In September, 1999, after three years of study and investigation, the United Nations issued a comprehensive report entitled, Global Environment Outlook 2000. The report details, from a human perspective, the outlook for future generations with respect to the environment, water resources, population distribution, resource consumption and pollution. This month’s article will review the findings of this report and conclude that, without God’s intervention, the future generations of this planet are doomed.
A bleak outlook
Two overriding trends characterize the beginning of the Outlook 2000 report. First, the global ecosystem is threatened by grave imbalances between productivity and the distribution of goods and services; secondly, a significant proportion of humanity still lives in dire poverty. Further, the report indicates that, if current trends continue, there will be a tremendous imbalance between those who have and those who have not. This imbalance of extreme wealth and extreme poverty is so severe that it threatens the stability of society as a whole. As one might expect, North America is a continent of wealth; Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean are places of poverty and subsistence living.
Some startling statistics are presented in the report.
- Average global per capita income has now passed $5,000 per year, but more than 1.3 billion people still live on less than $1 per day.
- The efforts required to meet the natural resource needs of an additional 3 billion people in the next 50 years will be immense.
- A tenfold reduction in resource consumption in the industrialized countries is a necessary long-term target if adequate resources are to be available for the needs of developing countries.
- Since 1950, the global economy has expanded five-fold. In terms of income, the global per capita average is now 2.6 times that of 1950. Yet despite this growth, one-quarter of the world’s population remains in severe poverty.
- In many parts of the developing world, poverty combined with rapid population growth is leading to widespread degradation of renewable resources — primarily forests, soils and water.
- If present consumption patterns continue, two out of every three persons on earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025.
The report indicates that: “If present trends in population growth, economic growth and consumption patterns continue, the natural environment will be increasingly stressed. Distinct environmental gains and improvements will probably be offset by the pace and scale of global economic growth, increased global pollution and accelerated degradation of the earth’s renewable resource base.” Simply put, if current trends continue, the world’s resources will be unable to meet the needs of its population.
The GEO-2000 report provides for specific information based on geographical location. As one might expect, the disparities between regions are significant. Of particular note is the disparity between the North American society and the poverty of the Caribbean and African regions. North Americans use more energy and resources per capita than people in any other region.
In the Caribbean and African regions, “Poverty is a major cause and consequence of the environmental problems.” As well, nearly three quarters of the population is urbanized, many in mega-cities where air quality threatens human health and water shortages are common. With unmitigated population growth comes problems such as air pollution, waste disposal and the like. These two issues are already causing severe stress to the region. In Latin America and the Caribbean alone, “Air pollution is estimated to cause 4,000 premature deaths a year.”
Problems in the Middle East are dominated by pollution, over-population and scarcity of fresh water. The report indicated that some 1.2 million barrels of oil are spilled into the Persian Gulf annually.
Every region had severe problems: poverty and water scarcity in Africa and the Caribbean, air pollution in Asia, greenhouse gas emissions in North America and depletion of resources in Europe.
The recommended solutions require money, which is not available, and self-control, which has not been evidenced. In order to relieve water stress, population control is recommended. In order to reduce green house gas emissions, North Americans are advised to utilize public transit.
The report recommends “policy measures to attack this issue, to reduce population growth, reorient consumption patterns, increase resource efficiency and make structural changes in the economy.” What are the chances of these recommendations being implemented? The report says, “Time is running out and full-scale emergencies now exist.”
The Bible is very clear as to what will transpire in the latter days. There will be no way out, with “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectations of those things which are coming on the earth” (Lk. 21:26). With time running out for viable solutions to the world’s problems and the disparities widening between the affluent and the poor, the time for Christ’s return cannot be too far off. At that time, Christ shall judge the people with righteousness and even the mountains shall bring forth an abundance of crops.