". . . We have reached a point of historic crisis. The forces generated by the techno-scientific economy are now great enough to destroy the environment, that is to say, the material foundations of human life."—Eric Hobsbawm
The world changed forever in 1945. That year, with the detonations of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, man for the first time demonstrated the frightening potential to destroy all human life.
Since then our weapons have grown far more powerful and threatening. Those first wartime atomic bombs, though devastating, were only 121/2 kilotons—equivalent to about 12,500 tons of conventional explosives. The largest bomb successfully tested since the war, by the former Soviet Union, has been estimated at 60 megatons, or almost 5,000 times the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts and the equivalent of 60 million tons of TNT.
Even though nuclear-weapons inventories were scaled back as a result of treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, enough nuclear warheads remain to destroy human life many times over. The destruction unleashed in the Hiroshima bomb is estimated at only a millionth of the destructive power of the world's nuclear arsenal.
Besides America and Russia, at least five other nations have nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan. Experts assume that other countries also possess nuclear warheads and delivery systems and that still other nations are actively pursuing the development of nuclear arms.
The nuclear menace remains the most obvious threat to human survival. But by no means is it the only one. Authorities cite several ways in which human actions or natural disasters could eliminate most—if not all—human life. Among them:
Chemical weapons. Many countries own stockpiles of nerve gas and other nightmarish concoctions so deadly that a single droplet inhaled or absorbed through exposed skin would kill a person within minutes.
Biological weapons. Many of the same nations that have developed chemical weapons have also produced biological weapons. The resulting horrifying man-made epidemics could spread like wildfire through defenseless populations.
Conventional weapons. Man continues to develop ever-more-destructive conventional bombs, bullets and rockets even as he constructs nightmarish laser weapons, particle-beam generators and neutron bombs.
Environmental destruction. Although some nations have made remarkable strides in slowing environmental degradation, conditions are rapidly worsening in poor countries. Growing air, soil and water pollution are major threats to human health—and even life—in many areas.
Disease epidemics. AIDS is estimated to have taken more lives than any of the world's previous great epidemics, including the black plague of the Middle Ages and the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918-19. Other mysterious killer diseases, such as Ebola, Lassa fever, Marburg virus, Machupo virus and dengue fever, have emerged in recent years.
Famine. Advances in agriculture have kept food production slightly ahead of population growth. But increasing soil depletion, water shortages, drought and social unrest raise the specter of devastating famines that could return at any time.
Natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, floods and tornadoes take thousands of lives every year. Scientists acknowledge that asteroids and meteors have struck earth repeatedly in the past-and could in the future, with devastating impact on all of earth's inhabitants.
As we will see in this lesson, many of these threats to human survival play prominent roles in prophecies in the Bible.