“A generation is going, and a generation is coming, but the earth remains forever.”—KING SOLOMON, 11TH CENTURY B.C.E.*
To the ancient Bible writer, the fleeting nature of man stood in sharp contrast with the permanence of the earth. Indeed, for thousands of years, generations have come and gone, and yet the planet Earth has proved to be remarkably resilient and stable in its ability to host life—until now.
The years since World War II have been dubbed by some as the Great Acceleration. In a single lifetime, people have seen remarkable advances in transportation, communication, and other technologies, which have brought unprecedented economic changes. Many enjoy a standard of living once thought impossible. In the meantime, the earth’s population has nearly tripled.
All of this, however, has not come without cost. Human activities are said to be pushing the earth beyond its natural cycles. In fact, some scientists say we have entered a new geological epoch called the Anthropocene—an age in which humans are making an increasingly notable impact on the planet.
The Bible foretold a time when man would ‘ruin the earth.’ (Revelation 11:18) Some wonder if we are living in such a time. How much further damage will be done? Is there a point of no return? Indeed, will man ruin the earth beyond repair?
A POINT OF NO RETURN?
Is the earth headed for a point of no return? Some scientists feel that the effect of changes can be difficult to predict. Because of this, they are concerned that we might be approaching “tipping points” where sudden and unanticipated climate changes could bring disastrous results.
Consider, for example, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Some believe that with sustained global warming, there is a point where the melt of this ice sheet could be irreversible. This is because ice cover naturally reflects the sun’s rays. But as the ice sheet thins and shrinks, the ocean below, which is less reflective, is eventually exposed. The dark ocean surface absorbs more heat, which in turn leads to greater melting. A self-feeding, runaway cycle could be created. The resulting rise in sea levels from the meltwater could spell disaster for hundreds of millions of people.