The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Video: 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

A four minute video on world wealth and health that is a more interesting presentation of statistics than the norm:

The video ends on an optimistic note: everything is getting better and better, even for those down at the bottom. I would be more cautious: while life expectancy has improved for all but the poorest of the poor, there are still a billion people down at the bottom who have been left behind. And there is no guarantee that the trend will continue, as development runs into the walls of energy and water shortages, and with the ever-present risk of conflict, disease, and general human folly.

HT: Don R


This graph, along with many others, is available in an interactive format at gapminderworld.org. For example, the GDP per capita/life expectancy graph from the 200 Countries video can be stopped or run backwards, and you can point to individual dots to see what country is represented. For example, I followed the “South Africa” dot and watched it move from 61 years life expectancy in the mid-1980s to 50 years at present (a result largely of the ongoing AIDS crisis).

The X and Y axes of the chart can be changed to all sorts of things related to health, population, economics, education, the environment, and others. For example, here is a graph showing the relationship between adult female literacy rates and child mortality rates. The graph shows that Chad has the lowest adult female literacy rate (21%) and the highest infant mortality rate (209 child deaths per 1000 births).

Data can also be portrayed as a map. This map can run showing population changes from 1555 to 2030:

Grace and Peace

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Geography, Health, International Development | Leave a comment

Operation World — missions and the Earth and environmental sciences

One of the most significant influences that directed me into missionary service (my family served with ReachGlobal—the international mission of the Evangelical Free Church of America—from 2002 to 2008) was when we purchased a copy of Operation World back in the early days of our marriage. This book is a day-by-day prayer guide to the nations. For example, April 4 is Chile, and June 19-July 4 is India. This book helped open our eyes to both the needs and opportunities to advance the Kingdom of God through evangelism and related ministries around the globe.

The 7th edition of Operation World came out just a few months ago, and God is using it to get me thinking more about missions.

The first section (January 1-11) contains an overview of what is going on in the entire world. As on the pages for individual countries, the section on the world begins with answers to prayer:

  • “The unprecedented harvest of new believers continues across Africa, Asia and Latin America, in contrast to the relative stagnation or decline in the rest of the world.”
  • “The concept of Christianity as a European ‘White-man’s religion’ is demonstrably a myth. Though sometimes small in number, all but concealed, or mostly members of a minority people group, there are now Christians living and fellowshipping in every country on earth.”
  • “Evangelical Christianity grew at a rate faster than any other world religion or global religious movement.”
  • “The gospel took root within hundreds of the world’s least reached people groups.”
  • “Give thanks for… A more holistic understanding of evangelical mission within the Church. Ministry that cares for orphans and widows, uplifts the poor, brings liberty to the oppressed and sets captives free reflects the heart of God.”
  • And many other answers to prayer: the growth of non-western missions, cooperation between missionaries from different countries and denominations, Bible translation (95% of the world has access to the Bible in a language they know).

Being that this is “The GeoChristian,” I want to draw attention to some ways that Christian ministry around the world is affected by the Earth and environmental sciences (and thus how Christian Earth and environmental scientists can minister to the world). Here are some Earth and environment-related quotes:

Increased levels of consumption, especially when adopted by the billions of people in Asia, may push the already-stretched resources of the world over the brink. The world must be weaned off its reliance upon fossil fuels and extraction economies (mining, logging, fishing, others), and more sustainable alternatives must be developed, especially as massive new economies in the Majority World push hard to catch up to the West.

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Threats to human health, including disease. HIV/AIDS has been the high profile disease of the past 20 years, but treatments, increasing awareness and changing behaviour patterns see infection rates declining. Cancer continues to take many lives all over the world. New, resistant strains of old diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, are spreading. HIV, SARS and H5N1 are examples of recent pandemics; fears abound of new ones, more virulent and deadly. Less glamorously, diseases associated with malnutrition, poverty, unclean water supplies and lack of sanitation are even greater threats to children—pneumonia, diarrhoea, TB and others. Included in this is malaria, which kills as many people globally as AIDS and has a similarly devastating effect on economies. Air and water pollution probably contribute to as many deaths annually as all of these diseases combined.

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Energy research is possibly the highest profile and most globally important area needing technological progress. Fossil fuels are highly polluting, nuclear power dangerous and alternative energies—such as bio-fuels, solar, wind and wave—are as yet inefficient and inadequate. More than ever before, finding efficient, safe, non-polluting, renewable energy sources is attracting greater research and investment. A breakthrough in energy technology would transform the world’s economy and ecology.

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Water will be among the world’s most crucial issues in the future. Given that sufficient fresh water exists globally to sustain humanity (even if the locations of water sources and human population do not match up well), the salient issues on a global level are more about ethics, equity, distribution and consumption.

a) Access to clean water. Already, around one in six people lacks access to safe drinking water; by 2025, it is estimated that three billion will lack access to fresh water. Additionally, nearly one in three lacks access to adequate sanitation, and this in turn contributes greatly to disease, malnutrition and mortality, especially among children.

b) Current wastefulness. The developed world uses more than 30 times more water per person than the developing world. And the vast bulk of water waste is through inefficient agricultural systems, which account for 70% of humanity’s use of fresh water. Even diets (such as high consumption of red meat) that require much more water are a source of inequitable water use; the aspirations of most of the world to Western lifestyles, consumption levels and industrial output will generate even more waste and place even greater stresses on water supplies.

c) Future societal and demographic changes. The large majority of future population growth will be in areas where safe water is in short supply. This, combined with ever greater industrialization (greater demands for water) and urbanization (population moving further from clean water sources), means that demands on water supplies will be even more intense in the future.

d) Over-exploitation of limited water resources is poised to become a serious problem in the USA, Australia, southern Europe, South Asia, China and much of Africa. Aquifers are overtapped and rivers are running dry. Water-rich countries such as Canada and Russia are moving to secure their own vast supplies of fresh water. Tension and even conflict already exist over:

i. The Amu Darya/Oxus of Central Asia.

ii. The Tigris-Euphrates (Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran).

iii. The Jordan (Israel, Syria, Jordan).

iv. The Nile (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia).

v. The nations to the north and south of the Sahara Desert.

These factors combined spell out the inevitability of increasing tensions over limited water supplies, of greater pressure to reduce waste and make desalinization more efficient and of the drive behind massive levels of migration

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Demands for other natural resources, when combined with population growth and increasing levels of consumption, are at the core of what will make or break human civilization’s progress in the 21st century.

a) Energy consumption is still vastly dominated by non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels. Until greener and more renewable sources can be developed to a level that makes them feasible alternatives, nuclear power might be the only other alternative.

b) Food production is another area where great changes are afoot. Genetically modified crops, the environmental impact of current agricultural systems and current trends in global dietary patterns all raise serious economic, environmental and ethical questions—from organic foods to raising cattle to fishing. The existence of food is not a problem for the world’s masses; at the heart of most problems are the amount of waste and the cost and difficulty of production and distribution. Growing crops for fuel, rather than food, intensifies these troubles.

c) Other natural resources are also being rapidly depleted. Some resources, such as old-growth hardwood trees, can be renewed, though not nearly at the speed demanded by consumption. Others, such as minerals, are non-renewable, yet they are being extracted and used at increasing rates.

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Climate change is now generally accepted as having a human causal component. Population growth, rapid industrialization and increasing consumption have an undeniable environmental/ecological impact. The negative implications of possible global warming are: desertification, soil exhaustion, greater frequency of natural disasters such as flooding and drought, water table salinization, flooding in low-lying coastal systems, massive loss of habitat for millions of species and unprecedented human migration. The staggering scale of waste and pollution—from plastics to pesticides to hormones and more—affects our water systems, our climate and even our biology. Despite the fact that humans still know little about these complex dynamics, green ethics have almost become a religion in themselves, the adherence to which is demanded in much of the developed world. However, it has also fostered in the Church the rightful and necessary development of a theology of Creation stewardship and compelled Christians to reconsider how biblical our lifestyles are.

Water, energy, food production, climate change. These are critical subjects that will effect the church and the entire world in the 21st century. Will Christians be right in the thick of research, action, and advocacy, or will we leave that to someone else (while billions suffer)?

Operation World can be purchased from Amazon.com and many other places. Buy it and pray for the nations.

Grace and Peace

January 18, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Ethics, Future, Geology, Health, Missions | , , , | 3 Comments

Nature is good for you

From LiveScience.com: Got Nature? Why You Need to Get Out.

We do better physically and mentally when we are regularly exposed to nature, even if it is the somewhat artificial surroundings of a city park. It is true for adults as well as for children.

As Christians, we know something of the value of taking retreats in nature, though in our busyness we sometimes forget:

“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” — Wendell Berry

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be — I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” — Wendell Berry

Grace and Peace

April 13, 2009 Posted by | Environment, Health | | Leave a comment

Self stem cells

Once again, it is using one’s own body’s stem cells where medical progress is being made, without the ethical or medical problems associated with using embryonic stem cells: Revolutionary stem cell therapy boosts body’s ability to heal itself (from The Guardian).

A groundbreaking medical treatment that could dramatically enhance the body’s ability to repair itself has been developed by a team of British researchers.

The therapy, which makes the body release a flood of stem cells into the bloodstream, is designed to heal serious tissue damage caused by heart attacks and even repair broken bones. It is expected to enter animal trials later this year and if successful will mark a major step towards the ultimate goal of using patients’ own stem cells to regenerate damaged and diseased organs.

Grace and Peace

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Ethics, Health | , | Leave a comment

100

My grandmother, on my mother’s side, lived to be 100. My wife’s grandmother, on her father’s side, turned 100 yesterday. I guess it looks good for women in my family.

Yahoo had a story yesterday: 4 Surprising signs you’ll live a long time. Here they are:

  1. Don’t drink pop. All that sugar either makes you fat or raises your triglyceride levels.
  2. Keep your legs strong. Walk. Exercise.
  3. Be born before your mother turns 25. I guess there’s not much I can do about that.
  4. Eat and drink purple things. Grapes, blueberries, red wine. I guess purple Jolly Ranchers don’t count.

Grace and Peace

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Health | Leave a comment

Cell transformation

Once again, news reports are showing that using human embryonic stem cells for research is not only immoral, but perhaps scientifically unnecessary. An article in the science journal Nature reports that ordinary pancreas cells in adult mice have been transformed into cells that produce insulin. Here are the first few paragraphs from an article on Yahoo news:

Talk about an extreme makeover: Scientists have transformed one type of cell into another in living mice, a big step toward the goal of growing replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases.

The cell identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churns out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. But its implications go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.

It’s the second advance in about a year that suggests that someday doctors might be able to use a patient’s own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells taken from embryos.

The advantages of using a patient’s own cells, rather than cells from an embryo, are numerous. Not only do we avoid the ethical problems of destroying a human embryo, the genetic match is perfect. We can be thankful for this type of research.

Grace and Peace

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Biology, Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

Asexual Reproduction

Gene Edward Veith (Cranach) has a post on generating human embryos from human skin cells. The ability to generate stem cells from skin cells was a promising medical breakthrough that bypasses the serious ethical concerns that are associated with embryonic stem cell research; the ability to create an entire human being brings all kinds of ethical issues back once again.

We humans have a marvelous ability to take nature and/or technology and pervert it into something dreadful. This is true whether we consider nuclear physics, genetics, chemical engineering, or any other field of human inquiry. It also includes sex. Veith asks:

We have already separated sex from procreation. We have also separated procreation from sex. (Artificial insemination at least uses the sexual cells. This method dispenses with that, finding a skin cell sufficient.) Reportedly, an artificial womb will soon be feasible. Do you think, in the future, that pregnancy will become obsolete?

Veith says it better than I can, so read the his blog post here: Asexual Reproduction?

Grace and Peace

January 19, 2008 Posted by | Biology, Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

HIV/AIDS: A.B.C., S.L.O.W., or S.T.O.P.?

Christianity Today has an article on Kay Warren’s framework for fighting HIV/AIDS. (Kay Warren is the Wife of Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren).

The article is HIV/AIDS: S.L.O.W. It Down, or S.T.O.P. It?

The approach that has been promoted by many Christians in places like Africa is ABC —

  • A — Abstinence
  • B — Be faithful
  • C — Condoms

To me, ABC is a no-brainer. Virgins don’t get HIV. Mutually faithful couples don’t get HIV. And in the larger community, consistent use of condoms will reduce the transmission rate of HIV.

The SLOW/STOP approach seems to build on this, and addresses some of the legitimate criticisms of the ABC program. SLOW/STOP has the two-pronged goal of slowing the transmission of the virus in the general population, and stopping it among those who will listen to moral reasoning.

Read the article for a description of SLOW and STOP.

You don’t have to be a Purpose Driven Life fan (I’m not) in order to admire the work of compassion that is going on here. I do wonder why they have copyrighted the SLOW and STOP acrostics.

Grace and Peace

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Ethics, Health | Leave a comment

How would you like to have an ear on your arm?

From Scientific American’s blog Sciam Observations: Man implants “ear” in arm.

[The man] had a surgeon implant a human ear (grown from cells in a lab) into his left forearm. The next step in his living exhibit? “I hope to have a tiny microphone implanted [in]to it that will connect with a Bluetooth transmitter.”

Sounds useful.

Grace and Peace

October 13, 2007 Posted by | Health | 1 Comment

Deadly Popcorn

Headline: Doctor warns consumers of popcorn fumes

My wife (who likes her microwave popcorn!) said this sounds like Super-Size Me. This guy had several bags of microwave popcorn per day for years!

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2007 Posted by | Health | 1 Comment

Anti-smoking videos on YouTube

In Biology (9th/10th grades) we just finished the unit on the circulatory and respiratory systems. Here are a couple of short anti-smoking videos from YouTube:

Smoking Through a Hole in Her Throat

Cigarettes and Arteries

Grace and Peace

May 7, 2007 Posted by | Health | Leave a comment

Eat Well Part 2

A few weeks ago I had a simple quote from Scientific American Blog:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Don Darrick at The Evangelical Ecologist has good dietary advice, with a few more details:

Here’s how I have made my diet more natural:

1. Reduced soda (or pop) intake to virtually zero. Increased water intake and 100% fruit drinks (like orange juice). Get rid of the diet pop (no nutritional value, lots of chemicals) and have some O.J.

2. Switched to whole grain breads, pastas and cereals. Sorry, no low-carb or all-carb diet here. Extreme diets are generally not the way to go for most people. Balanced diets are. It’s the exercise/activity part most people have problems with.

3. Don’t add salt to anything. Yes, salt is natural, but spices are too and have lots of nutritional value. There’s enough salt in foods already.

4. No more of those fatty, prepackaged, shrink wrapped snacks. There’s a reason why they’re called “junk” food.

5. Eat out less and eat better when we do go out. Even “good” food like chicken can be bad at fast food places. But it’s better than hamburgers all the time. Skip the greasy appetizer and get a salad.

6. Regularly take multi-vitamin supplement. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t do this because all of our factory foods loose a lot of their vitamins during processing and cooking. Haven’t been sick in over a year since I started taking vitamins on a regular basis. Granted, I didn’t get sick very often to being with, but it’s no medical secret that getting your vitamins improves all aspects of your health including the immune system.

I’ll have to work hardest on #1 — I drink too much pop. But I haven’t had any today!

Grace and Peace

March 1, 2007 Posted by | Health | Leave a comment

Eat well

From Scientific American Blog:

The best dietary advice is fundamentally, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Not too complicated. Not very expensive. Not tied to the latest diet fad. Good for your heart, and your wallet.

However, I’ll still eat a good steak every once in a while.

Grace and Peace

January 30, 2007 Posted by | Health, Scientific American | Leave a comment