Foreign Affairs recently published an article titled "The New Population Bomb" by Jack Goldstone (January-February 2010). Late last year The Economist ran a cover piece titled "How to Feed the World: Business as Usual Will Not Do It" (Nov. 21, 2009). An article in Scientific American asked the question: "Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization?" by Lester Brown (May 2009).
In spite of all these news reports, though, most Western peoples remain sadly unaware of current trends. They are even less aware of tragic future occurrences slated to plague our planet. Many people are currently living in a fool's paradise. The Church of God today is desperately seeking to warn the world of future conditions that lie just over the horizon by whatever means it can through various branches of the media—whether in printed form, on TV or through the Internet.
Conditions we should be confronting
The Scientific American article covers three key concepts on the food crises:
"Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
"Such 'failed states' can export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
"Water shortages, soil losses and rising temperatures...are placing severe limits on food production."
Author Lester Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute in 1974 and the Earth Policy Institute in 2001. His most recently published book carries the title Mobilizing to Save Civilization. He analyzes some of the major problems facing Western civilization.
In his Scientific American article he writes: "One of the toughest things for people to do is to anticipate sudden change... People are blindfolded by events such as today's economic crisis. For most of us, the idea that civilization itself could disintegrate probably seems preposterous...
"We are so inured to a long list of highly unlikely catastrophes that we are virtually programmed to dismiss them all with a wave of the hand... For many years I have studied global agriculture, population, environmental and economic trends and their interactions.
"The combined effects of those trends and the political tensions they generate point to the breakdown of governments and societies... Our continuing failure to deal with...[factors] that are undermining the world food economy—most important falling water tables, eroding soils and rising temperatures—forces me to conclude that such a collapse is possible" (emphasis added throughout).
Specific symptoms of future troubles
Lester Brown goes on to point out: "In six of the past nine years world food production has fallen short of consumption, forcing a steady drawdown in stocks." Half of the world's population, including the United States, China and India, have falling water tables.
China is a case in point. "As water tables have fallen and irrigation wells have gone dry, China's wheat crop, the world's largest, has declined by 8 percent since it peaked at 123 million tons in 1997. In that same period China's rice production dropped 4 percent. The world's most populous nation may soon be importing massive quantities of grain."
Also the erosion of topsoil continues to afflict a third of global cropland.
Enter the geopolitical dimension. "We have entered a new era in geopolitics. In the 20th century the main threat to international security was superpower conflict; today it is failing states" (ibid.).
Such nations spread diseases, offer sanctuary to pirates and terrorists (recall Somalia), aid and abet the sales of weapons and drugs, are a breeding ground for political extremism, and generate scores of refugees that enter the developed world, often Western countries.
Failed states, developed nations and hunger
The successful functioning of a well-ordered global civilization depends on healthy nations sufficiently able to control the threat of the possible spread of infectious diseases, effectively manage monetary systems and wield enough collective power to inhibit the spread of international terrorism.
If enough nations disintegrate, global civilization itself may be severely threatened. Hunger is already rising in 70 of the world's developing countries. But what many of our readers may find surprising is the "proportion of Americans who received emergency food assistance in 2009, up 46% in four years" (Time, Feb. 15, 2010)—now one in eight Americans. Many in the United States face poverty amidst plenty.
Britain's Robin McKie, science editor of The Observer, reported that with the country's population set to grow from 60 million to 75 million, we face multiple threats to our ability to feed everyone ("Why Britain Faces a Bleak Future of Food Shortages," Dec. 13, 2009).
A complex global problem with a long history
Indeed multiple, complex difficulties permeate the global food problem. For instance, Western nations waste food resources at unconscionable levels. Some people exist on the food thrown away by supermarkets on a daily basis. These are not paying customers.
Food price increases and food security are other serious concerns. Also a serious shortage of cheap energy sources diverts food stuffs into producing biofuels like ethanol, reducing our edible resources for humans and farm animals. This has been a dominant factor in rising food costs during the last two years, especially in the United States. Vast acreage that used to produce corn for human and animal consumption has been turned over to producing expensive, inefficient biofuels.
Essentially we are pouring food into our gas tanks. Corn taken out of the food chain has created shortages in feeding not only people, but also livestock and poultry—causing across-the-board increases in the prices of nearly everything we eat: beef, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, sweets (from corn syrup), vegetables, rice and wheat products. What this amounts to is an artificially created, wasteful and unnecessary food shortage—at a time when oil supplies are plentiful due to the world economic slowdown.
Of course, periodic famines and severe food shortages have periodically plagued humankind throughout our history. It looked like the crossover between food supplies and world population would come upon us in the last half of the 20th century. However, the "green revolution" virtually doubled cereal production in developing nations, putting off the evil day.
The question for us today remains: Will science come to our rescue in the nick of time yet again? Newsweek reported: "At a U.N. food-security conference in Rome two weeks ago, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on rich nations to up R&D spending in agriculture to encourage the development of new kinds of high-yield crops, artificial phosphates [a compound essential in making fertilizers now in short supply], and other farm innovations" (Rana Foroohar, "Dwindling Phosphate Supply Affects Food Crisis," Dec. 7, 2009).
But only the Bible can provide the ultimate solution to food crises and famines. Only God can come to humanity's rescue.
The Bible and future famines
The blessings and cursings chapters of the Bible, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, will find their ultimate fulfillment during the time of the end just before Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth. Leviticus 26:23-24, 26 along with Deuteronomy 28:15-18 summarize the tragic events yet ahead of us, including terrible famines. Read these graphic passages and download our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.
Famine was also the third signpost that Jesus Christ mentioned in the Olivet prophecy: "And there will be famines" (Matthew 24:7). It is but one of the signs of Christ's return to earth (Matthew 24:3). Christ was primarily speaking of a future series of events (of which famine is only one) in connection with His imminent return to this suffering planet.
Revelation 6 reveals four mysterious horsemen who have come to be known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Comparing these with the events Christ mentioned in Matthew 24:4-7 helps us understand the meaning of these horsemen, including the black horse of famine.
It is beyond the scope of this article to explain this important prophecy in detail. But our readers may read the series of article on The Horsemen of Revelation. A fifth super-important horseman is also explained in this series.
Luke records both the bad news and the good news on this subject. The Olivet Prophecy emphasizes the bad news—"the days of vengeance, that all things which are written [in the Old Testament] may be fulfilled" (Luke 21:22). The context here is of those prophecies that precede Christ's second coming (verses 25-27).
Luke is also the author of the book of Acts, the only formal history in the New Testament. In it he quotes the apostle Peter highlighting the other side of the prophetic coin—the good news. Peter urges his hearers to "repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
This New Testament prophecy highlights the many millennial prophecies of peace and freedom from want detailed in the Hebrew Bible. They occur after the second coming of Christ. We conclude this article by emphasizing the positive solution to world food crises and famines that God promises in His Bible.
The plowman to overtake the reaper
Jesus Christ repeatedly said that He would return to planet earth. It will be a rescue mission to save humanity from itself (see Matthew 24:21-22). Revelation also states that Christ will rule on earth for 1,000 years with His spirit-transformed saints (Revelation 20:4-6), ushering in an era of universal peace, prosperity and happiness—unimaginable to the vast majority of men and women in the world now.
Instead of food crises and famine, world agriculture will be characterized by pure water and fertile top soil, raising far more food than necessary for human survival. Ever-expanding human populations will not exhaust the abundant food supplies. Even the deserts will become fertile and blossom like a rose (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7).
Hunger and famine will become a fading memory. "'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it'" (Amos 9:13).
This poetic millennial picture aptly depicts a new age of abundance and prosperity. No wonder Christ asks us to pray: "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10, King James Version). WNP