Living in a frightened world

I grew up in the 1960s when the threat of a nuclear holocaust hung over our heads. The world was about to end, or so many people thought. I wasn’t more than 10 years old when we visited a colleague of my father’s and were ushered down to the basement to view the fully equipped fallout shelter that was going to save his family from annihilation. Later, I clearly remember sitting in a sixth grade classroom when a substitute teacher told us that we had no chance of growing to adulthood. A nuclear bomb would wipe us out before that could happen! There was no internet back then or the hype would probably have been even more intense than it was.

Not only did I live to adulthood, but so have my children. Throughout my lifetime, however, it seems that there has always been another doomsday looming just ahead. On a lesser scale than the nuclear threat, there was Y2K, the day when all the computers were going to shut down and the world as we knew it was going to grind to a halt. I knew people who spent months living in fear, stockpiling essentials, and preparing for the crash that never came. There have been many other similar predictions to instill fear in the masses.

Now, it’s climate change. Don’t get me wrong. Is the world’s climate changing? Of course, it is. When has it not been? Climate has never been static. In my mind, though, the latest  predictions of looming catastrophe lead to more questions than answers. How much of the climate change that is actually being observed or recorded today has been caused or escalated by human action and how much is part of the cycles and changes of nature?  Can we really make a significant difference? What extremes are the radical climate change activists actually willing to go to to make this happen? What changes are they making in their day to day lives? What comforts of life are they really willing to give up? Air conditioning? Forced air furnaces? Television? Computers? Global travel? Driving to the grocery store? How about washers and dryers? Are they really willing to go back to the back-breaking way of life of our forefathers? Legislating an end to global fossil fuel usage when green energy has not been developed to the point where it can take over and provide the benefits of modern life truly would cause a global catastrophe of enormous magnitude and it would be felt most strongly by those of us living in the First World.

Like the substitute teacher in my grade six classroom, activists like young Greta are  spouting off frightening “facts” some of which aren’t even true. “For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” she says. No it hasn’t. For example, consider this headline in the April 16, 1970 edition of The Boston Globe: “Scientist predicts a new ice age by the 21st century.” There are too many similar prophecies to begin listing them here. “People are dying. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction.” Really? Last time I checked, the world’s population was at an all time high and average lifespans were continuing to increase.

People have been prophesying the end of the world since the earliest days of recorded history. Even Christopher Columbus got into the act predicting in his Book of Prophecies (1501) that the world would end in 1656. So far, none of the apocalyptic predictions with due dates have come true and I would hazard a guess that the most recent one won’t either.

I would love it if my grandchildren could grow up in a world free from fear mongering and doomsday predictions, but perhaps that’s just not the way of mankind. Perhaps God placed within the heart of man an understanding that the world is eventually going to end. Scripture predicts it. We are told “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.” (Mark 13:7-8) Does that sound familiar? Elsewhere, in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 we’re told, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” I believe that we are living in these times, but I wouldn’t be so rash as to try to predict how soon it will all play out and the world will come to an end. The Bible tells us that no one will know the time or the day. (Matthew 24:36) 

In the meantime, let’s send the kids back to school, seek to educate ourselves and understand the facts using reliable sources (there’s the teacher in me talking), and strive to do the small and reasonable things within our power to be good stewards of all that we’ve been blessed with. And if there’s to be another student protest, let’s see how many come out if it’s held on a weekend. That’s the teacher in me talking too!

I realize that this is a controversial topic. Some will agree and some won’t. All I ask is that we keep the dialogue respectful.