A World on the Brink

As I dug deeper into Genesis, I couldn’t ignore the connections between Noah’s day and our world today. Not long after creation, mankind’s self-destructive nature was already apparent. Humans have always been quick to forget God as we chase after our heart’s desires. This divergent path we create shows no regard for others, and invariably leads to death and destruction. Focused only on ourselves, we are blinded to the harm we are inflicting. Many generations may pass before the effects of those choices are finally felt. We see the same pattern repeated in every great empire, but never have we seen it on such a global scale. Globalization has allowed the destructive practices, that were once confined to a single nation, to have an impact on every nation’s wellbeing. Below is a brief snapshot of the global condition:

Global Food Crisis

  • During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
  • Compared with 2019, 46 million more people in Africa, almost 57 million more in Asia, and about 14 million more in Latin America and the Caribbean were affected by hunger in 2020.  
  • Moderate or severe food insecurity has been climbing slowly for six years and now affects more than 30 percent of the world population.
  • The current hunger crisis is global and caused by a multitude of factors linked to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing interruption of the economic order: the sudden loss in income for countless millions who were already living hand-to-mouth; the collapse in oil prices; widespread shortages of hard currency from tourism drying up; overseas workers not having earnings to send home; and ongoing problems like climate change, violence, population dislocations and humanitarian disasters.

Global Health

  • Modern advances in health care are also now increasingly driven by market forces, benefiting only about 20% of the world’s population.
  • Half the world’s population lives in countries that cannot afford annual per capita health expenditures of more than $15, and many people do not have access to even basic drugs.
  • Between 51% and 60% of the world’s population (3.2–3.8 billion people) live in miserable conditions, below the “ethical poverty line”. Living on $2.80 to $3.00 per person per day, they benefit little from progress in science and medicine.
  • Prior to COVID, the communicable diseases burden in high-income nations was less than 5%. Communicable diseases in low-income nations still account for more than 60% of illnesses.
  • Countries such as the United States, Norway and Switzerland spend over $9,000 a year per capita on healthcare, but have achieved little or no burden reduction relative to other high-income nations who spend less than half of that amount.
  • In May 2021, over 153 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3.2 million related deaths had been reported. Of these, 48% occurred in the Americas and 34% in the European Region. (WHO)
  • COVID-19 cases to date have been predominantly concentrated in high-income countries. Twenty high-income countries account for almost half (45%) of the world’s cumulative COVID-19 cases, yet they only contain one eighth (12.4%) of the global population. (WHO)

Global Waste

  •  Less than 20% of global waste is recycled each year with rich countries often exporting recyclables to poorer nations.
  • Each year around 92 million metric tons of textile waste is generated around the world.
  • In Indonesia, 7,000 tons of trash arrives daily at a landfill more than 200 football fields wide and over 15 stories high.
  • Thirteen tons of hazardous waste is produced every second – that’s 400 million tons per year.
  • In just one generation, the earth’s production of man-made chemicals increased by 40,000% to 400 million tons.
  • Global pesticide use has increased by one-third to 4.1 million tons per year.
  • More than 700 types of foreign man-made chemicals not meant to be there have been found in the human body.

Ocean Pollution

  • Three times as much oil is carried out to sea via runoff from our roads, rivers and drainpipe than in oil spills.
  • Eight million metric tons (17.6 billion pounds) of plastic is dumped into the oceans each year. By 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.
  • Ocean debris has formed into five giant garbage patches around the world. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and covers an area twice the size of Texas.
  • China and Indonesia account for more than one-third of plastic pollution. In fact, 80 percent of plastic pollution comes from just 20 countries, including the United States.
  • The number of hypoxic zones (areas of such low oxygen concentration that animal life suffocates and dies) in the world’s oceans tripled between 2004 and 2008. In 2017, a dead zone nearly the size of New Jersey was detected in the Gulf of Mexico.

Global Mass Extinction Event

  • The world’s sixth extinction event is underway a result of human interference.
  • More than 400 species of vertebrate became extinct in the last 100 years, a number that would have taken 10,000 years to occur naturally.
  • An additional 500 land animals may become extinct over the next 20 years.
  • Extinction breeds extinction by removing food sources that other lifeforms rely on for food.

Global Economic Crisis

  • The pandemic constituted the largest synchronized fall in global gross domestic product (GDP) in modern history.
  • Massive government spending in the EU and US generated extraordinary levels of public debt. This can trigger inflation and it is still not yet clear how this mass of debt will ultimately be financed.  
  • A Pew Research Center analysis of data from 46 nations found that the inflation rate was higher in 39 of them. The inflation rate in 16 of these countries, including the U.S., was more than 2 percentage points higher.
  • The economic crisis caused by the COVID pandemic is expected to contribute to global unemployment of more than 200 million people next year.

Global Energy Crisis

  • Demand for natural gas is soaring as electricity producers shift away from coal.
  • In October 2021, China’s energy crisis began triggering blackouts for households and forcing factories to cut production.
  • European gas prices surged by almost 500% in the past year and now trading at the equivalent of $230 per barrel, in oil terms — up more than 130% since the beginning of September.
  • In Brazil, the lowest flows to the Parana River Basin in almost a century have slashed hydropower output and forced utilities to rely more heavily on gas.
  • Energy prices in developed countries rose 18% in August, the fastest pace since 2008.
  • U.S. utilities’ stockpiles are shrinking and it’s not clear whether U.S. miners will be able to meet their increasing calls for more fuel.
  • Crude oil prices rose more than 15% last month with the global benchmark price crossing $90 a barrel for the first time in more than seven years,

Global Weather Changes and Natural Disasters

  • The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), is the ocean “conveyor belt” circulation that sends warm, salty water from the tropics to the North Atlantic and sends cold water to the south along the ocean floor. Increased freshwater from North Atlantic precipitation and glacial meltwater has slowed this current system and eight independent measures show early signs that the ocean current system may be nearing collapse. 
  • The intense heat wave was the second-deadliest weather disaster of 2021, with 1,037 deaths: 808 in western Canada and 229 in the northwestern U.S. The only deadlier weather disaster of 2021 was summer monsoon flooding in India that claimed 1,292 lives.
  • Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm, made landfall in Louisiana in August 2021 and resulted in a devastating flood of the U.S. East Coast. It was the fifth costliest weather disaster in world history ($65 billion)
  • Cracks and fissures have been discovered in the floating ice shelf surrounding West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, which currently contributes four percent of annual global sea level rise. The ice shelf could fracture in as little as five years, allowing for accelerated melting of the glacier. Meltwater would contribute to global sea level rise to 5% in the short term. In the long term, global sea levels could increase 10 feet.
  • Europe’s deadliest flood struck western Germany and eastern Belgium in July 2021. It dumped torrential rains that killed 240 people and caused $43 billion in damage, and was the costliest weather disaster in European history.
  • In 2021, flooding in China during the June-through-September rainy season killed 347 people, damaged or destroyed 1.4 million homes and businesses, and did $30 billion in damage.
  • February of 2021, a stretched polar vortex brought heavy snow, freezing rain, and severe cold to the central U.S. killing 246 people and causing $23 billion in damage. This was the most expensive winter weather disaster in U.S. history and the second costliest globally. These stretched polar vortex events have roughly doubled since 1980 and are attributed to reduced Arctic sea ice and increased snowfall across Siberia during the fall months.
  • July 2021 was Earth’s hottest July since global record-keeping began in 1880.
  • The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season generated an extraordinary 21 named storms (third highest on record), seven hurricanes, four major hurricanes, and an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of 145.

Without a doubt, the convergence of all of these events tell us that our current way of life is not sustainable. Yet, the delicate interplay between each of these makes it difficult to fix one problem without damaging another. It may be disheartening, but we must look at the world as it truly is in order to accurately read the times.

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

Luke 12:54-56

The world is in its current state because of mankind; we have no one to blame but ourselves. Since the Industrial Revolutions, humans have pursued advancement without any consideration to the cost. We are now experiencing the culminating effects of generations of human greed, power struggles, and self-gratification. But while our moral integrity continues to decrease, our destructive nature will only increase. We all seem to understand this at some level.

A study in 2016 showed that 80% of Americans are concerned about the nation’s moral condition. This concern crossed all age groups, ethnicity, gender, political ideology, and socioeconomic groups. But there was much less consensus about what constitutes morality. The majority of Americans adults (57%) strongly agreed that “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know”. Of these, 41% of Christian adults shared the same moral sentiment, whereas 67% consisted of adults of no faith. This is an example of how Christians in America have been changed by the surrounding world. Ironically, a majority of American adults (59%) across all age groups also agreed that “the Bible provides us with absolute moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception”. As you can clearly see, these two views on morality are at odds with each other. This show just how confused America has become about morality.

Over the generations, Americans have shifted away from objective morality. Two-thirds of Americans either believe that moral truth is relative to circumstances (44%) or haven’t given it much thought (21%). America has instead moved toward the “morality of self-fulfillment”, which sees the highest good as “finding yourself” then living by “what’s right for you”. This subjective morality, regarding both the nature of morality and what constitutes moral living, has many Christians unknowingly embracing a corrupted and self-entered spirituality (Barna, 2016).

This is our wake-up call.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 

Romans 1:18-32; 2:1-8

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