A Global Paradise—Why Possible?
TODAY many informed persons would take the view: ‘A global paradise sounds marvelous, but it is impossible. The earth can never be turned into a total paradise.’ Are you inclined to agree?
Likely you are to some extent aware of what men have done in despoiling our earth, seemingly wrecking any hope of paradise.
For instance, men have polluted our air with soot and dangerous fumes. You have breathed that in, have you not? Besides harming our health, this is damaging our entire planet. How so? One authority reported ‘that man is making the weather situation worse by pumping dust, smoke and other pollutants into the atmosphere.’ This is said to alter the climate and to bring on weather changes that have expanded deserts and contributed to famines, as recently happened in Africa.
We cannot ignore, either, the other damaging forms of pollution that are making our earth anything but a paradise. Sea life is killed by oil spills. Streams are often so filled with chemicals that the water is unsafe, and fish die by the millions. Human and animal food is contaminated with mercury, copper, lead and DDT.
A global paradise also might seem impossible because of the devastation already brought about by man-caused erosion. Men have plundered the forests, stripped off protective vegetation or overgrazed the land, resulting in millions of useless acres. What is the effect? Bioscience concluded: “For the first time in man’s history he has reached a stage where he actually has the potential to destroy the earth’s biosystem either intentionally or accidentally.”
Is Recovery Possible?
Has the earth been so damaged that it can never recover, that it can never become a paradise? Rene J. Dubos, professor emeritus at The Rockefeller University, said in this connection: “We have enormous problems, most of which are getting worse. . . . But I’ve become convinced that these bad situations are reversible.”
Have you ever given thought to the earth’s ability to recover? It is truly amazing to see how the earth can gradually overcome damage and abuse done to it. The recent book Man and His Environment: Law made this observation.
“The living, self-replenishing world is actually far richer than any comparison to a storehouse of treasure. Nature, unless broken into exploited fragments cut off from sustenance, constantly replaces itself . . . The dynamic, moving, renewing qualities in nature retain their activity and mock any comparison to the richest human treasury.”
There is abundant proof of the earth’s ability to restore itself. For instance, have you heard of the island of Krakatoa, near Java? It was blown up by a volcanic explosion equal to a 10,000-megaton H-bomb. What remained was just sterilized land covered by ashes and pumice. But would Krakatoa remain a heap of lifeless ash? Biologists watched to see. Within three years, twenty-six species of plants reestablished themselves. Ten years more brought coconut trees, wild sugarcane and orchids. And twelve years more found 263 species of animals there. Even without man’s help it became once again a tropical paradise of forests and lovely birds.
You need not travel to some distant island to see this recuperative process in action, or to see its results. Likely there are areas in your country that have been drastically changed by pollution, flood, warfare, destructive farming practices or erosion. Yet they may already have recovered from those changes or be in the process of doing just that.
For example, many sections of New England in the United States were turned into farmland a century or more ago. Virgin forests were cut down, vegetation was removed and rocks were piled on the sides of the fields. However, as the tide of agriculture moved west, these fields were abandoned. Soon wild plants began to grow in the uncultivated fields—weeds, grasses, goldenrod and some berry seedlings. Within a few years gray birches could be found and windborne white pine seeds developed into small trees. Then around some of the pines black cherry seedlings sprang up from seeds that birds had dropped. For a time the pines dominated. Yet that was a passing phase, because in the shade under their tight canopy few pine seedlings could take root. But oaks and maples could, so gradually they replaced the pines. Later, beneath the towering hardwoods, some hemlock, beech and basswood trees began to grow. And as these changes were occurring the type of wildlife shifted and adjusted to the changing forest.
Take a pleasant walk through these hills now, breathing in the sweet forest scents and keeping eye and ear alert for the varied forms of wildlife. Once in a while you will find a slowly crumbling stone fence that silently testifies to what this land was not so long ago. Now the forest has returned.
What, though, when humans have intervened, not merely by turning a forest into farmland for a time, but to the extent of badly polluting or damaging the earth? Can it still recover? Is there still the possibility of the earth’s becoming a paradise?
To Desolation and Back
“Pollution in Paradise” was the title of a television documentary about the horribly polluted Willamette River in Oregon. The river had been exploited and damaged by man. But was it ruined forever? After legislation had halted the most blatant polluting, the river restored itself. It became a place in which to swim, and once again it thrived with salmon. Similarly, a 1975 report, telling how England’s Thames River is recovering, says: “A year ago the first salmon in 141 years was taken from the Thames. This summer a second salmon was found in the river.”
Not just lakes and rivers, but the land too can recover after man has devastated it. Should you visit sections of France, Belgium and Germany that were pulverized and denuded in the world wars, you will now find lush fields and thriving forests.
Sometimes man himself can effectively cooperate with the earth’s restorative processes. In New Zealand early settlers cut or burned large forests to make pastureland. But, in many cases, they put more grazing animals on the land than the pastures could feed. Added to that, rabbits, which man introduced to New Zealand, became a plague by eating vegetation that was needed to hold the soil. The result? Massive erosion—ruined land. Later, though, soil conservationists worked to halt the damage in the Tara Hills, even to reverse it. They restored fertility by spreading manure and seeding pasture legumes, and they worked to control the rabbit population. In time the hills became pasturelands again, useful and pleasant.
What about land that has been ruined by man for centuries? Can it recover and become part of an earth-wide paradise?
A case in point is the Near and Middle East and North Africa. You may think of this area in terms of what has been there in recent times, ‘sand dunes, malarial swamps and naked limestone hills.’ But, writing in Scientific American, agronomist Walter C. Lowdermilk explained that the evidence proves “this land was once a pastoral paradise,” but that it “has been overgrazed for more than 1,000 years.” Think of that—a “pastoral paradise”! Yet, since it has been devastated for so long, is it past ‘the point of no return’?
Representing the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Mr. Lowdermilk investigated what was being done in Israel. He concluded that “Israel is restoring to cultivation a land damaged by a millennium of abuse.” Yes, with man’s help and cooperation the earth can recover from even centuries of abuse; it can return.
Would you have thought that “the Near and Middle East and North Africa” once was a “pastoral paradise” and could be returned to such a condition? That is not surprising if you look at it from a Biblical standpoint.
The Bible explains that at the beginning of human history the Creator provided a paradise or garden for the first human couple. Evidently it was in the area of what we now call the Middle East. The historical account of this reads:
“And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure [the Garden of Eden] from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed. And the Lord God brought forth of the ground all manner of trees, fair to behold, and pleasant to eat of . . . And a river went out of the place of pleasure to water paradise.”—Gen. 2:8-10, Douay.
But the first humans rebelled and were expelled from the original paradise. God told the man: “Cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you . . . In the sweat of your face you will eat bread.”—Gen. 3:17-19.
Did that curse come about? It certainly did. Centuries later Lamech even spoke of the need for relief “from the pain of our hands resulting from the ground which Jehovah has cursed.” (Gen. 5:29) Lamech prophesied that relief from that curse would come in the days of Noah, and it did. By means of a flood, God wiped out the wicked. After that, Jehovah God indicated that he had also lifted the curse from the ground.—Gen. 8:21.
Because of that, parts of the earth later be described as being “watered throughout, . . . as the paradise of the Lord.” (Gen. 13:10, Douay) And the Promised Land was abundantly fruitful, veritably “flowing with milk and honey.” (Num. 13:23-27; Deut. 8:7-9; 11:10-17) Is the accuracy of this Biblical description not confirmed by agronomist Lowdermilk’s conclusion that much of that area “was once a pastoral paradise”? Also, do you not know personally of areas of the earth that right now are paradise-like because of their beauty and fruitfulness?*
What Is Lacking?
An honest appraisal of the world scene, though, leads to the conclusion that even if beautiful parks and farms are now like paradise, they are exceptions. Man is ruining more and more of the earth. Yes, the responsibility is on man’s shoulders. Oh, it is true that sometimes “natural disasters” such as floods or droughts do damage. But the basic problem is what has been done and is being done by man. Walter Lowdermilk pointed out:
“Harsh as these conditions [now common in the Middle East] are, there has been no significant deterioration in climate since Roman times. . . . The ‘desert’ that took over the once-flourishing land was the work of man, not of nature.”
Similarly, the book Ecology says:
“Man has had the power—and the responsibility—of a destiny ascribed to him in Genesis: to ‘have dominion over all the earth.’ But during his dominion he has broken nearly every ecological principle.”—Page 165.
However, man’s technical accomplishments that have been used in polluting and devastating our earth could be turned to undoing the damage. The Encyclopædia Britannica (1974) acknowledged: “The scientific and technological knowledge now available is more than adequate to solve most of the world’s major environmental problems.” Just think of what could be accomplished if that knowledge were unitedly and consistently applied to our earth, keeping in mind that the earth is a choice location for life and that it has such an ample capacity to recover from damage done to it! The earth could once again be a clean, wholesome and healthful home for mankind. This is what man needs!
In fact, Dr. Rene Dubos pointed out that a major problem today is that
“somehow the ways of life do not satisfy something very profound that the human being needs. When people have hardly any chance to experience the fundamental sensations of life—contact with undisturbed nature, hearing its pleasant sounds and smelling its pleasant odors—they are starved for these and seek a substitute. Drugs provide a momentary opportunity to create a world of one’s own, a kind of satisfaction addicts believe the real world no longer gives.”
True, more is needed than just getting away into the woods, for some persons who have fled into wilderness areas continue to seek thrills and escape in drugs. Yet that does not alter the fact that if the earth were a global paradise we could all draw peace and satisfaction from “contact with undisturbed nature.”
Since the potential for a global paradise certainly exists, why has it not been achieved? What is lacking? And why can it confidently be said that it is entirely possible for you to live to see and enjoy life in a global paradise?
The September 1, 1975, issue of Newsweek reported that ‘human traffic has now endangered the plant and animal life that parks were designed to protect.’ So UNESCO is attempting to set aside still untouched areas. We read: “To blunt man’s impact on nature, the agency is establishing a global network of Eden-like ecosystems called ‘biosphere reserves.’”—Page 64.
[Picture on page 4]
Krakatoa was sterilized by a volcanic explosion, but even without man’s help it again became a tropical paradise
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Land that was once stripped by man and later deserted has again become a forest