The Lost Art of Slow Reading

The Lost Art of Slow Reading

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Why the Information Age is making us shallower.
From the October 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Going paperless is simpler than ever. Like many of you, I go online to shop, make travel arrangements, manage bank accounts, pay utility bills and read the news. But when it comes to my bookshelves and file cabinets, it’s difficult for me to imagine a paperless environment.

Along two of the walls in my office, I have five rows of bookshelves sitting atop 30 file cabinet drawers. I haven’t read all the books on the shelves and I know there are files in those drawers I haven’t opened in years. But it’s a large collection of commentaries, encyclopedias, biographies, histories, periodicals, booklets, articles, clippings and notes I’ve accumulated over the past two decades.

Except for the news I skim online every day, I usually mark or highlight what I read and study. This is why I generally buy my own books and print out or photocopy important articles I run across in my research.

I still use the Internet a lot, particularly for my weekly columns. There is no substitute for the speed at which you can obtain information that used to take hours to find in a library. But at the same time, there is simply no online equivalent to the thoughts and ideas I have tucked away in the drawers and shelves of my personal library.

Besides that, studies are beginning to show that the way we read and study online is much more superficial than the way we used to study the printed word. When reading online, we tend to skim and bounce around the page. We’re often distracted by the numerous links embedded into the text and the flashing advertisements designed to grab our attention.

Because of this, as Nicholas Carr writes in The Shallows, “Our attachment to any one text becomes more tenuous, more provisional. Searches also lead to the fragmentation of online works. A search engine often draws our attention to a particular snippet of text, a few words or sentences that have strong relevance to whatever we’re searching for at the moment, while providing little incentive for taking in the work as a whole. We don’t see the forest when we search the Web. We don’t even see the trees. We see twigs and leaves” (emphasis mine throughout).

Carr believes Google’s ambitious plan to digitize all the books ever printed will only make matters worse. “To make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it,” he writes. The end result, he says, would not be a library of books—but one of snippets.

While reading the pages of Carr’s book, I kept thinking of a wonderful little book, written in 1905—one that has been on my shelf for more than 15 years. In The Art of Thinking, French philosopher Ernest Dimnet said, “Do not read good books—life is too short for that—only read the best.” He recommended a personal library of just 20 or 30 volumes—classic works that you return to over and again for greater depth and understanding. What good is an extensive library that fills our shelves, Dimnet argued, if it doesn’t fill our minds? Or, given the massive amounts of information available today, what good is a computer database containing every book known to man if all we do is skim the surface for snippets?

Even some educators are waking to the dangerous pitfalls of online multitasking and cursory reading. A few are even calling for us to return to the tried and tested method of slowly poring over the printed word. According to the Associated Press, one teacher “is encouraging schools from elementary through college to return to old strategies such as reading aloud and memorization as a way to help students truly ‘taste’ the words. He uses those techniques in his own classroom, where students have told him that they’ve become so accustomed to flitting from page to page online that they have trouble concentratingwhile reading printed books” (June 17).

Scanning a book for a salient quote certainly has its place. So does skimming text to get the gist of the author’s intent. Even occasional Web surfing might help one get a feel for current events.

But none of this should be confused with studying the printed word. In the case of God’s Word, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Greek word for “workman” is referring to one who exerts strenuous effort to study the right way.

Online Bible helps can offer valuable assistance in this regard. But if you are really serious about plumbing the depths of God’s inspired Word, crack open the Book alongside a companion article or booklet, grab a pen and highlighter and then start reading. Don’t skim through the information as fast as possible. Slow down—make sure what you do read gets through to you.

Radiocarbon Dating

From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

What about carbon dating? Doesn’t that give accurate dates of “prehistoric” civilizations?

Carbon dating is the ultimate benchmark of the evolutionary dating world. Everyone assumes that dates that follow the word “radiocarbon” are accurate, precise and sure. But are they?

The basic principle of radiocarbon dating is that plants and animals absorb trace amounts of radioactive carbon-14 from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere while they are alive but stop doing so when they die. The carbon-14 in a sample decays at a steady rate after it dies, and thus works like a clock. It is assumed that the amount of radioactive carbon left in the sample indicates how old it is.

But there is a major problem with this method. It is based on several assumptions, one of which is false. For this method to work, the rate of production of carbon-14 in the atmosphere has to remain constant through time. In truth, however, the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere varies with fluctuations in solar activity and Earth’s magnetic field, changes in atmospheric conditions and even the exploding of atomic bombs!

As a result, radiocarbon dating isn’t so accurate: “Provided they are adjusted, radiocarbon dates are now considered reliable as far back as 5000 B.C.,” writes archeologist and professor Martha Joukowsky in A Complete Manual of Field Archeology. “Since the dendrochronological sequence extends back only as far as about 5500 B.C., no way exists at present to check radiocarbon dates from 5500 to 10,000 B.C.”

When comparing radiocarbon dates with dates derived from tree rings, known as dendrochronological dating, the dates only agree accurately as far back as A.D. 640, and only generally well back to the time of Christ. Anything further back and the dates are as much as 800 years off. So scientists made calibration charts to make up for the variation. But they still have to verify their calibrations with samples of known dates. There is still a problem!

Radiocarbon dates can only be trusted up until the record left by trees can back them up. There is no other way to verify the calibration charts accurately! Scientists, however, will push the envelope to 10,000 B.C. without any way to verify it.

In 2004, the claimed reliability of radiocarbon dating supposedly got a boost to 26,000 years, and then again in 2010 back to 50,000 years ago—the point at which there is too little carbon-14 to measure accurately. Scientists now claim 50,000 years is as far back as this method can go. This latest system of dating developed by intcal, an international working group, was based on dating coral samples from the ocean floor.

intcal extended radiocarbon dates beyond the limit of dendrochronology by basing it on “matched uranium series and radiocarbon dates on fossil corals, coupled with radiocarbon-dated organic material from laminated marine sediments in the Cariaco Basin, Venzuela” (Mike Walker, Quartenary Dating Methods, 2005).

Did you catch that? They apparently increased the effectiveness of radiocarbon dating by basing their calibration charts on radiocarbon-dated coral and sediment layers! That is circular reasoning—defending the method by using the very same method!

On top of that, radiocarbon dating coral presents great difficulties that make it unreliable. Why? Because of another assumption in radiocarbon dating: that it is a closed system. Once the “clock” starts, there is no gain or loss in radiocarbon elements used in dating. The trouble is, coral behaves differently. In coral, the carbon-14 decay rate is not stable; it picks up radioactive isotopes over time. In other words, the clock’s hour hand doesn’t move consistently.

The result?

“[P]roblems arising from past variations in the marine reservoir and also possible errors in the counting of laminated sediments mean this part of the calibration curve is less secure than that based on tree-ring records,” says Quartenary Dating Methods. “Despite the uncertainties associated with the older part of the age range, the international radiocarbon community has recommended that intcal 98 be used as the basis for calibration for the time being” (emphasis mine throughout).

So even though it is less reliable and has some serious problems, scientists ignore that and still use it. This book was written on the basis of the calibration that intcal has been developing for over 20 years, a process that has unfolded in the stages listed above.

How did the newest development come about? In an article titled “Radiocarbon Daters Tune Up Their Time Machine,” Science magazine explained: “[T]hanks to new and more accurate data from foraminifers, corals, and other sources—plus some fancy statistical treatments that help predict which way data gaps bend the curve—the intcal group has been able to resolve most of the discrepancies. ‘It took the group quite a while to come together and agree,’ says intcal team leader Paula Reimer, a geochronologist at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. But the new data, combined with what Reimer calls a ‘real sense of necessity’ among team members to resolve the debates, won the day” (January 15).

“Fancy statistical treatments” that didn’t even resolve all of the discrepancies? That doesn’t seem like a sound scientific process, does it? And what was it that finally got the scientists to agree on their uncertain calibration curve? A “real sense of necessity” to resolve the debate!

The problem with all these theories and conclusions is that they hark back to the scientists’ blind belief in the false theory of evolution. That is about the only thing the scientists agree on, yet it causes much confusion and chaos. Data has to be manipulated, skewed and given fancy treatment to make evolution fit the facts.

That is science based on a shifting foundation of sand! Yet that is the necessity by which these scientists are driven. They need a way to date artifacts further than 5,000 to 6,000 years ago so they can prove their false theory “true”!

If no dating system is created, evolution will forever be stuck in the realm of hypothesis. Even with such manipulation, the scientists still can’t remove all the discrepancies. In the end, it is still an unprovable hypothesis!

It is under this pretense that scientists take up the false hypothesis of evolution as their religion, the foundation of their knowledge. That is what the Bible terms “the oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20).

The bottom line is that scientists cannot reliably use radiocarbon dating on artifacts beyond the time of Christ. The method they use to attempt to do so is twisted to fit evolutionary theory.

WorldWatch

From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

1. Amid unrest, who’s left standing?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to suffer blows to her leadership.

On June 17, Germany’s Social Democratic Party and the Green Party agreed to establish a minority government in North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s largest and richest state. This means Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu) no longer holds the majority in Germany’s upper legislative chamber.

Two weeks later, Merkel was humiliated as her candidate for the new German president, Christian Wulff, failed to win an absolute majority in the first two rounds of voting as many in her own coalition rebelled. Wulff won in a third round, where a simple majority was all that was needed.

Suddeutsche Zeitung wrote, “This wasn’t just an election day, it was a day of reckoning for Merkel. … This Federal Assembly became Merkel’s writing on the wall.” Handelsblatt said Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle “are now fighting for their political survival.” Spiegel Online said Merkel’s “next major decision may be who to groom as a successor.”

On July 18, the mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust, became the sixth state governor to resign within just one year. A whole string of leading cdu lights in Germany have left the scene over the past year, including, most notably, President Horst Köhler, who suddenly resigned in June.

A July 19 poll found that Merkel’s coalition parties had the lowest approval ratings since the agency Forsa began polling in 1986. The three parties had a combined approval rating of just 34 percent.

On July 7, the New York Times singled out one man to watch as the German chancellor’s possible successor. “Mrs. Merkel has deflected any threat to her leadership,” it wrote, “except, possibly, Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.”

Throughout the turmoil of Merkel’s second term, Guttenberg has remained one of Germany’s most popular politicians. “Unlike other potential challengers, Mr. Guttenberg will not be easily silenced,” the Times continued. “As a member of the Christian Social Union party, he is politically independent from Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democrats. She cannot afford a fallout with her sister party in Bavaria. She needs that electoral support.”

As the Trumpet has been saying for some months now, Guttenberg is a man to watch.

2. Smells like a superstate

The European Union has taken two more major steps toward being a superstate.

July 14, EU countries agreed to propose a resolution that would give the European Union speaking rights at the United Nations General Assembly. Under the proposal, the EU would still be

an observer at the UN, but would have the same rights as member nations to submit proposals and amendments, to circulate amendments, to reply, etc. The EU president could address the UN in the same way as a head of state.

Then on July 26, European finance ministers approved the overall structure of Europe’s External Action Service (eeas), paving the way for Europe’s own diplomatic corps to become operational in December. The eeas will operate 136 European embassies, employ around 6,000 people, and have a budget of around €7 billion—including EU money spent on aid and peacekeeping.

Even before the latest agreement, British member of the European Parliament David Campbell Bannerman said, “I believe that through the Lisbon Treaty, through [the EU foreign minister] role, and the External Action Service, the European Union now has all four criteria it needs under international law to declare itself a single nation-state, a United States of Europe, and to do so overnight.”

3. Israel opens Gaza; considers EU help

Israel announced on June 20 that it will now allow anything into Hamascontrolled Gaza as long as it could not be used for military purposes. This effectively ended the so-called land blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the restrictions on civilian goods that had been in place since September 2007 had been aimed at weakening Hamas and gaining the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The lack of progress on both counts, it explained, motivated the change in policy.

Of course, Hamas and the terrorists who sponsored the Gaza-bound “humanitarian” flotilla just three weeks earlier saw it as nothing less than a resounding victory for challenging Israel. Not only did their mission draw a lethal retaliation from Israel’s navy, followed by a tidal wave of international outrage against Israel, but it brought enough pressure for Israel to end its sanctions against Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials said Israel was considering asking the European Union to monitor Gaza’s land crossings. This would represent “a first step towards [Israel] surrendering its sovereign control over its borders,” wrote Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post (June 21).

In another indication that the Jews are looking increasingly to Europe, on July 16 Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposed that Israel fully disengage from Gaza and hand responsibility for its development to the EU.

This trend portends danger for the Jews in light of Bible prophecy that warns that a European power will actually double-cross Israel in the end time.

4. Should U.S. really celebrate?

On June 19, China’s central bank announced that it was prepared to move toward reforming the country’s exchange rate regime to allow more flexibility. On June 21, the yuan rose by 0.4 percent against the dollar. Although a relatively small move, it sent the yuan to its highest level since September 2008 and was hailed as a political victory for the U.S., which has argued that the undervalued currency gives Beijing an unfair exporting advantage.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has pressured Beijing to lift the currency peg in recent months, applauded the move. But the revaluation carries potential risks that could undermine Western economies. Europe’s prolonged economic downturn, and European money fleeing to the U.S., could cause a free-floating yuan to actually weaken relative to the dollar, rather than appreciating. This could tilt America’s trade imbalance further into Beijing’s favor.

Some analysts say the move is largely symbolic, merely a political strategy designed to relieve pressure from Washington.

For America, the gravest danger is that a legitimate lift of the currency peg would require China to reduce U.S. government debt purchases, which would drive interest rates up. For an economy addicted to debt, the implications could be devastating. America has complained about the trade imbalance with China that results from the yuan’s peg to the dollar, but it is that same imbalance that enables America to maintain its debt-fueled policies.

China’s loosening of the yuan’s peg to the dollar will not solve Washington’s problems, but it may replace the smoldering fire of trade imbalance with the raging inferno of soaring interest rates.

Data released in July shows that China became the world’s largest energy consumer last year—usurping a title held by America for the past 100 years. China’s predominance marks “a new age in the history of energy,” said International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol. The transformation of global energy markets has long-term implications for America and the world. Expect competition for resources to heat up, resulting in trade war.

5. Another Popping Housing Bubble

House sales in Canadian cities are plummeting.

In Toronto, realtors reported a 23 percent drop in sales from last year. The Globe and Mail reported July 7 that home sales in Vancouver plunged by 30 percent in June compared to one year earlier. Calgary was even worse: In June, single-family home sales were down 42 percent from a year earlier—16 percent just from May.

Sitka Pacific Capital Management’s Mike Shedlock warns that the trend is similar to how things cascaded in the United States once the housing bubble peaked. “I am now confident the peak in Canadian housing insanity is finally in,” he wrote on July 6.

Canadian readers may want to take note of the calamitous events that followed America’s housing bust. Millions of Americans are losing their homes and thousands of others are choosing to let the bank foreclose rather than spend decades paying for houses that are worth fractions of current market values. Hundreds of thousands of people associated with the construction, real-estate and mortgage-related industries found themselves out of work. This, plus the resultant credit crunch, caused a snowball effect that hit virtually every sector of the economy.

Canadians should prepare for a drastic economic downturn.

The International Monetary Fund weighed in on American economic policy in early July, saying Washington should consider raising taxes and cutting Social Security benefits to get control of the nation’s budget deficit and public debt. Watch for outside authorities to seek to increase influence over America’s economy.

The dollar is unreliable and needs to be replaced as the world’s reserve currency, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs said in a report released June 29. The UN wants to replace the dollar with a new global currency managed by the imf. The new currency, called sdrs, or special drawing rights, would maintain stability, the UN says, while knocking the U.S. from its role as global economic leader.

Europe

France’s national assembly voted to ban face-covering veils, such as the burka, 335 to 1, on July 13. While the bill will probably be approved by the Senate in September, France’s Council of State or the European Court of Human Rights may rule it unconstitutional. Belgium passed a similar law earlier this year, demonstrating the growing backlash against Islam in Europe.

In a June 16 letter, U.S. President Barack Obama urged his G-20 counterparts to maintain 0whatever stimulus programs their governments could finance.

Germany rejected this counsel and urged cutbacks instead. The G-20 meeting on June 26 and 27 concluded with an endorsement of the economic policies of Germany and other European leaders, not those of the U.S. Gone are the days when Washington could set an agenda and lead the world in adhering to it.

The Vatican announced the creation of a new department on June 29: the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. Headed by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the aim of the council is to re-evangelize once-Christian nations that have now become secular. The council will focus on Europe and the Americas. Expect the Vatican to unleash a major push to become more powerful in these areas.

Mideast

A slew of documents relating to Afghanistan that had been leaked to the WikiLeaks website were published by the New York Times July 25. Despite the hype surrounding the massive intelligence leak, the documents exposed little new about the fundamental reality of the war in Afghanistan. The leaked documents accuse Pakistan of providing both supplies and sanctuary for Taliban fighters. The secret military field reports detail how Pakistan’s intelligence service has guided the Afghan insurgency, even while Islamabad receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help in fighting the Taliban. The Trumpet has long pointed out the duplicity of Pakistan as a U.S. ally in the war in Afghanistan. Washington’s reliance on Islamabad despite this demonstrates the compromised nature of America’s power on the world scene.

In July, Israel carried out final operational tests on a new anti-missile system, the Iron Dome, designed to protect Israeli communities from Hamas and Hezbollah rockets. The shield will soon be deployed in vulnerable towns close to Gaza. It seems, however, that it has been talked up to be more effective than it may prove to be, not to mention its cost: A single Iron Dome anti-rocket missile is $100,000—as opposed to just a few dollars for a Kassam. While the technology is impressive, the Jews’ reliance upon it for protection will prove to be yet another false hope.

Hezbollah is establishing military positions, including the placement of weapons and explosives, next to schools and hospitals in southern Lebanon, an Israel Defense Forces officer said July 7. The Iranian sponsored terrorist group is digging tunnels and setting up communications infrastructure as it prepares for war, the source said. This is occurring even while the United Nations’ force in Lebanon is present, supposedly to stop Hezbollah rearming and rebuilding.

The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said in a press conference on July 13 that Iranian-trained Shiite fighters pose an increased threat to American soldiers in Iraq as the U.S. draws down its forces there. Gen. Ray Odierno specifically referred to the threat posed by the Kataib Hezbollah militia trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s influence in Iraq continues to grow as the United States’ shrinks.

Asia

North Korean despot Kim Jong Il threatened the U.S. with nuclear war in July in response to America’s joint naval drills with South Korea. The exercises came four months after a torpedo sunk the South Korean ship, the Chonan, and were intended as a display of unity between Washington and Seoul. However, the U.S.’s participation was undermined by repeated delays and a relocation that observers saw as being a sign of America’s fear of China outweighing its desire to stand up for Seoul. In light of the U.S.’s weak will, expect Seoul’s distrust to intensify. South Korea will draw closer to Asian nations, like China, in its search for security.

On July 11, Japanese voters delivered a rebuke to the Democratic Party of Japan, impairing the ability of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s ruling party to govern. Kyodo News observed that the parliamentary gridlock “may complicate attempts by Tokyo and Washington to ‘reset’ their political relationship” (July 14). Mr. Kan’s promises to the Obama administration aimed at resolving the dispute over the location of a U.S. Marine base in Okinawa are now in doubt. When Tokyo emerges from its state of political gridlock, governmental consensus against the security partnership with the U.S. will likely solidify.

On July 12, China’s premier credit rating agency stripped America of its aaa status. Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. downgraded the U.S. to aa, while Britain and France slipped to aa-. Belgium, Spain and Italy are ranked at a-,along with Malaysia. Meanwhile, Dagong raised China to aa+ with Germany, the Netherlands and Canada. Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Singapore, along with resource-exporting heavyweights Australia and New Zealand, have the coveted aaa.

China and Taiwan signed an agreement on June 28 forging the strongest-ever trade ties between Asia’s rising giant and its longtime rival. The deal heralds a bold step toward reconciliation between the former enemies but has many Taiwanese concerned that their nation’s direction will erode its independence. The trade pact reduces tariffs and opens up mutual market access across the Taiwan Strait, but Taiwan is negotiating with an immensely powerful neighbor that does not recognize it as an independent entity.

Africa/Latin America

Somali Islamists from al Shabaab, a group linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for two bomb explosions that ripped through crowds watching the World Cup final in Uganda July 11, killing more than 70 people. Later that month, the African Union (AU) agreed to send 4,000 more troops to join its peacekeeping force in Somalia. If the extra troops materialize (not all AU nations make good on their promises), the AU will have over 10,000 soldiers in the country. Uganda, the main contributor to the peacekeeping force, has expanded its troops’ mandate beyond merely defending themselves against al Shabaab; soldiers can now preemptively attack the rebels if they feel the AU’s forces are under threat. Al Shabaab is also gaining strength thanks to a warlord in the northern part of the country, Sheik Mohamed Said Atom, allying himself with the militant group. More warlords may follow.

The Vatican is helping to bring Cuba out of diplomatic isolation and closer to Europe. On July 7, Cuban officials announced they would release 52 political prisoners, following nearly two months of talks between Cuba and the Vatican. EU nations have refused to have normal relations with Cuba because of its human rights record, but Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said the prisoner release opens a new era in Cuba.” Several commentators pointed out that the prisoner release doesn’t mean that conditions in Cuba are improving; the last prisoner release occurred in 1998, when Cuba released 101 prisoners after a visit by Pope John Paul ii. Watch for the common Catholic heritage of the EU and Latin America to bring the two blocs closer together.

Tensions between Venezuela and Colombia rose in July as outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of harboring Colombian rebels. Colombia presented photographic and video evidence before the Organization of American States on July 22 that 1,500 militants and several leaders belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (farc) were taking refuge in Venezuela. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with Colombia, saying Colombia’s accusations were really American-inspired “aggression.” On July 25, Venezuela said it would cut off oil to the U.S. if Colombia attacked.

Anglo-America

A U.S. federal district judge blocked the most contentious parts of Arizona’s new immigration law on July 28, preventing police from asking suspected illegal aliens for identification. The injunction was granted to the Department of Justice, which on July 6 sued Arizona, the state that is at the epicenter of illegal immigration into America. Watch this situation closely for its explosive potential to exacerbate racial tensions and social unrest in the United States.

British Prime Minister David Cameron attacked the “endless British preoccupation” with Britain’s special relationship with America at his White House debut July 20. The prime minister said he failed to understand the “absurd” anxiety about the state of Britain’s alliance with the U.S. He urged people to stop “overanalyzing the atmospherics” between the U.S. and the UK.

Three British Supreme Court judges have unanimously intervened for homosexuals who seek asylum in the UK. July 7 they ruled that the Home Office may not refuse asylum to homosexuals and expect them to return to their home countries. Rather than toning down their homosexual behavior in their home nations to avoid persecution, one judge said, these individuals should be “free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts and drinking exotically colored cocktails” in Britain.

The UK now ranks 17th in global manufacturing competitiveness according to an index published in June. Britain is expected to fall as low as 20th on the list by 2015. In 2009, the UK was responsible for 2.6 percent of the world’s manufacturing production, down from 5.5 percent in 1980.

Is a ‘Mega-Drought’ on the Way?

Is a ‘Mega-Drought’ on the Way?

Getty Images

Just one bad harvest away from the unthinkable

Seven years without rain. Three and a half years without rain. Have you ever read biblical accounts of drought and wondered if it could happen here? Could America survive seven years without rain? Studies indicate that the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the worst drought America has survived to date, was small compared to what North America commonly experienced before European colonization. Could it happen again?

This is an important question because more than ever the world is depending on America to feed it.

On August 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned all Russian wheat exports to conserve food. Drought and raging wildfires had decimated the world’s third-largest wheat exporter beyond expectations.

According to the Daily Mail, panic buying from Middle Eastern and African importers rocketed wheat prices up 70 percent and even risked sparking food wars.

Russia confirmed the fears of many: The world’s food supply is unnervingly precarious.

Ukraine is in drought, Australia is in drought. Canada was under water last spring. Pakistan is under water now. And the world’s population continues to soar.

Yet, America’s foremost experts—at the Department of Agriculture—still claim that world wheat production will reach the same level as last year. Have no fear, American wheat is here! A projected bumper harvest in America will offset shortfalls almost everywhere else. Let’s hope they are right.

But the reality is, even if the Department of Agriculture experts are right, food surpluses in America are not something the world should count on.

Here is a statistic that should give everyone cause for concern. Donald Coxe, the chief strategist of Harris Investment Management, says that North America as a whole has experienced uncharacteristically good weather for the last 18 consecutive years, which, combined with improvements in agriculture, has resulted in near-record harvests.

In fact, Coxe says, you have to go back hundreds of years to find a period of such favorable weather for so long a time.

Actually, paleoclimatic data indicates that during the last 400 years, the U.S. has probably received some of the best weather North America has had to offer over the past 2,000. Even considering the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, which sent over 1 million people fleeing, the last 200 years have been exceptionally good in comparison to historical norms, according to a report titled “2,000 Years of Drought Variability in the Central United States,” by Connie A. Woodhouse and Jonathan T. Overpeck (1998).

Four hundred years ago was the time British colonization of North America got started in Jamestown (1607). And despite the general greening trend beginning at that time, historians know how close that colony came to starvation. And just over 200 years ago was when America gained control over a huge chunk of probably the choicest agricultural land in the world—the Louisiana Purchase.

But the Louisiana Purchase wasn’t always such a breadbasket. Several lines of evidence show that the last 400 years have been abnormally green. Tree rings, archaeological remains, historical documents, lake sediments, and geomorphic data from across the U.S combine to support Woodhouse and Overpeck’s findings that the droughts prior to 1600 “significantly exceeded the severity, length and spatial extent of 20th-century droughts.” And other droughts between the years a.d. 1 to 1200 also “occurred on a scale that has not been duplicated since Europeans came to the Great Plains.” The researchers concluded that judging from past occurrences, droughts more severe than the 1930s and 1950s are “likely to occur” again in the future.

How dry could it get?

Well, if you thought the 1930s were bad, consider the “mega-droughts” of the 1500s. Two massive droughts spanning a cumulative 43 years blanketed the U.S during this pre-British colonization century. For 25 consecutive years (1539 to 1564) a “very severe” drought dried lakes and baked clay into bricks. Then, just when the land was beginning to recover, the heavens again dried up and a second mega-drought scorched the Central U.S. for another 18 years (1587 to 1605).

These droughts were so severe that the report’s authors say they probably cleared vast areas of all vegetation. Extensive sand-dune fields emerged, and as regions were stripped of their topsoil, other areas were buried by wind-borne sediments (creating many of America’s super-fertile Aeolian soils being farmed today). As year after year of drought took its toll, levels in groundwater aquifers dropped, smaller rivers dried up, and evidence indicates that the massive Colorado River’s flow rates plummeted. Widespread crop failures led to starvation and ignited mass migrations.

Yet, as severe as these 16th-century droughts were, there may have been even worse droughts in the 13th century (at least in the California Mountains and the Great Plains regions). Evidence suggests, according to the above-mentioned report, that “many droughts prior to the late 13th-century drought were at least decades in duration.”

Decades of drought! What would America do if it was hit with a drought encompassing California and the Great Plains—America’s breadbasket—that lasted for multiple decades? The 1930s drought, as terrible as it was, was actually four distinct droughts, none of which was much longer than two years. In addition, some of those dry years were separated by one or more years of normal rainfall.

Could America even survive a drought spanning multiple decades? Society would face collapse, but not one that is unprecedented.

Thousands of tourists each year gaze with wonder upon the massive cliff cities in the Southwest United States. Yet, the people who built them are long gone. When the first European explorers discovered the deserted castles, they asked the Navajo who built the great towers of rock. Because the Navajo did not know, they referred to the vanished former inhabitants as the Anasazi, meaning “the ancient ones.”

The Anasazi Indians in New Mexico vanished with barely a whimper around a.d. 1200. Yet at their peak, the Anasazi were a complexly organized, extensive, regionally integrated society that erected the largest stone buildings in pre-Columbian North America. In fact, their five- and six-story towers stood unrivaled until the Chicago steel-framed behemoths of the 1880s.

At its height, Chaco Canyon, the seat of the Anasazi civilization, may have contained 15,000 permanent inhabitants. A 9-meter-wide road connected multiple outlying communities, which provided corn, squash and other crops to the approximate 1,200 inhabitants of the capital city of Pueblo Bonito. Pueblo Bonito’s 800 rooms, some of them multiple stories, can still be observed today. Chaco Canyon flourished until sometime between 1150 and 1200, when it mysteriously and rapidly collapsed.

From tree-ring dating, it is known that a period of great drought came upon the Chaco area around a.d. 1130. This is confirmed by preserved remains of human waste that indicate a deteriorating diet. Jared Diamond, author of the book Collapse, reports that the first evidence of cannibalism and intensifying warfare appear shortly after this time.

But overall, cannibalism and warfare didn’t become all that pervasive. For the most part, it is as if the Chacoans just swept up and left. According to Diamond, it was a widespread planned evacuation because most rooms at the Anasazi sites lack the pottery and other useful objects that people would be expected to take with them but would be left behind if the unfortunate occupants were killed by invaders.

After Chaco was abandoned, some Anasazi seem to have temporarily flourished until the late 1200s at Mesa Verde, located somewhat to the north in Arizona—until they too were hit with an even bigger drought. According to Woodhouse and Overpeck, this time period, often referred to as the “Great Drought” in the Southwest, was contiguous with 38 years of drought shown in Nebraska tree-ring samples (1276 to 1313). The drought’s effects actually spread all the way into Minnesota. Consequently, by the end of the 13th century, the whole Anasazi area of the Colorado Plateau was being abandoned. Mass migrations took place as populations left their homes in search of food and to avoid war.

The lesson for us is in how quick these societies collapsed. After reaching its peak, the most advanced civilization of the time in North America (Chaco Canyon) lasted only 10 years before it completely collapsed and disappeared.

A drought of the scope and duration that befell the Anasazi would have “book of Revelation”-type consequences. If prices are as high as they are today, in relatively good times, they will dwarf the imagination when America experiences its next mega-drought.

And the consequences will be global.

America is not just the “breadbasket” of the world, it is the “cornbasket,” “soybeanbasket,” “oilseedbasket,” and many other baskets as well. Drought spillover effects would quickly go global.

Forty percent of the world’s corn supply is grown in the Midwest, for example. Plus, America produces 36 percent of all soybeans, 32 percent of coarse grains, 25 percent of the five major oil seeds, 20 percent of sorghum, 16 percent of cottonseed, and 9 percent of global wheat output. And astoundingly, all this bounty comes from a nation with only 4.6 percent of the world’s population and 6.2 percent of its landmass!

But how is it that the United States came into possession of so many agricultural blessings in the first place? And is it coincidence that at the same time America was just being settled, the climate turned the vast savannas and windswept deserts of the Midwest into an agricultural superstore? Does it seem probable that so few could be blessed with so much?

In his 1863 address advocating a national fast day, Abraham Lincoln pointed to why America has such vast wealth, and also why America could lose this wealth. Lincoln stated,

It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. … We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

President Lincoln knew that America’s agricultural wealth was a gift from God. You too can learn about God’s great gift of wealth to America by requesting your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy.

In this book, Herbert W. Armstrong comments on President Lincoln’s words:

Abraham Lincoln knew these great material blessings had not been earned, but had been given to our people by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel.And we should face the facts today and know that we were given all this vast unprecedented material wealth because God promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. And He promised it to Abraham because Abraham obeyed God, kept God’s laws and commandments.

America’s unprecedented agricultural wealth is a result of our patriarch Abraham’s obedience. The root cause of food shortages and skyrocketing prices is America’s failure to recognize that its wealth was given to it by God—which has led people to vainly disregard the laws outlined in the Bible. For this cause, the blessings are being removed today by supernatural intervention!

That is the one major factor that climatologists leave out of the picture. They tend to look to so-called natural phenomena as reasons for Earth’s current climatic variations. Yet God has already predetermined that great weather fluctuations will impact the U.S., Britain and other Anglo-Saxon nations due to their rebellion against the Most High! “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass” (Leviticus 26:9).

As Coxe indicated in 2008, over the past 18 years America fed the world. But if America were to ever have a drought, who would feed it?

History shows, the mega-droughts are on their way—and this time, it won’t be a casual 1930s-style walk in the park.

Germany: Immigration Debate Rages On

Germany: Immigration Debate Rages On

John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

A new book by a German central banker argues that Muslim immigrants are draining the nation’s prosperity.

A political storm about immigration is brewing in Germany, with a prominent board member of the country’s central bank at its epicenter. Thilo Sarrazin, in a new book called Abolishing Germany—How We’re Putting Our Country in Jeopardy, claims that Muslim immigrants are destroying Germany’s prosperity.

In the book, Sarrazin details what he calls Germany’s demise, saying that constant immigration and higher birth rates among immigrants mean that Germany is effectively turning Muslim.

In an excerpt published last Thursday by the German daily Bild, Sarrazin said there were “good grounds” for worry about Muslims throughout Europe.

“There is no other religion with such a flowing transition to violence, dictatorship and terrorism,” he wrote.

“I don’t want the country of my grandchildren and forefathers to be in broad swathes Muslim, where Turkish and Arabic is widely spoken, where women wear headscarves and where the daily rhythm of life is set by the call of the muezzins,” Sarrazin wrote in an excerpt published by Spiegel Online on August 25.

Sarrazin stirred up additional controversy in an August 29 interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag, in which he said that all “all Jews share a certain gene, all Basques have certain genes that make them different from other people.”

While most leading German politicians have taken their obligatory turn criticizing Sarrazin’s remarks, this is not his first time stirring up such debate—and surviving the backlash.

In the fall of 2009, Sarrazin said that Arabs and Turks in Berlin “have no productive function other than in the fruit and vegetable trade,” that they mooch off the government, and “constantly produce little girls in headscarves.”

After his recent remarks, Sarrazin was urged to step down from the Bundesbank’s board, but he resisted the pressure and remained in his position. His central bank board membership and his seven-year run as Berlin’s finance minister fuel concerns that Sarrazin’s stance toward Jews and Muslims reflects a view shared by many in the German power elite. Also worrisome to some analysts is the fanfare of publicity surrounding the publishing of Sarrazin’s new book, and the vast amount of print that Germany’s media have devoted to his racist remarks.

Sarrazin appears to be striving to nudge the heated immigration debate into the direction of right-wing populists elsewhere in Europe, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, who is gaining in popularity. In Germany’s politically restrained atmosphere, Sarrazin’s racist remarks, and the coverage the media gives them, are significant.

For decades, Europe has been tolerant of the steady growth of Islam’s presence in society. But headlines from the last few years reveal that tolerance to be thinning: the Danish Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons of Muhammad in 2005, France’s moves to ban burkas and deport Gypsies, the Swiss vote to outlaw new minarets, and the list goes on.

Bible prophecy makes plain that tensions between Europe and Muslims in and outside of the European Union will build and eventually culminate in a seismic blitzkrieg clash. We can expect anti-Islamic ideas from German leaders like Sarrazin to amplify in the months and years ahead. For more, read The King of the South and Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.

Germany Pushes Serbia on Kosovo

Germany Pushes Serbia on Kosovo

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has told Serbia that it must accept Kosovo’s independence. “Kosovo’s independence is reality,” he said. “There is no point in denying the facts.”

“A day will come for representatives of Belgrade and Pristina to sit at the same table and speak about the EU. It may now seem like a utopia for you, but it can be achieved. Reconciliation can succeed if you face reality. Independent Kosovo is a reality and the opinion of the International Court of Justice has uniquely confirmed it,” he told students at Belgrade University on August 26.

“The map of southeastern Europe has been laid down and completed.”

Westerwelle made it clear that Serbia had to accept Kosovo’s independence if it wants to be in the EU. “In our view, one can only be a member of the European Union if one aims for cooperation and is prepared to resolve neighborly difficulties cooperatively,” he said after a meeting with Serb Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic.

Serbia wants to join the EU but is unlikely to do so before 2015.

Since Westerwelle’s visit, Serbia has softened its stance slightly.

In July, Serbia submitted a resolution to the General Assembly at the United Nations stating that “unilateral secession is not an acceptable way to solve territorial issues” and calling for a “mutually acceptable solution to all open issues.” If passed, the resolution would be non-binding.

President Boris Tadic said he would be willing to discuss a compromise over this resolution, saying he wanted a resolution “that will remain in line with Serbia’s national interests but will also please big powers.”

However, he also stated, “Serbia will never recognize Kosovo. That is a red line that we will not cross.”

But the International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization, said it believes Serbia and Kosovo are ready for some kind of deal. Serbia, it believes, would be willing to swap Albanian land in southern Serbia for land inhabited mainly by Serbs in northern Kosovo. “Neither Pristina nor Belgrade proposes this openly, but officials in both capitals have begun to speak of it quietly,” it said.

Both Serbs and Kosovars insist that this is not the case.

As the Trumpet has explained for years, Germany was behind the breakup of Yugoslavia. It orchestrated Kosovo’s independence. Now it is simply mopping up.

Having Serbia recognize an independent Kosovo, and then join the EU, allows Germany to tidy up its colonization of the Balkans. This strategically important area of land will have gone from an anti-Western power to an EU colony.

The EU already dominates the Balkans. Now it is working toward a tidy finish.

For more on Germany’s invasion of the Balkans, see our free booklet The Rising Beast—Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans.