What Is Man Doing to the Earth?
THREE HUNDRED years ago, man lived much closer to nature. For the most part, he was not threatened by man-made changes to the global environment in the way he is today. The industrial revolution had not begun. There were no power stations, factories, automobiles, or other sources of widespread pollution. The thought of man’s ruining the whole earth may have been hard for him to imagine.
Yet, even back then, a warning about global ruination was in wide circulation. That warning was found in the last book of the Bible, and it foretold a time when God would intervene in man’s affairs to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:17, 18.
How comforting for all who are concerned about modern man’s mismanagement of the earth to know that the Creator of our magnificent planet will save it from ruin! ‘But,’ you may wonder, ‘have we really reached such a critical situation that God’s intervention is needed?’ Well, consider some of the facts and judge for yourself.
Forests beautify the earth and provide food and shelter for several million different species. As trees grow and manufacture food, they perform other vital services, such as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing precious oxygen. Thereby, National Geographic says, “they offer one antidote to the global warming that threatens life on earth as we know it.”
But man is ruining his forest heritage. North American and European forests are dying from pollution. And the demands of industrial nations are decimating tropical forests. An African newspaper explained that in 1989, “66 million cubic metres [of tropical wood were] expected to be exported—48 percent to Japan, 40 percent to Europe.”
Also, in some lands, farmers burn forests to create farmland. Soon the fragile forest soil becomes exhausted, and the farmers have to burn more forest. It is estimated that in this century alone, nearly half the world’s forests have vanished.
Earth’s oceans also play a vital role in cleaning the atmosphere, and man’s activities are ruining them. Vast quantities of carbon dioxide are absorbed by the oceans. In turn, phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen. Dr. George Small explains the importance of this life cycle: “70 percent of the oxygen added to the atmosphere each year comes from plankton in the sea.” Yet, some scientists warn that phytoplankton could be seriously depleted because of ozone reduction in the atmosphere, which is believed to be caused by man.
Also, man dumps garbage, oil, and even toxic wastes into the ocean. While some countries agree to limit the wastes they allow to be dumped at sea, others refuse. One Western nation even reserves the right to dump nuclear wastes at sea. Famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau warns: “We must save the oceans if we want to save mankind.”
Man is ruining even his drinking water! In poor lands, millions of people die each year because of contaminated water. In richer nations, water sources are contaminated by, among other things, fertilizers and pesticides that wash into rivers and seep into groundwater. In 1986 the world production of pesticides was 2.3 million tons, and the rate of increase is reported to be 12 percent per year.
Another source of pollution is chemical dumps. “The metal drums containing the chemicals,” explains Scientific American, “are nothing less than time bombs that will go off when they rust through.” This type of pollution, the journal adds, is happening “worldwide in thousands of chemical waste dumps.”
The result? All over the earth, once pure rivers are being turned into industrial sewers. It is estimated that 20 million Europeans drink water from the Rhine, yet this river is so polluted that sludge dredged from its bed is too dangerous to use for landfill!
Alarmingly, man is even ruining his farmland. In the United States alone, 20 percent of the land set aside for irrigation has been damaged, according to Scientific American. Why? Because overirrigation adds too much salt to the soil. Many countries have ruined much valuable land in this way. “As much land is now being taken out of production due to salinization as is being brought into production through new irrigation projects,” states The Earth Report. Another widespread problem is overgrazing, which may be contributing to the spread of deserts.
Too Many Motor Vehicles
So much for our planet’s land and water. But what about its air? This too is being ruined, and the culprits are many. To mention just one, consider the automobile. Following are warnings from three influential scientific journals: “Motor vehicles generate more air pollution than any other single human activity.” (New Scientist) “There are currently 500 million registered automobiles on the planet . . . Filling their tanks consumes about one third of the world’s production of oil. . . . The number of automobiles is increasing more quickly than the population.” (Scientific American) “Petrol [gasoline] in all phases of production, use and disposal is a major source of environmental degradation and disease.”—The Ecologist.
Yes, our planet is being abused, ruined. Its seas, drinking water, farmlands, and even its atmosphere are being polluted to an enormous extent. Surely, this alone would suggest that the time is near for God to intervene and “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) However, there are other, even worse, ways in which the earth is being ruined. Let us see just what they are.
[Blurb on page 4]
“We must save the oceans if we want to save mankind.”—Jacques Cousteau