In which I play the role of Old Testament prophet

Last week — would you believe it, with Passover just two weeks away! — a plague of locusts struck the Middle East, leaving behind a trail of agricultural destruction and countless news editors to argue over whether the plague was indeed Biblical in its proportions:

Jewish Press: Eighth Plague – Locusts – Invade Israel

New York Times: A Locust Plague, Shy of Biblical Proportions, in Israel

NBC News: Locust swarm of biblical proportions strikes Egypt, Israel before Passover

Algemeiner: Israel Escapes Locust Plague in Advance of Passover

TIME: Locust Swarms Descend on Egypt Like Biblical Plague

Naturally, the other plagues felt somewhat left out. So it was that today’s headlines brought us this story:

Japan says it has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast, in a world first.

The gas field is about 50km away from Japan’s main island, in the Nankai Trough. Researchers say it could provide an alternative energy source for Japan which imports all its energy needs.

Another name for methane hydrate: “fire ice” — which should sound familiar to anyone who is a fan of Game of Thrones… or, more pertinently, has read Exodus 9:24:

 So there was hail, and fire flashing up amidst the hail — וַיְהִי בָרָד–וְאֵשׁ, מִתְלַקַּחַת בְּתוֹךְ הַבָּרָד

As long as I’m quoting the Bible, it can’t hurt to turn this into a Dvar Environment — and let’s be honest, it can never hurt to turn something into a Dvar Environment — so here goes: If we (mankind) continue our quest to burn every last trace of fossil fuel that can physically be extracted from the earth — for evidence we’re trying, see “fire ice”, shale oil, tar sands, natural gas, and friends — we can expect to see a lot more headlines referencing Biblical plagues.

Sure, climate change will decrease frog (2) populations and melt hail (7) into rain, but on balance, I don’t think we’re going to like it very much.

On a warming planet, many scientists foresee increased incidences of blood disease (1), lice (3), migrating wild animals (4), zoonotic pestilence (5), infectious disease (6), hail (7), and locusts (8). And those are just the plagues God was creative enough to come up with originally, to say nothing of stronger — and possibly more frequent — hurricanes, rising sea levels, massive flooding, endemic drought, acidic oceans, higher temperatures, and all sorts of other fun things.

So at the risk of sounding alarmist — but really, we could use more prophets of doom — unless we find a way to turn out the lights (9), we may have a lot more dead on our hands than just all the firstborn of Egypt (10). And speaking of firstborn, we’ll have also squandered our birthright, and our children’s birthright, and our children’s children’s birthright…


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