive the cause to be.
So one way or another, the world is a lame duck. The Biblical view, however, doesn’t see it whimpering to a slow, painful demise. It’s more like pulling the bandage off all at once. The seven-year Tribulation is God’s idea of a big red reset button; it’s like rebooting the hard drive of planet Earth, and at the same time removing the nasty virus that had infected it. Yes, the Tribulation will be utterly horrible, but for the few who survive it (and many of those who don’t), it will be followed immediately by a thousand-year period of peace and restoration under the guiding hand of the Prince of Peace, Yahshua the Messiah (a.k.a. Jesus Christ)—the Creator Himself, once manifested in flesh, now glorified among men. On the other hand, it is not necessary to subject yourself to the horror of the times. God’s children are not appointed to divine wrath. Yahshua promised those who trust Him, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10) I take that promise seriously. I hope you will as well.
But we were reporting GenerationExtinction’s gloomy assessment of the earth’s short-term prospects. “Why Are Species Disappearing? Most of the world’s natural habitats including rainforests, mangroves, freshwater wetlands, coral reefs, seagrass beds and sea ice are being destroyed or damaged. Loss and degradation of these ecosystems that species depend on has put species at risk and driven some to extinction. Habitat destruction, excessive hunting, the illegal trade of wildlife (live trade for pets, or killing wildlife to sell as folk medicines or ornaments), pollution, invasive non-native species and climate change are the main activities putting species at risk. Around the world, these activities are on the rise, causing continued declines in wildlife populations.
“What’s At Risk? Between 1970 and 2006, the populations of vertebrate species (animals with backbones including all mammals, birds and fish) fell by one-third. Amphibians, coral species, and plants and animals native to the tropics and freshwater ecosystem are at the greatest risk. Fewer than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild. Nearly 50% of all primates are in danger of becoming extinct. 30% of all shark species are at risk of extinction. Nearly 25% of all plant species are threatened with extinction. More than 30% of all amphibian species are already extinct or threatened with extinction.”
Everyone we might consult on the matter places the responsibility for the endangerment of the natural world squarely on the shoulders of the human race. Interestingly enough, so does God: as I pointed out, we were entrusted with the care of the planet by Yahweh Himself. Alas, we have not performed the role of her caretaker, her steward, her husband. We have, rather, become her rapist.
The World Wildlife Federation opines, “Habitat loss poses the greatest threat to species. The world’s forests, swamps, plains, lakes, and other habitats continue to disappear as they are harvested for human consumption and cleared to make way for agriculture, housing, roads, pipelines and the other hallmarks of industrial development. Without a strong plan to create terrestrial and marine protected areas, important ecological habitats will continue to be lost. Habitat loss is…identified as a main threat to 85% of all species described in the IUCN’s Red List (those species officially classified as ‘Threatened’ and ‘Endangered’).” Ah, yes, a “strong plan” is needed. Why didn’t I think of that?
It’s not just that wildlife habitats are shrinking, or that species are disappearing, or that the oceans are threatened, or that aquifers are being depleted, or that forests are being cut down and burned, or that deserts are expanding. These things (or other equally perilous propositions) have been going on to one extent or another for as long as life has inhabited our planet. No, what’s alarming (or ought to be) is the rate at which all of these factors are now proceeding. We’re used to thinking in terms of developments becoming apparent in the fossil record, where a few feet of soil deposition might represent what took place over a million years. But the changes to which we’re bearing witness here have taken place in mere decades—before our very eyes. We’re used to thinking of the demise of the dinosaurs at the K-T boundary (66 million years ago) as being “instantaneous,” and it was, as these things go. But the process still took 33,000 years to complete, according to one recent analysis of the tektites (glassy spheres) and ash left over from the Chicxulub impact. The fauna and flora of our present world is disappearing so fast it wouldn’t even leave a trace in the geological record.
Of course, the “green lobby” would cringe at the idea that man’s rebellion against His Creator is the reason we’ve treated our world so badly—or that if we ever decided to honor Him, the problem of a disintegrating biosphere would evaporate as a result. But if you think about it, very the mindset that makes unregenerate man embrace atheism’s theory of our origins—the ridiculously unsupportable doctrine of organic evolution—is the same mindset that encourages him to grab whatever advantage he can on an individual level—the environment be damned. “Survival of the fittest” implies the inevitable and necessary death of the “unfit.” The guy on the bulldozer pushing down trees in the Amazon rainforest is determined to survive. Too bad for the rest of us.
When are we going to learn that we can’t fix the ecology vicariously, by writing a check to Greenpeace or picketing a polluter. The process must begin at home, in the heart, by honoring (not to mention obeying) the One who created the Earth for our pleasure and His purpose.
That being said, it can’t be fixed, and it won’t be fixed, unless and until the whole world repents before Yahweh. He really doesn’t want anyone to perish, but if stepping back and allowing men to kill each other off by the billions is the only way to rescue what’s left of our world for His believing remnant (as He has so clearly prophesied), then so be it. One thing seems certain: if the trend continues at the present pace, by the fourth decade of the twenty-first century, the biosphere of the entire earth—including the human race—will find itself on the fast track toward extinction.
(First published 2014)