"Cursed is the ground for your sake" - words spoken six thousand years ago. Do they have any significance for us today? Is there any connection between the environmental problems of this age and the `curse' mentioned in Genesis 3:17?
John Morton: In the relatively short time man has existed on this planet the damage to the environment has been immense - especially during the last few centuries. Advances in technology have come at a price. Increased use of oil resources and other fossil fuels has released vast amounts o carbon dioxide into the atmosphere resulting in a `greenhouse' effect that is affecting global warming. Continued pollution of the atmosphere from industrial activity is not only killing people in our overcrowded cities, but may be causing climatic changes that adversely effect nature.
Over the last two hundred years the use of fossil fuels has increased dramatically as the population has expanded. It is estimated that 160 billion tons of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since 1970 (31 years) compared with 100 tons for the period from 1750 to 1970 (220 years). The world's population has grown from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6 billion in 1999 and is expected to reach the 11 billion mark by 2050.
During this time, unless there is some creative thinking, industrial activity will escalate to meet the demands of a growing population, dramatically increasing the poisons and pollutants being released into the atmosphere and waterways. There will likely be an increasing use of agricultural sprays and chemical fertilizers, which affect the soils we use for food production and leach into underground water systems.
Reaping the Consequences
It is ironical that the very environment God designed for mankind's well-being is being destroyed by man's own activities. Our careless and unrestrained use of the world's resources has put an incredible strain on the natural processes that support life. We are reaping the consequences of a society based on greed and motivated by selfishness.
We see the effects of global warming in unpredictable and extreme weather conditions that cause havoc and climate changes that make it extremely difficult for many climate sensitive species to survive, as once stable climate zones move. Recent scientific research reveals that global warming is occurring at a faster rate than previously thought.
Many countries are already having trouble meeting current demands on water for domestic and agricultural use and simply will not be able to meet the demands in the future from populations growing at accelerating rates. Increased industrial activity to meet growing consumer demands will only accelerate the unprecedented environmental problems that lie ahead.
A Sustainable Environment
God created the universe and all that is in it (John 1:1-4, Colossians 1:16-17). He created mankind and placed us on this earth in a life sustaining and protective environment that supplies our physical needs. It is one in which plants and animals reproduce themselves (Genesis 1:19-25) and find their sustenance from non-organic nutrients or by feeding on other species in what we call food chains (Genesis 2:29).
A close study of nature reveals this world to be an amazingly diverse creation of living matter sustained by complex associations of chemical elements, gases and living organisms forming natural cycles and processes driven by solar energy and with the help of gravity providing a wonderfully sustainable environment. Multiple millions of plant and animal species are nourished by nutrients that are continually cycled via living organisms through various processes back into the environment. In nature there is a continual recycling of organic and nonorganic matter and the efficient operation of these natural carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulphur and water cycles is essential to maintain life.
Interdependent communities of plant and animal species supported by processes and cycles form what is known as ecosystems. Many small ecosystems link together to make up larger ecosystems. The whole world is a fascinating complex mosaic of unique ecosystems interlinked and functioning together to provide ideal conditions for mankind.
Each ecosystem is different in that it is made up of different species. It is this diversity of species which provides a robustness that allows that particular system to withstand a certain amount of change. But when the basic processes and associations are interfered with the overall system is degraded. Continual damage to ecosystems over a sustained period of time will eventually put the life forms it supports under threat of extinction.
Extinction of plant and animal species is usually an indication that the processes and cycles within that ecosystem are not functioning properly. Key species are currently being lost at one thousand times what is considered the `normal rate of extinction' - indicating that something is seriously wrong. Through indiscriminate destruction of forests, draining of wetlands, pollution of air, water and soil, and industrial activity many of the ecosystems which support the myriad of life forms that provide the air we breathe and the food we eat are being affected.
The scientific community is warning that if these activities are allowed to continue without environmental safeguards in place it will very soon by impossible for life to survive on this planet.
The Curse We Live Under
When God said to Adam, six thousand years ago, "Cursed is the ground for your sake" (Genesis 3:17), He knew what was in store. In choosing to follow Satan, Adam and Eve sealed the fate of mankind by delivering them into the hands of the one who wanted to conquer them. Satan's enmity toward mankind has been previously discussed in an article entitled "An End to Enmity" (New Horizons - July/August 2000, see also "Sorrow No More" in the November/December 2000 issue).
Driven by his hatred Satan has used all the subtlety he is renowned for (Genesis 3:1) to influence human nature with his own covetous desires for personal gain and greed for status and power. He has coerced mankind into abusing and misusing the precious natural resources that God has given us. Motivated by the same greed and lack of concern for others we have become the perpetrators of our own demise by plundered and exploited natural resources that in retrospect should have been used more carefully and sparingly. In our haste to exploit these resources we have damaged the natural processes and cycles that support life on our planet.
A Model Nation
Many generations after Adam and Eve, God selected Israel to become a model nation. He gave them a choice similar to the one He gave Adam and Eve. God made it abundantly clear to them that obedience would bring them blessings and disobedience would reap the curses which He so graphically described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.
God predicted social, economic and environmental problems for Israel if they did not obey his law (Deuteronomy 28:15). He said that continued disobedience would result in even greater problems eventually leading to national defeat leaving their land desolate and wasted (Deuteronomy 28:25, Leviticus 26:17-18 and 33). As predicted, this eventually did happen.
While the curses in this instance were specific to Israel, there is a remarkable similarity between what was described in these chapters and what we now see occurring to all nations. Read these two chapters (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28), in your own Bible to see the similarities.
Instead of being the model of a blessed nation Israel became an example to the rest of the world as a nation under curse. Just as the Israelites brought these curses upon themselves through not obeying God, the whole of mankind is experiencing similar curses for the same reasons.
One of the key aspects of the curse on Israel was drought (Deuteronomy 28:23-24, Leviticus 26:19-20). Ironically one of the main problems we face today is the lack of clean water for domestic use and rapidly dwindling resources for agricultural use in many of the strategic grain growing areas of the world. More than 40% of the world's grain is produced on irrigated land and these areas are experiencing dropping water tables as more water is being pumped from the ground than is replaced naturally. In addition salivation and silting from continuous irrigation is rendering a lot of these once productive lands useless. Unfortunately these areas are where some of the greatest population growth is occurring.
If governments continue to ignore the warnings about environmental problems disaster is inevitable. Human governments and business are motivated by profit and greed rather than a genuine concern for fellow man.
Despite the attempts of many well-intentioned people to save the environment the Bible says that this will have little effect (Deuteronomy 28:29). It is only through God's supernatural intervention that the extinction of all life from this planet will be prevented.
Speaking about the end time Christ said: "For there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22).
When God said: "Cursed is the ground for your sake" those six thousand years ago he was informing Adam and Eve that through their sin they had brought a curse on the ground for all of mankind. By studying a similar curse that Israel brought on itself we can see that God knew that the inevitable outcome of their actions would bring destruction. He knew that the influence of Satan's nature would lead mankind to destroy his own environment. We can witness that very thing happening around us in this day and age.
When Adam and Eve sinned - disobeyed God - they brought upon themselves the consequence of that sin which has proved to be a curse on all of mankind. By their decision to reject God's instruction they negated the blessings that God would have provided and put themselves in the hands of Satan who wanted to dominate them.
Extinction of all life from this planet is frightening to contemplate, but it is comforting to know that God has said he will not allow that destruction to be accomplished.
Mankind's self-imposed `curse' will be removed - but only by the return to our planet by its Creator, Jesus Christ.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 5 Issue 4, July/August 2001. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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