Although we haven’t done a very good job in obeying most of God’s instructions to us, the one thing the human race has obeyed is God’s words to Adam and Eve in Eden to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28, KJV). Last year, “fruitful and multiplying” humanity reached the seven billion mark—a staggering number when you consider that it took all of human history until 1820 to reach just one billion people. Less than 200 years on, we’re seven times that number. And projections indicate that by 2025 the world population will exceed 10 billion.
But as the population grows, our resources aren’t keeping up. Thus there’s a huge potential for crises to arise created by these shortages.
Take, for instance, something as basic as water. Although theoretically there is enough water to meet everyone’s needs, access to that water is greatly limited for reasons such as poverty, environment and politics. When a mere 12 per cent of the world’s population uses 85 per cent of the earth’s drinkable water, the potential for conflict is great.
“The amount of water in the world is finite. The number of us is growing fast and our water use is growing even faster,” said a recent BBC report. “A third of the world’s population lives in water-stressed countries now. By 2025, this is expected to rise to two-thirds.”
The problem is particularly acute in Africa. Of the more than 800 million people who live on the continent, more than 300 million live in places where water is scarce. Of the 55 countries in the world where the basic need for water is not being met, 34 are in Africa.
Refugees from Somalia have fled to Kenya and Ethiopia (imagine, people fleeing to impoverished Ethiopia), where crowded and unsanitary conditions, and severe malnutrition have created a humanitarian catastrophe. With that area politically tense, the water and attending food shortages are exacerbating an already extremely volatile situation.
Water—or the lack thereof—is potentially an even greater threat to the stability of the Middle East than oil. Disputes over cross-border water basins have already prompted Egypt to threaten military action against any country that draws water off the Nile River without prior agreement. And though people see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict mostly over land, access to water, especially for irrigation, is also a source of great tension.
If trends aren’t reversed, the World Bank forecasts that by 2020, there will be 30 million environmental refugees in China due to lack of clean, drinkable water. For now, more than half of China’s 660 cities suffer from water shortages, affecting 160 million people. As a result of widespread water pollution, 700 million people in China drink contaminated water every day.
Worse, China has built dams on the Mekong River, blamed for the drop in water levels affecting Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, where an estimated 60 million people depend on the river and its tributaries for food, water and transportation.
Though most nations face some sort of water problem, the poorest countries have it the worst. For years, leaders have been warning that lack of water and the food shortages that follow, can lead to civil unrest and war. And as the planet heats up, the situation is expected to worsen.
None of this, however, should come as a surprise to those who read their Bibles. These volatile crises are just another of its predicted signs of the times. More than six centuries before Christ, the prophet Daniel warned about a future “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (Daniel 12:1, KJV). Jesus, meanwhile, said that prior to His return, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). (Note the juxtaposition of war and famine.) It’s a pretty amazing depiction of our time, given that it was uttered almost 2000 years ago.
Famines, pestilences, water shortages, food shortages, war—doesn’t that sound just like our time?
The good news, however, is that though the world situation will get worse before it gets better, it will get better. But this will happen only when Jesus returns and the earth is made new. Only then will we have a world where there are no water or food shortages. Writes John the Revelator, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city” (Revelation 22:1, 2).
God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply.” But that was in Eden. As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” so we can say, “We’re not in Eden anymore.”
Thanks to Jesus, our world will one day be much better than it is today.