Sunday, 28 April 2013

Gems from The Hiding Place

In Holland during World War II and the decade leading up to it a  Christian family sheltered Jews from Nazi arrest and in consequence were themselves arrested.

The Hiding Place by the Dutch lady Corrie ten Boom, with co-writers John and Elizabeth Sherril, tells the story of courage in the face of evil – or rather it shows the power of God’s light to shine in the darkness. In my view the horrors of Germany in that period arose from a kind of supernatural belief in the superiority of the Teutonic race and the supernatural destiny of the German nation. Nationalism had already gained a hold in the decades leading up to World War I and this nationalism had arisen to fill a spiritual vacuum created by attacks on the Christian faith and its institutions by German writers and philosophers such as Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche.

Apart from the general cautionary lesson on the horrific consequences of aggressive atheism when malignant forces rush to fill the spiritual vacuum, a number of passages had a special impact.

After World War II finished a former prison camp guard asks Corrie ten Bloom to forgive him, as Christ commanded. She cannot bring herself to do this. He offers her his hand.

 ‘And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him while into my heart a current seemed to pass from  Him while my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

‘And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself.’

Earlier in the book she and her sister were holding an underground multi-denominational service in Barrack 28 which, incredibly, no-one stopped. 'Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Eastern Orthodox took part together. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings below the light bulb. I would think of Haarlem (the town in Holland where her family had sheltered Jews), each substantial church set behind its wrought-iron fence and its barrier of doctrine. And I would know again that in darkness God’s truth shines most clear.’

A few pages before she had obtained a Bible which she hid in a small bag. ‘Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little sack with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new, it had just been written. I marvelled sometimes that the ink was dry. I had believed the Bible always, but reading it now had nothing to do with belief. It was simply a description of the way things were – of hell and heaven, of how men act and how God acts. I had read a thousand times the story of Jesus’ arrest – how soldiers slapped Him, laughed at Him, flogged Him. Now such happenings had faces and voices.’

In the years before the war there is a chilling observation by her brother Willem, who was studying at a German university. Only a century before godlessness was corroding the souls of the German intelligentsia and this, I believe, was the result:

‘Oftentimes, indeed, I wished that Willem did not see quite so well, for much that he saw was frightening. A full ten years ago, back in 1927, Willem had written in his doctoral thesis, done in Germany, that a terrible evil was taking root in that land. Right at the university, he said, seeds were being planted of contempt for human life such as the world had never seen. The few who had read his paper had laughed.’

A spiritual vacuum had been created by German philosophers such as Marx, Hegel and Nietzsche. When belief in God is eroded history shows that people believe in anything.

Occultism and the concept of the superman started with Nietzsche(1844-1900) who preached against the teachings of Christ.  Before being pronounced insane he managed to plant into the mind of many an intellectual the belief that all depended on you, not God, and that if you did not dominate others you deserved to be dominated .  The weak and poor in spirit were to be despised and exploited. Nationalism, arising to replace Christianity,  led the unfortunate German people to seek world domination in World War I (1914-1918) as well as World War II (1939-1945).


The growing darkness did not manifest itself in elections even as late as 1928, when the Nazi Party received only 2.8% of the popular vote, having only 12 seats out of 491 in the Reichstag. In 1933 the Nazi vote had risen to 43.9%. Jews, the disabled,  gypsies, old people and communists were subject to persecution, both officially and through individuals who had absorbed Nazi doctrine and believed in the power of the clenched fist.


Could anyone have forecast this? Or the horrific effects of Stalinism in Russia and Maoism in China? Hundreds of millions of lives lost throughout the 20th century and many more ruined by eclipsing the Creator with human pride, albeit with good intentions in the case of Communism.  Could something similar happen again even in a secular Parliamentary democracy, as Germany was at the time the Nazi Party rose to power? I invite you to reflect on this.

Author 2077 AD.
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Monday, 22 April 2013

China's bold action on climate change

In the Pliocene Epoch (2.3-5.6 million years ago)  average temperatures were 2-3 degrees C above the present, corresponding to a sea level some 25 metres higher than today.

There is an emerging world consensus that even if the rich countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions to zero over the next 20 years the average world temperature will rise to 1.25 deg C above the present average. Since pre-industrial (late 19th century) times the global average has already risen 0.75 deg C and the rate of increase is itself increasing, so that, assuming there is a significant connection between temperature rise and sea level increase, these Pliocene sea levels could be reached this century. Since most cities are near rivers and on coasts this would be disastrous.


So the pressure is on the developing world to drastically cut its emissions while growing economically even if the developed world stops all its greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade or so.


The world’s two biggest economies are the USA and China. The latest figures from the Factbook on my iPhone:


  • USA:   GDP per person  =  $48,300 (2011)

  • China: GDP per person  =  $8,400 (2011)

But China’s population (1.34 billion) is about 4x the USA’s so there is scope for the economic activity to grow enormously should it succeed in reforming its economic structure and liberating the spirit of creativity. Its overall  economic output could reach 20-30 times  the present level. Even setting aside the output of the rest of the world, this amount of activity without green measures could cause potentially catastrophic global warming as the temperature rise accelerated. It would also be a huge drain on planetary resources:  food, water, fossil fuels, metals and minerals.

So it is fortunate for all of us that the 2011 Five Year plan included strict environmental measures. The March 2013 edition of Prospect has an article by Sam Knight, called The thin green line which gives the bold targets which China has set itself:

  • Reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 % by 2020

  • Increase the proportion of renewable energy to 20% of the total energy produced by 2020

  • Spend $800 billion on green investment by 2016

  • Set up pilot schemes for carbon trading in 5 cities

  • Cap coal production in 2015 (1 in 3 new coal-fired plants are now on hold)

Already China has the largest wind turbine and solar energy industries in the world and is putting a lot of R&D into these areas.

These targets are partly a response to visible intense city pollution and industrial health problems, which, together with the aging population and absence of a welfare state, are risking social instability. Also, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 150% since 2002, the north of China is experiencing rapid glacial melting and desertification while flooding is a big problem in the south. See
Nevertheless they make environmental moves by the USA look timid indeed, relying largely on conversion from oil to natural gas extraction, moves towards renewable energy and control of automobile emissions.
China being a command economy makes drastic action easier. E.g. hundreds of polluting factories have been closed, with resultant job losses, and some cities are suffering blackouts as power is cut off by local officials to meet emission targets. The irony is that leaders are faced with a choice between two kinds of human suffering: loss of livelihood and break up of community on one side, catastrophic climate change, pollution and starvation on the other. The west's leaders do not have a command option. Only changes in human behaviour can avoid the problems of global warming coming to a head.

Other developing nations are also taking the global warming problem more seriously. In Bangladesh the plan is to reduce emissions by one third by 2030 as well as to deal with the problems already created by global warming, such as producing thousands of cyclone shelters and disaster-proof latrines. South Korea has been spending $23 billion per year on green growth measures since 2008.

Where all this is leading no one can know. The whole picture could change through discovery of some unexpected mechanism in the atmosphere or the oceans, or through the development of controlled fusion or even migration of manufacturing into space should really cheap surface-to-orbit transport be developed.

author 2077 AD
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