"A Time Of Trouble"

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).

All forms of government, from democracies to dictatorships, fear civil unrest. Civil unrest may lead to violent demonstrations, and even toppling of the government and anarchy. The nations are on a course which could lead to frightening civil unrest within the next decade or two − even apart from God's upcoming judgment of the nations at Jerusalem. We will attempt here to describe some of the disturbing features of this present time of trouble.

Energy - Currently eighty-three percent of the world's total energy needs are met by oil (33%), coal (27%) or natural gas (23%). Another nine percent are met with nuclear (6%) or hydro power (3%). Additional nuclear and natural gas power plants are either under construction or planned, but they will make little impact on the need for additional oil and coal supplies. Virtually all of the major rivers in the world are dammed, so few new dams can be constructed without more harm than benefit.

Although some new oil fields, particularly in central Asia and Africa, are adding to global oil production, production is in decline from some major long operating fields in Mexico, the North Sea (England and Norway), and in inland United States including Alaska. Also, some major oil companies are focusing more on developing natural gas fields, because new oil fields are increasingly expensive to develop and are often located in hostile countries.

The time is coming when the global demand for oil will exceed the production capacity of the developed oil fields for an extended time. When that occurs, the price of crude oil and oil based products will rise sharply in a brief period. Estimates for that "peak oil" date currently range from 2012 to 2020. In the next decade, economic growth in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries is expected to be stronger than the economic growth in the developed countries. Any parallel economic growth in the developed countries will likely push the "peak oil" date closer in time.

Food - The world's population is approximately 6.5 billion people with an annual growth rate of 1.14% (74,000,000 people). The extra food needed for a growing population must either come from increased yields, increased planted acreage, or both. Almost all of the arable land available for food production is being farmed. In addition, biofuels are competing with the food supply, and overworked soils are degrading and eroding.

In the 1960's the LORD allowed scientists to substantially increase crop yields. Global grain production grew by sixty-four percent in 1970-1990, but only by twenty-four percent in 1990-2009. No substantial yield increases are expected in the coming years. Additional acreage is being planted in some countries but usually with the penalty of deforestation.

Forty percent of global crop production is from irrigated land. However, groundwater depletion has been severe in some major agricultural areas, including northeast India, northeast China, northeast Pakistan, California's Central Valley, and the plains states of the United States. In 2000, global groundwater depletion was about 75 trillion gallons (1/80 of the volume of water in the Great Lakes). Many countries may experience reduced crop production in the future because of groundwater depletion unless they are able to irrigate more efficiently.

An important statistic is the days of grain supplies remaining at the beginning of the next year's harvest. Because of a poor wheat harvest in Russia and a reduced corn harvest in the United States, the remaining grain supply for the 2010-11 agricultural year is projected to be 72 days. A 64-day remaining grain supply in the 2007-08 agricultural year set off food riots in some countries dependent on agricultural imports. As the world population grows, every poor harvest in a major agricultural area will further strain the global grain supply.

Fish supply about five percent of the world's protein consumption. More sophisticated technologies for locating schools of fish and for netting fish have resulted in greater catches. All of the sections of the oceans viable for commercial fishing are being fished. Most coastal fish habitats are over-fished. Without better management of the global fish habitats, the annual fish catch will decrease, even as the global population increases.

Honeybees - The plants that honeybees pollinate comprise about twenty-three percent of all U. S. agricultural production, and include alfalfa hay, apples, oranges, broccoli, cantaloupe/honeydew, nuts, and other fruits and vegetables.

Since 2006, the honeybee population in the United States has declined by thirty percent due to four successive years of a phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder." The primary symptom of this disorder is bees not returning to their hives when they leave, usually in the winter. Many possible causes for the disorder have been suggested. One group of scientists believes that they have traced the disorder to a mite and have been able to find a cure for it. The next few years will be critical in averting a potential agricultural disaster.

The China Impact - With the world's second largest economy, an economic growth rate close to ten percent and twenty percent of the world's population (1.3 billion persons), China's impact on the global scene, both financial and otherwise, is enormous.

An imminent threat to China's roaring economy is that sixty percent of its activity is related to building construction. The building industry has never before constituted more than thirty percent of a country's economy. Once China's building needs have largely been met, its economy will severely contract unless another economic driver arises to take its place. The impact to the global economy of a severe contraction of China's economy will probably be immediate and painful.

China's economy also faces another menacing threat - a critical shortage of water where it is most needed in the North China Plain. The North China Plain is home to forty percent of China's population and fifty percent of its arable land, but only eight percent of its water supply. Annual rainfall in the North China Plain is less than 18 inches, and less than 12 inches in most of it. However, the region produces more than fifty percent of China's wheat, and thirty three percent of its corn. Two-thirds of the region's grain output is from irrigated land. The southern half of China, with far more rainfall, is too hilly for extensive agricultural production.

A phenomenal rise in migration to the cities and industrialization has resulted in overtaxed water supplies throughout China, but particularly in the North China Plain. The groundwater table is dropping at a rate of 4.5 feet/ year throughout most of the region and at a rate of 10 feet/year in at least one area.

An ambitious effort to transfer 36 billion gallons/day (36 Bgpd) from the Yangtze River in south China to China's capital city, Beijing, and other parts of the North China Plain has encountered major setbacks. The project, called the South-North Diversion Project, was to consist of three legs - Eastern (11 Bgpd), Central (10 Bgpd) and Western (15 Bgpd). The Eastern leg and the Central leg are currently under construction. However, the water supply for the Eastern leg, the mouth of the Yangtze River in eastern China, is contaminated with toxic industrial wastes. It is considered prohibitively expensive to treat to potable water quality and may not even be treatable to agricultural water quality. The Central leg should be beneficial when completed but will cause extensive damage to the Han River ecosystem because it will divert almost forty percent of the Han River toward Beijing. The Western leg, which would convey water from an upstream (cleaner) section of the Yangtze River to the Yellow River for withdrawals for various uses, will not be constructed. In 2008, an earthquake occurred along one of the five earthquake fault lines that the water channel would have crossed in western Sichuan. That fault line was the site of 18 destructive earthquakes between 1901 and 1976.

The North China Plain's water supply problems will primarily affect the rest of the globe by its impact on the global food supply. China currently produces about 20% of the global grain supply. It has striven mightily in recent years to be self-sufficient in supplying its grain needs and has been largely successful. It is now purchasing small amounts of grain as needed to keep a 100-150 day supply, in order to prevent sharp domestic price hikes. With continued loss of agricultural land to urbanization and continued depletion of the groundwater table, China will be unable to remain self-sufficient in grain production. Any increase in China's imports will likely decrease the global supply of grain and increase its price.

Final Thoughts: There are many other potential threats to global stability, such as national and personal debt, terrorism and war, competition for energy and natural resources and the wickedness of man great in the earth. As in the days of Noah, it appears that man will pay a steep price for filling the earth with violence and corruption. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness (2 Peter 3:11).

Randy Morrissette, Richmond, Virginia

A statement in Daniel (12:4) seems to indicate that it is in our own times more particularly that the prophetic visions are to be understood, both as regards their events and times; But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of the end ... There is a reason why "the words" may be understood at the time of the end. In the words are prophetically delineated historical events extending over centuries, and at the time of the end, we have the facts of accomplished history as the infallible interpreters of these words.

Robert Roberts, Christendom Astray, Lecture 16 - Times and Signs