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.
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“We must save the oceans if we want to save mankind.”—Jacques Cousteau
Saving the Earth From Ruin
ONCE before in human history, God saved the earth from ruin at the hands of men. He did so by means of a global flood in the days of Noah. We have no record that men were ruining the physical environment back then. But the earth was ruined in another way to such an extent that God felt the need to act with the utmost severity.
The Bible reports: “The earth came to be ruined in the sight of the true God and the earth became filled with violence. So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth.” (Genesis 6:4, 11, 12) Yes, in Noah’s day God viewed the earth as ruined because of the violence and wickedness of mankind.
Similarly, when ancient Israel began taking possession of the Promised Land, God warned: “You must not pollute the land in which you are; because it is blood that pollutes the land . . . And you must not defile the land.” (Numbers 35:33, 34) Hence, Canaan was ruined because of the bloodguilt of its inhabitants. A horrible example of this was their practice of sacrificing young children to their gods.
The Canaanites were also grossly immoral, and this too affected God’s view of the land. He warned Israel: “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these [immoral practices], because by all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before you have made themselves unclean. Consequently the land is unclean, and . . . the land will vomit its inhabitants out.” (Leviticus 18:24, 25) Immorality and bloodshed ruined Canaan to such an extent that God destroyed the Canaanite nations.
The Ruining of the Earth
What about today? Are we not also living in an age of uncontrolled violence, bloodshed, and immorality? Regardless of what man does to try to rectify the damage he has done to the physical earth, he can never restore to life the estimated one hundred million who have died in his wars during this century; nor can he bring back the millions murdered by criminals or the countless sad victims who die of hunger. Certainly, he cannot restore the estimated 40 to 60 million unborn babies whose lives are ended by abortion each year. Can we doubt that the earth is being ruined in God’s sight by such things—not to mention by the immorality that is so rampant today?
Reason tells us that God must soon act to save the earth from man’s ruinous activities, and Bible prophecy confirms this. But what will he do? The Bible says that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18; compare Matthew 24:3-14.) Just as a landlord ejects a destructive tenant, so God will “eject” those who ruin his beautiful creation, the earth.
The Bible states: “As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.” (Proverbs 2:22) This coming divine action the Bible calls Armageddon. (Revelation 16:16) Jesus also called it “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) It will be even greater than the Flood.
Is this an extreme or unjust solution? No, God, as the Creator of the earth, has the right to decide who will inhabit it. He also has the right to hold man responsible for his actions. Moreover, if God permits man to continue his course unchecked, the earth will be ruined for everyone, and life will become impossible. On the other hand, by ‘bringing to ruin those ruining the earth,’ God preserves our earthly heritage for appreciative ones. The Bible promises: “For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it.”—Proverbs 2:21.
With God’s help, millions have found the strength to show themselves blameless because they want to be left over to enjoy God’s creation. They also follow God’s high moral standards and avoid violence and bloodguilt even indirectly. Hence, they are not ruiners of the earth in this important sense.
An Earth Saved From Ruin
Such ones now have the joyful prospect of seeing the earth transformed from its present ruined state into a healthy paradise. Why, even their bodies will be cleansed, purified of the ruinous effects of sin. The Bible’s last book describes God’s provision for making all of this possible as a symbolic “river of water of life.” On each side of this river, “there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.”—Revelation 22:1, 2.
This inspired vision is a guarantee that God will save the earth and mankind on it from ruin. Other prophecies give an advance glimpse of that restored earth. Consider, for example, Isaiah’s poetic foreview: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out.” (Isaiah 35:1, 2) At that time there will be no polluted seas, ruined topsoil, or toxic atmosphere.
More important, the earth will not be ruined by violence, bloodshed, or immorality. Only those who respect God, his standards, and his creation will be there. (Revelation 21:7, 8) Listen now to the glorious results of all these things: “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. . . . ‘Look! I am making all things new.’”—Revelation 21:4, 5.
What a happy outcome! How glad we are that God will shortly “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”! And how much these inspired promises move us to want to serve the God who will save the earth from ruination and make it a paradisaic home for righthearted mankind!
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The Bible says that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18