Friday, August 17, 2012

Drought Outlooks

Each time a high profile weather event occurs many analysts rush to explain it. This tendency has been intensifying in recent decades. Reporters now have access to more detailed information on climate than ever. Burgeoning population makes such information even more vital. An intense lobby has sprouted making the anthropocentric climate change issue an important political football. Even through there were a few scientists in the 19th and early 20th centuries raising climate issues, it was not until the last few decades of the 20th century when the matter rose to prominence. In the 1970s there was increased awareness but no consensus. In the 1980s the issue experienced intensifying “expectations.” In the second decade of the 21st century, therefore, a drought of the current magnitude commands a lot of press.

The drought of 2012 has its impact primarily on the present. This event is most forcefully felt by farmers during the current growing season. Soon the effects will trickle down to consumers, creating scarcity and higher prices. If the drought continues or worsens in the future, environmental and social fallout will result. For the present we may focus on the immediate impact of this year’s weather phenomenon. Secondarily, people focus on, “What will happen if…?” Beyond the present and future, interesting speculations result from our consideration of droughts which have occurred in the distant past and what is in store for the future. At this level of discussion we may discover some of our most important insights. From a historical perspective we learn lessons most useful for our present crisis.

What do the records of history tell us about droughts? First, we remind readers that we have focused on Earth as “a place to thrive,” rather than “a place to survive.” Often when places to thrive are described, writers highlight only the most positive features. Consider, for example, a realtor advertising his client’s salable home. The home’s positive features are spotlighted while its negatives are minimized. Travel agents propose a vacation venue to underscore its family value, notwithstanding the presence of some negatives. Agents present positive values in an effort to outweigh the negatives. With respect to earth’s powerful weather machine, therefore, a number of inconvenient events exist along the way: rainstorms, dry conditions, windstorms, or worse.

When our Creator designed our planet He designed a dynamic atmospheric system. The components of such a system were in place long before the arrival of man on Earth as evidenced by the geological record. “Dynamic” indicates an energetic, vigorously active, changing system. Scripture outlines numerous elements of this dynamic system, particularly in the majestic ancient Book of Job. Many dynamic meteorological events are described, not with horror, but as the manifestation of God’s power, wonder, and majesty, even as they sometimes connect with more difficult, frightening events. The writer asks us to consider that God “…does great things beyond our understanding” (Job 37:5b). The ultimate answer to the most dire human concerns is found in Job’s statement “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15) NIV.

Until 200 years ago planet Earth did not support as many as one billion people. It now supports seven billion. Man’s ability to sustain agriculture, in concert with man’s God-given ability to generate technological achievements, defines Planet Earth as “a place to thrive.” We may observe our earth’s weather system and remind ourselves of a famous expression. Is the glass half empty? Or is the glass half full? The reader’s world view overwhelms our search for answers to many similar questions. In all of life’s big questions, we seek to develop a worldview guided by the writers of God’s special revelation found in Holy Scripture.