A few years ago I was watching a panel discussion that was part of a series of events at the Institute for National Security Studies think tank at Tel Aviv University. During this discussion, which was on the general topic of “the state of the world at large” one of the men on the panel who was a veteran of many US Presidential Administrations said something that I’ve never been able to forget. He said “it’s long past time when the governments of the Western democracies have a serious discussion with their citizens about what makes their way of life possible.”
Needless to say, if any Western government officials were watching or listening to this panel discussion, they never took the step of having a serious discussion with their citizens about what makes their way of life possible. But after I got done watching that video, I began a journey into the topic myself, and what I learned left me somewhat shaken.
Because the things that make my way of life possible are actually very fragile, and very vulnerable to disruption. That’s true of your way of life too, and that’s what I want to talk about in this blog. Because there are three VERY important pillars of your way of life and mine that are under serious pressure today, and that pressure isn’t going to let up any time soon.
The three pillars I’m talking about are modern medicine, food supplies and energy supplies.
The subjects of famine and disease are mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible and it is also quite prevalent in many other written accounts of life in the ancient world and throughout recorded history, down to quite recent times. In fact, I’m only in my mid-40s, but I can remember when I was a child hearing my grandparents and their friends talk about being grateful that they didn’t have to worry about their grandchildren dying of infectious diseases which routinely killed off large numbers of children in previous generations.
Large numbers of children dying before they reached the age when they could produce more children and famines that killed off large numbers of people in various parts of the world were just an unavoidable fact of life for most of human history.
That all started to change about 200 years ago, slowly and unevenly in different parts of the world.
I have no idea how these numbers were arrived at, but demographers estimate that in the year 1804, the population of this planet reached 1 billion for the first time. The same demographers estimate that the population reached 2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1987, 6 billion in 1999, 7 billion in 2011, and just at the end of 2022 we hit 8 billion.
There are all kinds of reasons why the number of human beings on this planet was below 1 billion for most of history until 200 years ago and has, since then, rapidly expanded (despite wars during the past 200 years which killed off enormous numbers of people). But surely one key factor explaining this is that for most of human history, so many people (especially children) died of starvation, as well as diseases and infections that today are easily prevented and/or treated.
The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1929 was one of the most important discoveries in all of human history and it is a big part of why the population of this planet has expanded so rapidly in the century since. Antibiotics have enabled the human race to treat many infectious diseases that would have been an almost axiomatic death sentence to whoever encountered them before antibiotics became available.
Another big part of the reason the population has expanded so rapidly is that advances in technology and techniques in the field (no pun intended) of agriculture have allowed for the global supply of food to rapidly and exponentially increase. All of this has been enabled by machines that harnessed the power produced by burning hydrocarbons, starting with coal and moving on to crude oil, natural gas, and their derivatives.
Tragically, these developments, which were never going to be permanent features of life on this planet, have nevertheless been treated as “the new normal” by the human race since arriving on the scene just 200 years ago. But these luxuries (because that’s precisely what they are) that we’ve been privileged to enjoy for the past few generations are already showing signs of being close to their expiration date, and the inevitable results are going to come faster than anyone can imagine.
Let’s start with the looming food shortage crisis.
The UN’s World Food Program (say what you want about the UN, but they’re very good at keeping accurate statistics) estimates that the number of people in this world who are classified as “food insecure” has more than doubled in the last five years and is currently hovering around 350 million. That’s almost 1 person out of every 20 who lives on this planet, and the numbers keep going up all the time. In fact, I saw an article last year on the WFPs website which said that there is reason to fear that as many as 1 billion people could die of starvation by the end of this decade.
Every major grain-producing region in the world is facing problems from disruptive weather patterns, wars, political corruption and instability, the high cost and low availability of inputs like seed, fertilizer, and the diesel fuel that farm equipment runs on, etc. Then of course there’s the rampaging bird flu pandemic which is killing off tens of millions of wild and domesticated birds all over the world, raising the price of eggs and meat for consumers and putting many farmers out of business. This will have long-lasting effects, as even after this round of bird flu burns itself out (and that might take a very long time) it will leave behind a devastated poultry industry that won’t recover for years. Then of course there’s the possibility that the virus which is causing this current outbreak of bird flu could mutate into something that’s dangerous to humans. It’s already been detected in foxes, bears, and other mammals.
This would be a good place to take note of the fact that plagues often follow closely behind famine because people whose bodies have been weakened by insufficient nutrition are far more vulnerable to disease.
The anti-biotic medications which are a major pillar of life in the modern world are also becoming less and less effective in treating infections. So-called “superbugs” which are resistant to antibiotics are appearing all over the world. They are blamed for millions of deaths on an annual basis, and this trend looks likely to increase going forward. Work is being done to create more powerful anti-biotics, but the superbugs appear to have a big head start in this race and they’re not slowing down.
Finally, the other pillar of modern life (some might say the central pillar upon which all the other pillars depend) is affordable hydrocarbons, and this pillar is also under tremendous pressure. Energy industry experts believe that although existing sources of energy supplies are beginning to be tapped out, there are billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas in various places around the world waiting to be extracted. But most of those resources are in places where it would be technically difficult and VERY expensive to extract them and move them to markets.
That means that however much you’re paying for a gallon or liter of gasoline today, that’s probably the lowest price that it will ever again be sold at. Going forward, there are excellent reasons to believe that the price of a gallon or liter of gasoline will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. At some point, it will probably become a commodity that is only available on a limited basis (governments in some places are already having serious discussions about rationing different kinds of fuels, especially diesel.) Needless to say, this will also result in enormous economic dislocation for almost everyone.
The global economy that makes your way of life and mine possible is based on abundant and affordable energy supplies. The supplies are still abundant but they’re getting more expensive and as time goes by, they’ll start becoming less abundant and that’s when things will REALLY start to get uncomfortable. If you think inflation is painful now, it’s going to get much worse.
Now, at this point, the people who are still reading this blog are probably wondering why I’m telling you all this.
I’m telling you all this because as I look at the Body of Messiah here in Israel and around the world, I see that people everywhere seem to be very unsettled and upset about cultural, political, and social changes that are very disruptive to their way of life. Christians in Western countries, where a Biblical worldview has long held dominance in the public square but recently has lost its place seem to be the most upset, and in many places, you can see these dear Christian brothers and sisters angrily trying to fight back against what they see happening around them.
Guys, please hear me.
It’s time to stop fighting back. It’s time to stop counter-protesting. It’s time to stop writing letters to elected officials and screaming at school board meetings and although I doubt anyone will believe it, I think it’s even time to stop voting.
There was a time when it was worthwhile to do these things, but that time has passed.
It’s like arguing about what color to paint a house that is on fire as an earthquake shatters its foundations. I say it’s time to let the other people waste their time trying to paint the house the color they want to paint it as it burns and crumbles into rubble.
You and I have better ways to spend whatever time we have left.
I have been saying for years in these blogs that it’s time to shift the focus from the political fights to the spiritual war, and I’ve gotten a lot of pushback for it from people who think that the way of life most of us grew up with and expected to pass on to our own children can still be salvaged. But as I spent the first 2/3 of this blog demonstrating, that way of life is built on foundations that are already shaking and will soon begin to crumble.
In other words brothers and sisters, our way of life is gone, and it’s not coming back no matter who gets elected and who doesn’t.
The cultural shifts in many of our countries which have seen traditional gender roles, sexual mores, ethics, etc. discarded in favor of a neo-pagan permissiveness is actually somewhat cosmetic and will also be very short-lived. They won’t last long because they’ve been built on top of a platform that depends on those same shaking foundations. When the foundations finally crumble, the platform will fall as well, taking all that stuff we find so unsettling with it.
In other words, the way of life the “woke” crowd thinks they’re building is going to be very short-lived, and it’s not something Believers should be too upset about. But far too many Believers are fighting against the “woke” agenda and trying to get things back the way they want them. They want the way of life they were used to and comfortable with to be restored. But it’s gone and never coming back, and wasting time trying to get it back is a critical mistake because time is something we don’t have much of anymore.
Before I used the metaphor of a burning, crumbling building to describe our world. Now let me compare it to a sinking ship.
Does it make sense to argue about what card games to play in the cabin of a ship that’s sinking? Does it make sense to invest time, effort and energy trying to convince the other passengers to agree to the arrangement of the deck chairs on this sinking ship that we’re most comfortable with? Or is it a better use of time to get in the lifeboat of the ship and try to convince as many of the other passengers as possible to get in the lifeboat as well?
The answer to this question is pretty obvious.
The lifeboat is called “The Gospel of the Lord God Jesus Christ” and it’s time to stop arguing about what card games to play in the cabin of the ship and switch to trying to get as many of the passengers as possible into the lifeboat.
That’s what I’ve got for you this week brothers and sisters. I hope it blessed someone.