Environmental apocalypse: fire and flood

Russia is on fire, and Pakistan is under water. Scientific studies have not convinced the climate change-deniers to act to … Continued

Russia is on fire, and Pakistan is under water. Scientific studies have not convinced the climate change-deniers to act to save the planet. Perhaps an imaginative game change is what is called for. “Global weirding” is one such imaginative breakthrough, but let’s not rule out the fire and flood imagery of Armageddon, especially as apocalyptic imagery can well symbolize the mounting security threat nations face because of the social, political and economic chaos of accelerating climate change.

The Center for a New American Security has posted a link to a Pentagon report that says, in part, that new patterns in the weather “may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” This is certainly the case in a place like Pakistan, where, as Richard Holbrooke, the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, argues, this catastrophe “is not just another flood in Asia, a headline which doesn’t get much attention here. This is the worst floods, monsoon floods in Pakistan’s history since well before independence. 1926 was the last thing this size. Secondly, it looks like the area affected has at least 14 million to 20 million people in it. So far the death, that’s far more than the tsunami and Haiti combined.” It is huge problem from a security standpoint, to summarize this interview with Holbrooke, because it is politically, economically and militarily destabilizing. It is critial to see that the magnitude of these climate events and the resulting social, political and economic chaos is exactly the climate in which violent extremist groups such as the Taliban or Al Qaeda thrive.

The scope of the world-wide instability that rapid global climate change is starting to precipitate is not conveyed in the term “global warming.” “Global warming” has proven to be a failure as the primary description for what is happening to the planet through climate change. It doesn’t compute for people. “Global weirding” is a much better term because it begins to get at the fundamentally chaotic nature of what is happening. I’m glad to see the term “global weirding” is catching on, and being used for this, the hottest summer

This winter, I wrote “Snowmageddon a sign of global weirding” for “On Faith.” I firmly believe we need to give up on the nice-sounding, gentle-seeming, bathing-suit wearing weather kind of language that “global warming” implies, and get to the weirdness of it all. In that post, I wrote about the “sin” of climate change deniers, digging out from under such weird, weird weather and still refusing to connect the dots on climate change.

Pathetically Incorrect!” railed the conservative blogs. “Global Warming Snow Job” bellowed the Washington Times.

Global weirding” hits a conservative nerve in the way that “global warming” never has and never will. Every time the weather is not sweltering, the climate change denier will find it easy to connect with people’s personal experience of the weather. Even so, while 2010 is “on track” to be the hottest on record according to climate scientists, this has not produced the change of heart and mind needed to convince conservatives to act to avert even more global environmental catastrophes. And these fires and floods are evidence of a global environmental catastrophe.

While weird weather comes and goes, what’s really very weird is that the floods in Pakistan and the Russian fires may even be connected. Meteorologists who are observing the atmosphere above the northern hemisphere are blaming an unusual pattern in the jet stream. The jet stream stalled, allowing weather systems to sit still. “Temperatures rocketed and rainfall reached extremes.”

But what might really break through in terms of the popular imagination connecting fire and flood and mounting threat from world-wide chaos is biblical apocalyptic. These events can been seen as signs of a global environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions. Revelation 8: 12 tells of the “woes” to come at the apocalypse; the text sounds like it was taken from the weather report in western Russia where fires are devastating the country’s wheat crop. When the first trump sounds, “there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”

A fifth of Pakistan is under water, and floods are ravaging parts of Asia. Rampaging floods make their appearance in the apocalypse, pouring out death on the hapless inhabitants of the earth. “Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river.” Rev. 12: 15

The ‘world-ending’ imagery of the earth burning up and snakes spewing water over the land is judgment for the sinful acts of humankind. Failure to act decisively to stop, and perhaps even, over time, reverse the worst effects of global weirding is sin, pure and simple. And the earth will exact revenge for this desecration. In fact, already is exacting such revenge.

The resulting chaos is a huge and potentially catastrophic security threat. It’s positively apocalyptic.


Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • ProudWarmist

    The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

  • ProudWarmist

    Let me repeat, Oh ye of little faith, The Sky is Falling! Hurry Hurry, sign up for cap and trade, before the loving old man in the sky decides to kill you. And, as an added bonus, reduce your standard of living now, and help fight the war on terror. No wonder the AGW faithful are losing the propaganda war. Global Weirding??? You mean if it is too hot, or too cold, or too dry, or too wet, or too sunny or too cloudy…it must be due to global warming! How Pathetic. If I were you, Susan, I would find another religion or career. I hear Al Gore is hiring personal massage therapists.

Read More Articles

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.