Mountains—Masterpieces of Creation
THE Andes, the Cascades, the Himalayas, the Rockies, the Alps, and the Urals—they are merely some of the mountains of planet Earth. The immense size of these mountains can take your breath away.
Imagine standing before Mount Everest. It is the earth’s showpiece in height, 29,028 feet [8,848 m]—a five-and-a-half-mile-high [8.8 km] monument! And this one peak is just a small part of the magnificent Himalayas. With over 70 peaks that each reach a staggering 21,000 feet [6,400 m], this range is twice the size of the Alps in Europe!
Unique Life Zones
Most mountains have various life zones, or environments, largely because the temperature drops about 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit [1.8° C] for each 1,000 feet [300 m] of altitude. Variations in rain, soil, and wind also make each zone unique.
An example of the variety of such environments are the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, U.S.A. They are the highest mountains in that state. If you start from the base of the mountains at the Coconino Plateau and climb up to the summit of one of the San Francisco Peaks, you will first observe an ecological community that includes lizards and cacti in desert conditions. Progressively you will enter cooler life zones, home to mountain goats and spruce trees. Finally you will reach the arctic-alpine conditions of the summit. On just this one climb, you could encounter the same variety of life-forms and environments that would otherwise be found only if you were to travel inland near sea level from Mexico to Canada!
Have you experienced the exhilarating sensation of breathing crisp, fresh mountain air? The lower temperature of the air is one explanation for this sensation. But where there are no cities nearby, mountain air can also be clearer and cleaner. In every cubic centimeter of air at 6,562 feet [2,000 m], there may be just 2,500 tiny particles of dust, pollen, and so forth. Compare that to the air in large cities, where as many as 150,000 of these particles can be in the same amount of air space! This explains why modern observatories are often built on mountains where clear, dry air provides ideal conditions for astronomical observation.
Of course, mountains are not so hospitable at higher elevations where atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels drop, solar radiation increases, and gale-force winds cause temperatures to plummet. Amazingly, even under such circumstances, some life still thrives tenaciously. Consider, for example, the tiny salticid, or jumping spider. This mountain dweller is at home in the Himalayas at well over 20,000 feet [6,000 m]! How the creature survives is not entirely clear to scientists.
Effects on Man
Mountains have an impact on all mankind. For example, take a look at a world map. Notice how the Pyrenees, with peaks reaching over 10,000 feet [3,000 m], separate Spain from France and the rest of Europe. You will likewise note that many other political boundaries are drawn along massive mountain chains. These immovable barriers have restricted travel and trade between peoples of differing languages and customs. Hence, the presence of mountains likely has had a modifying influence on the shape and size of the country where you live, the language you speak, and the customs of your land.
High mountains also break up the flow of the wind. This can have an impact on the cycles of rain, snow, wind, and temperature. This, in turn, affects the variety of food you enjoy, the type of clothes you wear, perhaps even the architectural design of your home.
For example, the Kunlun, the Tien Shan, the Hindu Kush, the Himalayas, and other mountain ranges in Central Asia run from east to west. These silent giants halt the cold, dry winds sweeping down from Siberia and stop the warm, wet winds flowing up from the Indian Ocean. Thus, an entirely different climate exists to the north of these mountains from that on the south, affecting the lives of millions.
A Threatened Environment?
Surprisingly, mankind is damaging the beauty and splendor of the mountains. The lynx and bears that once roamed the Alps are gone because of uncontrolled hunting. Valuable topsoil is washed from many slopes as a result of deforestation. Industrial pollution and massive tourism are also having a severe impact on the delicate ecological balance of some mountainous regions.
Happily, mountains are a permanent feature of the earth’s landscape. (Compare Genesis 49:26.) Noteworthy is the fact that the Bible likens the coming new world government to a mountain. Filling the earth, this mountainlike government will repair any damage done to the planet. (Daniel 2:35, 44, 45) We thus have the assurance of forever enjoying these masterpieces of creation.
[Picture on page 16, 17]
Mont Blanc, in France, 15,771 feet
M. Thonig/H. Armstrong Roberts
[Picture on page 18]
Mount Fuji, in Japan, 12,388 feet
A. Tovy/H. Armstrong Roberts