More than half of the continental United States is roasting in its worst drought since the 1950s. Yet to fully end it, much more than rain is needed.
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Remember the Old Testament story of Joseph and his explanation of Pharaoh’s two vexing dreams? Dual nightmares for the Egyptian king included fantastic imagery of seven healthy cows being devoured by seven gaunt, emaciated heifers—and seven lush heads of grain being consumed by seven shriveled heads. Joseph told Pharaoh this meant “seven years of great plenty” followed by “seven years of famine.” Due to this advance warning, this center of the ancient world averted devastating catastrophe by implementing a nationwide food storage plan.
Looking out at meager, sun-scorched fields today, Corn-Belt farmers may be asking: Where is Joseph when you need him?
This year, more than 61 percent of the contiguous United States has experienced moderate to exceptional drought, 59 percent of the nation’s pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition, and nearly a third of America’s corn crop has been damaged. Add to this the brutal heat.
“Federal scientists say July was the hottest month ever recorded in the Lower 48 states, breaking a record set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” The Associated Press reported.
Unable to control the temperature or precipitation levels, farmers are facing a crisis that is as basic as it gets: no water, no crops. No crops, no cattle—no food.
An essay from a Missouri family farmer, featured on cnn.com, explained the drought’s widespread effects: “No crops means no feed for livestock…In the end, this will lead to increased food prices. A number of livestock farmers and ranchers will be faced with difficult decisions. Some will be forced to leave the farm or ranch and find new jobs in neighboring towns, while others may have to sell their family farm or ranch. ‘The bottom line is: If you eat, this drought will affect you.’”
For now, many see the effects of a rainless summer as filled with petty inconveniences. For example, numerous roads are littered with new potholes and frustrated homeowners are paying to have their browning grass painted green.
Yet there are also serious immediate effects: sweltering heat waves have killed more than 100 people. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has ranked 2012 as the nation’s hottest year on record, and conditions causing crop shortages continue to spread.
A climate scientist told Forbes that such conditions in Mexico, Texas and in the Southwest were “predicted and [are] usual for a La Nina event. But the drought’s expansion into the Midwest and the East Coast is not a typical La Nina occurrence…nor are the record-breaking high temperatures that have accompanied it.”
The dry heat caused over 1,300 counties across the country to be declared “natural disaster” zones by the Department of Agriculture. It also sparked some of the worst wildfires in history and charred at least three million acres.
Due to drought, many stock animals have died; others are malnourished, sick or traumatized, prompting massive early cattle sales. Also, insect-borne diseases are spiking.
For the United States, which has enjoyed decades of plenty and served as the breadbasket of the world, thoughts of going hungry seem beyond far-fetched. Yet a massive food crisis is on the world’s doorstep, and for the first time in many Americans’ lives, it is poised to directly—and severely—affect them.
As extreme drought lingers, lawns brown, food prices steadily increase, and farmers plow under failed crops, most of America will likely still be thinking: 2012 is a very dry year.
What they should be thinking, though, is: Could we have seen this coming?
The answer? Yes.
Instead of focusing on the underlying causes of drought, most see only the surface effects. Generally, the negative impact that receives the most press in the United States is the same: how it affects everyone’s pocketbooks.
Among natural disasters, droughts are some of the most expensive. A senior scientist and meteorologist told USA Today that “the consensus among meteorologists is that 2012 already has surpassed 2011’s $12 billion in drought losses, according to Steve Bowen, senior scientist and meteorologist for Aon Benfield, a global reinsurance firm in Chicago. He said it ‘may not be out of the question’ that this year’s impact could rival 1988 and 1980 droughts, which had $78 billion and $56 billion in losses (in 2012 dollars).”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service stated that consumers will “likely see impacts within two months for beef, pork, poultry and dairy (especially fluid milk). The full effects of the increase in corn prices for packaged and processed foods (cereal, corn flour, etc.) will likely take 10-12 months to move through to retail food prices.”
Corn prices have risen more than 50 percent this summer and soybeans experienced a spike of about 25 percent. Nations that export grain then pass rising costs on to those that import.
Yet focusing too much on “the Almighty Dollar” masks another problem: what happens if there is no food to buy?
Realize what is at stake. “The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world’s feedgrain,” a Guardian article stated. “At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China’s rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains—corn, wheat, and rice—corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.”
The article continued, “Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself…Time is running out. The world may be much closer to an unmanageable food shortage—replete with soaring food prices, spreading food unrest, and ultimately political instability—than most people realise.”
The American drought is causing much more than dry soil. Lower water levels hold less oxygen and higher temperatures, leading to mass fish deaths.
“In Iowa, losses were estimated at $10.1 million after 37,000 fish were found dead along a 42-mile stretch of the Des Moines River from the dam in Eldon to the Farmington Bridge in the northeast of the state,” Reuters reported.
In Texas, “…drought conditions have caused cattle producers to move their herds from pastures where water tanks have dried to new pastures with healthier water supplies,” AccuWeather stated. “The cattle then gorge themselves on too much water and die within minutes of water intoxication...”
Also, abnormally warm weather is causing spikes in wild animal populations, which naturally lead to increased disease. “‘More animals overall means more potentially infected animals, leading to an increase in overall rabies incidence,’ Dr. Charles Rupprecht, chief of the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] rabies program,” told Wired magazine.
“‘Our two-year drought might be playing a role as well.’ Rupprecht notes that in the bone-dry central United States, where animals are forced to congregate at fewer and fewer available water sources, the uptick in rabid wildlife is even more pronounced.”
In addition, the National Pest Management Association reported that higher temperatures are causing “increased populations of many pests, including ants, fleas, ticks, termites, scorpions, brown recluse spiders, black widow spiders, Japanese beetles, pincher bugs and earwigs.” This year boasted the highest number of reported mosquito-borne West Nile Virus cases since 2004.
Yet these are all just effects of an abnormally hot and dry summer.
Return to the question posed earlier: “Could we have seen this coming?” Instead, phrase it another way: “Has this sort of thing happened before?”
Famine (usually due to severe, extended drought) has created “make or break” events for prominent civilizations throughout history. Examples abound of great cultures that first thrived due to settling near fertile ground. Time and again, these great empires favored farming practices that wore out the soil’s capacity to retain moisture and made it unfit for growing food.
In the book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, Lester R. Brown gave an example of one civilization that ended this way: “For the Mayans, it was deforestation and soil erosion. As more and more land was cleared for farming to support the expanding empire, soil erosion undermined the productivity of their tropical soils. A team of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has noted that the extensive land clearing by the Mayans likely also altered the regional climate, reducing rainfall. In effect, the scientists suggest, it was the convergence of several environmental trends, some reinforcing others, that led to the food shortages that brought down the Mayan civilization.”
Throughout history, mankind has taken too much out of the earth—nutrients, minerals, microorganisms, etc.—while giving too little, if any, back.
Regions inhabited by great ancient civilizations such as the Chinese, Akkadians, Mesopotamians, Persians, Romans, Maya and Sumerians all show signs of having enjoyed astounding resources that were unwisely misused. Archeological digs evidence overproduction, poor irrigation, and pollution—all of which hastened the demise of the greatest empires.
Today could have been different—should have been different. Yet the modern world refused to learn the lessons of history. In the pursuit of quick wealth, the same ancient mistakes are alive and well, except that Earth now houses billions more people and more potent pollutants than ever before.
Mr. Brown continues, “Although we live in a highly urbanized, technologically advanced society, we are as dependent on the earth’s natural support systems as the Sumerians and Mayans were. If we continue with business as usual, civilizational collapse is no longer a matter of whether but when. We now have an economy that is destroying its natural support systems, one that has put us on a decline and collapse path. We are dangerously close to the edge. Peter Goldmark, former Rockefeller Foundation president, puts it well: ‘The death of our civilization is no longer a theory or an academic possibility; it is the road we’re on.’”
Also contributing to the end of history’s great civilizations were overpopulation, squandered resources, overstretched militaries, and actions taken in individual lives.
As societies peaked in prosperity, so did materialism, a taste for ultra-violent entertainment, the sexualization of youth, and an overall breakdown of character.
Two prominent examples of this were the grotesque human sacrifices from the Classical Maya and bloody bread-and-circus gladiator battles in ancient Rome. These trends reached their apex as such civilizations declined.
America is following this historical pattern. While these conditions can be found the world over, it is U.S. culture the globe is emulating. The following examples are from David C. Pack’s The Bible’s Greatest Prophecies Unlocked! – A Voice Cries Out. As you read, think of how prevalent these conditions are in the news—and immediately around you!
Violence: “Consider how often acts of mass violence now occur in schools, restaurants or other places in ways that were virtually unheard of until recently! Who ever heard of ‘serial snipers’ in previous decades? The relatively modern phenomenon of terrorism is now worldwide! Gang violence and warfare have never been greater—or spreading faster. Truly, violence is now a global epidemic…”
Sexual license: “Most today have come to believe that free sex of every conceivable kind, with the same or opposite sex—or both—is a simple matter of personal preference. Vast millions have come to believe that achieving sexual pleasure in any setting, for any purpose, and involving any kind of experimentation or activity is perfectly acceptable—and is now, at least unconsciously, even seen to be a kind of human ‘right’ of sorts.”
Music: “Now consider the modern generation’s music of choice…The most common themes glorified by today’s recording artists are illicit sex, anger, extreme violence of every sort and drug use. But because it is only ‘music,’ it is legal.
“Rebellion against authority has been a widespread message for decades. Many songs promote the thinking that work, school, parents and the law are enemies to be disrespected, disregarded and disobeyed.”
Pleasure and greed: “Over the last several decades, the shift toward materialism has been undeniable. Across all nations, the accumulation of goods has become an obsession. This obsession has led directly to the emergence of a modern mix of humanism and hedonism—the belief that happiness and enjoyment of the ‘here and now’ is the central purpose of life.”
Destroying the earth: “Pollution is also rampant across the globe. In an effort to live the good life, mankind is constantly improving and replacing products in society. But something has changed in today’s consumer-driven way of life. Industry has produced many products that people do not consume, but simply use. Newspapers, magazines, clothing, packaging, electronics of all sorts, etc., are never consumed! People simply purchase products, only to later throw them away, replacing them with the newer, better version. This describes user-driven societies.”
Yet what does societal decline have to do with today’s drought?
America can learn a lot from looking to the past, especially at Joseph’s success in Egypt. The reason for his agricultural feat was simple: he obeyed the Creator God, who is the ultimate Owner of the earth. Even Pharaoh realized it as he considered who he would put as second in command for the nation: “And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is [Joseph], a man in whom the Spirit of God is?” (Gen. 41:38).
Joseph knew that God promises prosperity and protection to any who obey His commands. Notice Deuteronomy 28: “And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all His commandments…that the Lord your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth” (vs. 1).
The following verses expound on some of the blessings accrued for obedience: “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your ground, and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your kine, and the flocks of your sheep. Blessed shall be your basket and your store” (Deut. 28:3-5).
Yet drought—and famine—is one of the consequences for national disobedience.
Continuing in Deuteronomy: “…if you will not hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes…all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you: cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your store. Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, the increase of your kine, and the flocks of your sheep” (vs. 15-18).
Disobedience brings “pestilence” (insect infestations), “blasting” (drought), and “mildew” (too much rain). Read verses 21-22.
Even more, punishment includes: “…your heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron” (vs. 23). Drought-parched land is hard as iron!
In addition, “The Lord shall make the rain of your land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon you…” (vs. 24).
Make every one of these verses live in your mind. The front edge of these punishments is now appearing in the United States.
Behemoth dust storms have begun to rain “powder and dust” upon cities. University of Arizona professor William Sprigg, who works at the school’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics, described one such occurrence to USA Today, and the health concerns these bring: “Dust storms carry a noxious mix of fungi, heavy metals from pollution, fertilizers, stockyard fecal matter, chemicals and bacteria, which can cause cardiovascular disease, eye diseases and other illnesses…The phenomenon is hardly new, but the impact hit home a year ago, when a major dust storm—the largest many observers have ever seen—rolled through Phoenix on July 5, 2011. That storm spawned a wall of dust almost 1 1/2 miles high and 100 miles wide that deposited an estimated 40,000 tons of sand and dust in just two hours. It looked like something from a science-fiction movie and was partly blamed on drought-parched ground.”
As these conditions continue to worsen, think back to what the Bible plainly states about drought. America, as well as various parts of the world, will soon suffer severe famine.
Keep this subject simple in your mind. Nations can decide what they want—choosing either prosperity or drought and famine.
Could this and subsequent droughts have been foreseen? The answer is all around you. Examine the conditions you see every day: the constant barrage of bad news—the conduct of those in your hometown or city—the wild weather hammering the United States…
Placed next to the promised blessings and cursings of Deuteronomy 28, it becomes obvious that the current drought was assured to happen!
Lastly, look at the 2012 drought. Its presence should be a blaring wake-up call.
Ancient Israel was to be an example to other nations for all ages. If it kept God’s commandments and statutes, He promised them tremendous abundance. These blessings were designed to inspire other nations to also want to obey God.
Yet Israel did not comply. The Creator declares that He “brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when you entered, you defiled My land, and made Mine heritage an abomination” (Jer. 2:7).
Even more than Israel in the Promised Land centuries ago—this verse applies to the United States!
Over and over in the Bible, lack of rain and poor crop yields are shown as a sign that a nation must change its ways. Ezekiel 6 states, “In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate…” (vs. 6). According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the Hebrew word translated “laid waste” means “to parch (through drought).”
How to respond to droughts is the same in America today as it was for ancient Israel. Notice: “If I [God] shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; if My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron. 7:13-14).
God guarantees it: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (Lev. 26:3-5).
America’s disregard for God’s Law is the cardinal reason the 2012 drought was inevitable. Unless the nation repents, you can be sure worse drought—and famine!—is on the way.