Really Bad News On Really Big Trends
This post is about the big things. The Big Framework. The Big Trends. The Big Problems that are developing all over the world and why they are unstoppable. Lets start with the Big Framework.
The earth was created in perfection. Every earth system (atmospheric, oceanic, climate, etc.) intermeshed perfectly with the others. Life did not take life in order to live – all animals were vegetarians (Genesis 1:30). More to the point, the earth as originally created reflected the character of God, which the Bible says is the very definition of love (1 John 4:8,16). From this we can understand that the earth as originally created was consistent with His character of perfect love. This understanding of the earth as originally created is underscored by Job 38:7, which says that the angels shouted for joy when they saw the newly created earth. If the earth had been created in a manner that was inconsistent with the character of God, then the angels would not have responded by shouting for joy. They would instead have responded with shock and confusion.
So we know the earth was created in a manner that reflected the character of God, but in practical terms, what does that mean? Well, drawing on what we learn of God in the Bible (and especially in Genesis 1), it means the earth was very carefully designed, orderly, perfectly integrated, and completely sustainable. And, critically, it meant that the organizing principle for the single, amazingly complex, earth system was love or, more broadly, loving-kindness. This is to say that everything that existed gave blessings to everything else. Everything benefitted and sustained everything else, and God gave and sustained more than anything else. This includes the relationships between creatures and between humans.
We can see the remnant traces of a system organized around love and giving in some plants: Trees give shelter, oxygen, food, a cycling of nutrients, etc. They do all this without taking from other creatures. Honeybees (stingers aside, for the moment) give pollination and create excess honey. They do this without taking from other creatures. Worms till soil and cycle nutrients. They do this without taking from other creatures – without destroying. Imagine a world organized around giving, where every creature gives and creates blessings for every other creature. This would require a complete re-ordering of the earth system as we know it, which brings us to the critical question, why is the world organized around a principle that is antithetical to the character of God? Why, instead of seeing loving kindness as the organizing principle of the earth, do we see selfishness as the organizing principle?
The Bible provides a very clear basis for answering this question and for understanding not only what happened, but what is happening now and what will happen soon. The biblical explanation starts with an angel named Lucifer, who was the highest-ranking angel and who, at some point, decided he wanted to be above God (Isaiah 14:13) and organized a campaign to undermine God and get angels to switch their allegiance to him. Referring to this, the Bible says there was “was in heaven” (Revelation 12:7) but this word “war” was rendered originally as “polomos”, which is the root word for “polemics” and “politics”. In other words, this war was primarily a political campaign, a contest of ideas and systems in which the angels “voted” their allegiance. Lucifer (now called “Satan”) and his angels lost that campaign and were thrown out of heaven and onto the earth (Revelation 12:9).
But here is the thing: in the political campaign in heaven, this contest between ideas and systems, what “better” system was Lucifer promoting? What alternative to God’s administration of the universe was Satan promoting? He had to be promoting an alternate system – what political campaign is there where an alternate way of doing things is not offered? It is the core of the struggle. There is a way to know what Satan was promoting: by looking around us. You see, the battle of systems that began in heaven did not end there – it transferred to earth, and when Satan attacked, deceived, and overcame Adam and Eve, he conquered them and took the thing the Lord gave them – dominion of the earth. So, with control of the earth, Satan then moved to implement the system that he championed in heaven – the mirror image of God’s system, it was a system based on struggle, on competition, on taking. It is a system whose organizing principle is selfishness, and this system became and remains the dominant system for all forms of life here on earth. In fact, for humans, the only way out of this system is by conscious and intentional choice, by living the love-based system that Christ re-introduced and modeled for us, as prophesied in Isaiah 16:5 (note that He was very intentional in describing His kingdom as love based, and emphasizing that it was very different from the world).
So we are living in a false and corrupt system and waiting for God’s true system – His kingdom of love – the be restored and for the cancer of Satan’s rebellion to be finally swept away. And here is the thing that is critical to know in the context of this post: a system of selfishness is the very definition of unsustainable. It collapses in on itself. This is one explicit reason we are warned that the consequences of sin are death (Romans 6:23). And the implications are huge: a world whose organizing principle is selfishness is a world whose various operating systems, once created in perfection, are in the process of collapsing in on themselves. And this is a process which accelerates as it progresses. We see this accelerating collapse in the systems of the world today, which is the Big Trend. Let’s look at some specific examples of this Big Trend and at some of the Big Problems that are being experienced.
There is an interesting article in the March 28 edition of the Christian Science Monitor that deals with the loss of sand on California beaches and the prediction that billions of tons of sand and sediment will be needed to replace what is increasingly lost to erosion. The article focuses on the economic and infrastructure impacts associated with beach loss, all of which stem from an expected two meter (6.5 feet) increase in sea levels over the next 80 years. Think about that for a minute – a six-foot increase in global sea levels. And that is under optimistic scenarios – the reality could be much worse. Beaches all over the world will move inland, displacing people and destroying some of the most expensive real estate and infrastructure in the world. And, in our acceptance of this trend, we are at the point where we are engaged in the engineering necessary to figure out how to make sure the beaches that exist now have enough sand as they move higher and change with the rising sea level. It is one prosaic step in reaction to an astonishing Big Trend.
But the changes to the ocean are not limited to rising water. The very webs of life within the ocean are tearing apart. Again, this is fundamentally because a selfishness-based system (and a selfishness-based global human society) collapses in on itself. In seas all over the world, we are seeing massive algae blooms in place that simply were not there 30 years ago. This is partly because of massive amounts of air and water pollution (particularly agricultural runoff) that has provided the nutrients needed for a global algae explosion. But it is also because of increases in sea-surface water temperatures and changes in sea currents that have created the conditions necessary for unusual algae to flourish. In the Arabian sea, for instance, a fairly toxic algae (that glows blue at night when disturbed by waves or boats) is increasingly prevalent. Where this algae grows, it pushes other life forms out. Fish literally leave because they cannot get enough oxygen.
Fish not getting enough oxygen may soon not be much of a problem simply because we are already cleaning most of the commercial fish species out of the ocean at a stunning pace. We have collapsed about a third of all commercial fish species and are on pace to completely collapse all commercial fish species – on a global basis – by 2045 or sooner. Just to be clear, that is a mere 28 years. And since all events are accelerating and potentiating each other, we will very likely see a complete collapse in ocean fish stocks in 20 years or less. This decimation of fish is already having an impact. In the Bay of Bengal, some 200 million people live on the coast and their livelihoods are directly linked to ocean. Many are subsistence fishermen, and it is these fishermen who are now directly impacted. Thirty and even twenty years ago, these fishermen were catching large fish and were able to make a living. Now, they are catching very small fish – fingerlings – if they catch any at all. Large boats with sophisticated equipment can still track and catch fish far offshore, but those stocks are rapidly dwindling as well. What happens when the economic underpinning for 200 million people evaporates? What happens when the primary food source for 200 million people goes away and those people – who don’t really have resources, must then by land-based food if they are to eat? The social disruptions (and forced migration, and disease, and human suffering) will be epic.
It’s not just the ocean that is subject to this Big Trend, to the results of a selfishness-based system. Our atmosphere is also in accelerating decay. The mechanics of this are widespread and complicated, and thus beyond the focus of this post. But suffice it to say that, true to the enormous complexity and intermeshed nature of the world as originally created, the accelerating decline in every other earth system is affecting the atmosphere, and the accelerating decline in the atmosphere is affecting every other earth system.
One of the sobering developments in the atmosphere was outlined in this report outlining the emergent and rapidly increasing trend for regional temperatures to exceed the physiological ability of the human body to withstand them. Such events in Pakistan and India in 2015 killed more than 3400 people. The study forecasts a significant increase in such events, with particular foci of events on the Middle East and the India subcontinent. Those parts of the world where events became annual would be uninhabitable without extreme and expensive adaptations. Such a trend, if it is sustained, will result either in a large number of deaths or a large number of refugees. But, when combined with the refugees from the fished-out Bay of Bengal and the refugees from the desertified center of the sub-continent, the future for this and other parts of the world seems extremely grim.
Related to the emergent and unprecedented heat waves is the increasing phenomenon of slowing planetary waves. The whole affair is complex, of course, but this article explains it in a fairly accessible manner. Boiled down, it comes to this: weather patterns are increasingly slowing and stalling around the world, resulting in more severe droughts, more flooding, more persistent heat waves, etc., etc. The destabilization of planetary waves is ultimately a destabilization of human society. And this, really, is where all the Big Trends are headed – the destabilization of human society.
What we are seeing is nothing more and nothing less than the fulfillment of prophecy. The Bible says that the earth will wear out like a garment (Isaiah 51:6). Christ Himself told his disciples that the closing days of the earth would see dramatically increased conflict, hunger and disease (Matthew 24:6-8), all of which are the result of the destabilization of human society, which itself stems from the inherent instability of a selfishness based system, the result of a world in rebellion.