The End Times

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

“All the evidence shows that we are nearing the end of man’s tragic experiment in independence from God.”

Wow, I thought. They get it. And suddenly I felt a burst of solidarity with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words are from one of their tracts, which was given to me because I have this passion for talking about God — a wild glee, almost, for stepping up to The Big Serious and wrestling theology with the neighborhood proselytizers.

There are other ways to express the urgency of our situation, leaving God out of it. An eco-conscious soul might warn that the human species must reconnect with indigenous wisdom and the circle of life. But no matter. What strikes me is the growing recognition, in so many quarters, of the unsustainability of our global culture and the need for, and inevitability of, profound change.

Indeed, it’s more than mere “recognition” — it’s a primal disorientation. The culture of moneyed interests, war and techno-diversion, which is global in scope, is killing us at the same time that its media apologists, and the anonymous experts and authorities they quote, reassure us that everything is fine and under control.

I think the Christian End Times movement (the message of my Jehovah’s Witness tract), the growing buzz over the Mayan calendar prediction (we shift into a new age on Dec. 21, 2012 . . . you can even order end-of-world mugs and T-shirts) and the science-based urgency of climate-change warnings all emanate from the same rawly intuitive sense: An unprecedented planetary shift is under way, which we can aggravate and perhaps turn into Armageddon if we continue ignoring our own thoughtless contributions to the situation.

“All the evidence shows that we are nearing the end of man’s tragic experiment in independence from God.”

Here’s another way this thought gets put:

“The world’s oceans are faced with an unprecedented loss of species comparable to the great mass extinctions of prehistory, a major report suggests today. The seas are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted, the report says, because of the cumulative impact of a number of severe individual stresses, ranging from climate warming and sea-water acidification, to widespread chemical pollution and gross overfishing.”

Thus began an article last week in the U.K.’s Independent by environment editor Michael McCarthy, on the recently issued report of a panel of leading marine scientists convened in Oxford earlier this year by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The human contribution to oceanic dead zones is significant:

“. . . new scientific research suggests that pollutants, including flame-retardant chemicals and synthetic musks found in detergents, are being traced in the polar seas, and that these chemicals can be absorbed by tiny plastic particles in the ocean which are in turn ingested by marine creatures such as bottom-feeding fish.

“Plastic particles also assist the transport of algae from place to place, increasing the occurrence of toxic algal blooms — which are also caused by the influx of nutrient-rich pollution from agricultural land.”

And then there’s the Las Conchas fire, one of several wildfires now tearing across the state of New Mexico. The blaze has already forced the evacuation of thousands of people in Los Alamos, home of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a vast complex housing much of the nation’s nuclear weapons research.

But not to worry. A Reuters story assures us that — what else? — everything is fine: “Explosive materials on the laboratory’s grounds are stored safely in underground bunkers made of concrete and steel, as well as earthen berms,” according to a spokesman for the lab (and not simply the lab, but the entire military-industrial status quo).

The story abandons us in a state of feel-good pseudo-security, not bothering to report the technical concerns of environmentalists, e.g.: “One (concern) is the fact that over six decades the Lab has blown up a lot of uranium and depleted uranium in dynamic high explosives experiments in the general area in front of the fire,” according to an update from New Mexico’s Nuclear Watch blog, quoted by former lab scientist Subhankar Banerjee. “We don’t know to what extent the shrapnel or debris has been cleaned up and could possibly be aerosolized.”

Speaking of the entire nuclear industry — both the weapons- and energy-production components — which is reeling from environmental disasters from Japan to Nebraska to New Mexico, Harvey Wasserman writes: “We know only two things for certain: Worse is yet to come, and those in charge are lying about it — at least to the extent of what they actually know, which is nowhere near enough.”

In a sense, “those in charge” is all of us. We’re in charge of our own awareness, and we can remain in denial or grope, individually and collectively, for the wisdom that will help us face, and survive, whatever is to come.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, contributor to One World, Many Peaces and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available. Contact him at or visit his website at