The Ultimate Global Catastrophe: Continued abuse of the earth's life-support systems could possibly lead to some of the apocalyptic visions pictured in the biblical book of Revelation.
It had been almost imperceptible at first. A few abnormal high tides recorded in Miami, Amsterdam and Calcutta. Nobody except a few scientists had given it much thought. That had been almost 12 months ago. Now the tides were more than a matter of scientific curiosity. Water was reported in the streets of Tokyo, Manila and Hamburg. The subway systems of London and New York were periodically inundated as boiling torrents of briny liquid swirled down streets and sewers. The famed dikes of Holland were no longer adequate to hold off the tempestuous pounding of the North Sea. Waterfront residents in Buenos Aires, Bombay and Singapore had been forced to retreat to higher ground. Greenhouse Effect. Scientists said it had something to do with the greenhouse effect caused by too much carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. it all seemed very baffling to the average man on the street. It was also very baffling to most of the world's farmers. Temperatures had warmed in most parts of the globe. River and stream flow had declined dramatically in the Western United States, Europe and the Indian subcontinent. Irrigation had already been pushed to its limits as numerous nations strained to put food in the mouths of their burgeoning populations. Now farmers reported that saline river water was withering crops in many areas. Still nobody panicked. There were ample grain reserves to last for a few months. In most of the Western democracies, politicians continued to stress the need for full employment and more government spending. In the United States, Wall Street was enjoying a bullish year. Automobile assembly lines were humming. Energy demands had never been greater. And even though progress had been made in the development of nuclear power, the nation's economy continued to depend heavily on petroleum for its main source of energy. A few dead fish were seen washed ashore with rotted fins. An occasional forlorn-looking waterfowl was observed wandering aimlessly, encased in a blanket of slimy goo. Tourists on fashionable Mediterranean beaches found that tar stuck to the soles of their feet. Sailors also reported floating oil slicks in mid-ocean. Aside from a few known "econuts" nobody made any strenuous objections. There hadn't been an oil spill remotely approaching the size of the famous Santa Barbara eruption in the early 1970s — just the continuing nuisance of isolated overflows, ocean dumpings and well seepages here and there. Oil was still king. And ever since the disruptive Arab embargo, which was now a dim memory in most people's minds, petroleum had continued to flow in ever increasing quantities. Offshore drilling was now at an all-time high — especially in the North Sea and around the North American continental shelf. Wells were now producing profitably in such remote places as the Arctic and Antarctic; and from all preliminary indications their ample reserves would last for another decade or two. Depleted Ozone Layer. Still there was the nagging problem of the world food supply. For the last few years chemical fertilizers had been applied lavishly both in the West and East. Their initial impact had been salutary. But now and increasing number of scientists were beginning to warn of the potential threat nitrogen fertilizers posed for the ozone layer — already seriously depleted by aerosols, increased SST flights and unauthorized atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by belligerent military powers. Yet none of this was new. Similar conditions had existed for years. During the last few decades nobody had pulled the nuclear trigger. Malthus' theory of food and population had yet to be conclusively demonstrated. And the ecosystem was still functioning despite the grave warning of a few prophets of doom. Full-Scale Torrent. Then it happened. It wasn't anything initially catastrophic or earthshaking. Still it was bad enough. A major blowout occurred at the wellhead of one of the arctic drilling rigs. It was another Santa Barbara, but this time much worse. Wildlife populations, including whales, seals, polar bears, birds and ocean life, were decimated. But the worst was yet to come. Millions of gallons of black oil boiled out to contaminate the arctic ice pack. Thousands of square miles were saturated with sticky petroleum. The consequences were devastating. The ice pack had already been weakened by the increasing amount of carbon dioxide, fluorocarbons and other industrial gases that had been injected into the atmosphere. The resulting greenhouse effect had kicked off a noticeable melting trend in the polar regions. So far it had only progressed at moderate rates. But the oil spill turned what had been a moderate trickle into a full-scale torrent. The massive loss of ice in the Arctic produced a dramatic upsurge in the global incubation process. This in turn rapidly accelerated the disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps. Glaciers were suddenly transformed into rivers. Massive hunks of pack ice began to shear off and cascade into the sea.
"The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead man, and every living thing died that was in the sea" Rev. 16:3
The coastlands of the earth took the full brunt of this sudden climatic shift. The increasing tides were no longer a nuisance, they were now lethal. Raging waters swept over east Texas, Bangladesh, the lowlands of Western Europe and Indochina. Millions were killed or left homeless. Valuable croplands were destroyed. Manhattan Island was buried under 50 feet of water. So were cities such as Hong Kong, Seattle and Sydney. Most of the state of Florida was awash. The Netherlands had ceased to exist.
"... Upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world..." (Luke 21:25, 26).
A chain reaction of catastrophe was set in motion. The increased weight of water in the oceans exerted additional pressure on the earth's mantle. New tectonic forces shook the earthquake-prone rift zones in the Pacific. High tides and high seas were reinforced by seismically induced tidal waves. Coastal cities that had survived the previous hydraulic pummeling quickly collapsed under the onslaught of these awesome forces.
"And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake.... And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found" (Rev. 16:18, 20).
Both San Francisco and Los Angeles were hit sledgehammer blows by this violent tidal and seismic activity. Skyscrapers toppled like tenpins. The major industrial cities of Japan suffered the same fate. Volcanoes spewed out tons of molten lava. Skies were blackened as voluminous clouds of volcanic ash billowed upward.
"And behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood" (Rev. 6:12).
Even worse was the effect the in. creased seismic activity had on offshore oil wells that dotted the coastlands of Europe, North America, Asia and the polar regions. Santa Barbara-like spills erupted with greater frequency. Oil-laden supertankers broke apart, collided, or ran aground in the tempest. The seas received the tankers' untimely cargoes of death-dealing chemicals.
"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" (Rev. 8:9).
It was more than the already-weakened oceans could take. Much of the oxygen-giving phytoplankton had already died as a result of the progressive, insidious onslaught that had been under way for decades. The oil spills pushed this delicate marine biomechanism past the point of no return. Vast patches were decimated.
"You can very quickly get a planet that is unworkable." — Barbara Ward
The oceans were dying. Millions of fish floated lifelessly on the surface, — belly up, deprived of life-giving oxygen.
"The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood o( a dead man, and every living thing died that was in the sea" (Rev. 16:3).
The bitter water of the earth's overworked river systems likewise was finished. Too salty to support life, they polluted and poisoned men, plants and animals alike.
"The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the fountains of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the water, because it was made bitter" (Rev. 8:10-11).
Surviving nations, alarmed at what was happening, prepared to grapple for the remaining supplies of resources, energy and food. Nuclear weapons were unsheathed for the final decisive struggle. But at this point the, earth's biosphere was in no shape to withstand even a limited nuclear war. And it didn't take long for the survivors to discover this fact. Great gaping holes were torn in the already depleted ozone layer by the thermonuclear detonations. Men and animals began to drop like flies from the intensified bombardment of ultraviolet radiation.
"The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch men with fire; men were scorched by the fierce heat" (Rev. 16:8).
Ecological failsafe had come and gone. The earth's ecosystem lay mortally wounded, its vital signs rapidly failing. The countdown to the extinction of all life was well under way. Now it was only a matter of time. Grave Warnings. The foregoing is by no means meant to be a definitive prognostication of future global events. It merely serves to illustrate what is within the realm of possibility. A number of the above factors are already matters of serious ecological concern. Numerous warnings were sounded in 1975 regarding the depletion of the ozone layer. Scientists have spoken out concerning the possibility of melting ice caps and rising ocean levels from a man-made greenhouse effect. Oil spills are known to be a definite hazard to polar pack ice. The poisoning of the oceans, if continued indefinitely, could be ultimately catastrophic — especially considering that some 90% of all marine organisms live in areas that are most easily polluted by man. In view of the fact that there has been no significant downturn in many of man's polluting and consumptive activities, one can't help but wonder if the events described above might one day become stark reality. A time when, as Jesus put it: " Had not those days been cut short, not a soul would be saved alive" (Matt. 24:22, Moffatt).