5000 Acres A Day

A new study out this week looks at the loss of agricultural soil around the world due to the build-up of salt in the soil.  Reading the article, it was not at all clear to me if the researchers looked at just salt (sodium chloride) or if they also looked at “salts” or chemical residues broadly included in the “salts” definition.  The difference is crucial, since much of the problematic “salts” come from residues in the soil linked to fertilizer and pesticide use.  I discuss this subject in my book, “Planet in Distress”.

If the article is referring only to “salt”, or sodium chloride, then the study is still very useful and interesting (and scary), but if not then we have significantly increase the amount of lost acreage to account for both salts and salt.  The article says we are losing 5000 acres (2000 hectares) of agricultural land per day to salt build up, so I suspect the article looks only at sodium chloride.

Agricultural land that is situated in arid areas (areas that do not get an abundance of rain) tend to build up salt because the water used for irrigation (and irrigation is absolutely necessary in arid areas) usually has some salt in it (compared to, say, mountain spring water).  When the soil  is irrigated, the trace amounts of salt in the water stay in the soil after the sun dries out the water.  Then more irrigation is used and more salt is added to the soil as more water is evaporated.  After a period of time – years or decades – the salt buildup becomes toxic and there are only a couple options:  repeatedly flood the land with good water and allow the flooding to carry off some salt, or, abandon the land.  Both solutions have problems.  With water getting more and more scarce in agricultural zones around the world (and often having increasing levels of salt in it), it is impractical to consider repeatedly flooding lands.  It is also impractical to consider abandoning the land, since there is enormous pressure on agricultural lands world wide.  We know that an increase in available food of some 70% is needed by 2050 to feed our growing global population.  We also know that all the data on water availability and land degradation and shifting climate zones and the availability of critical plant food (such as phosphate rock) indicates that we absolutely, positively, cannot reach this goal and likely will be struggling with less food than we have now in the 2050 world.

All of this tension surrounding food supply and demand is made all the worse when juxtaposed with a study out this week on how out-of-control our global population is.  Essentially, the authors state that even if we were to have global catastrophes or a World War III that killed billions, we would still be on a runaway population pathway, with critical resources (water, food, phosphate rock, etc.) under relentless and growing pressure in the near future.  With these kinds of inexorable pressures facing mankind, many people who think on the subject have begun to view a plague or pandemic in a welcoming light, rationalizing that the death of half of  mankind from some hideous disease would at least be more humane than the eventual death of 80% or 90% of mankind from starvation.  Not many population specialists are willing to say such things publicly, and those who do are usually roundly criticized.  Even a mild-mannered warning by a revered nature program presenter  gets criticized.  And yet there are many who will privately say that the world needs a huge plague to bring down population numbers.  (graph below from The Independent (UK))


Imagine, when a few holocaust survivors are still alive, that professionals are talking (guardedly)  about the benefits – and indeed the necessity – of having more than half the world’s population killed off.  How our values have changed in the course of a few generations.  It all reminds me of scripture.  Specifically, it reminds me of Matthew 24:12.  Mind you, this verse comes out of  a passage where Christ is telling his disciples (and therefore us) what will happen in the last days of the earth.  It is an astonishing chapter that is vitally important for today.  In verse 12 Christ says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”  In other words, in a world filled with sin and troubles, people will stop caring about each other and will look out only for themselves.  Selfishness (which is the fundamental nature  of Satan) will be pandemic among people.

But, really, I should stop saying “will be” because we are already there – it is happening now.  Expect to see more people saying that what the earth needs is a good, cleansing plague.  And from a selfish view – from a sinful, Satan-inspired view, they are of course correct.  From a Christian view they could not be more wrong.  Christians – who have in them the character of Christ, which is selflessness and love – will increasingly express the character of Christ by helping others and by trying through all means possible to reach the worlds teeming masses with the message of salvation.

So there you have it.  Every piece of data on the functioning of the worlds natural systems (as well as the functioning of human society) points to an imminent end-game – an end-game where all either declare for Christ or declare for Satan, and all either model the character of Christ or the character of Satan.  There is no middle ground.  There is no safe and calm refuge.  There is no dodging the train-wreck this world is becoming.  To be ready, we need to be clinging more and more closely to Christ daily.  No other source of strength will suffice.

Scott Christiansen