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Surprise Attacks:
Global Changes
Unexpected from All Sides

Change is more than the everyday reports on climate and global warming—so then, what kind of examples appear? Can we anticipate new changes before they appear?

Mr. Ayers, of the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., writes about 'surprise attacks' relating to certain episodes or events that bring change in unexpected ways. Unfortunately, the surprises aren't necessarily temporary changes. Some of the scenarios considered by Ayers represent changes now that lead to dire circumstances later on. So, consider change as constant and progressive over time. In many cases, one change scenario tips into others (like dominoes falling in a chain reaction).

In a perfect world, governments and non-government organizations could quietly address problems to their ultimate resolution. But our planet is not silent—not at peace—and changes still come. The road ahead comes with twists, turns, and bumps ... every one of these a surprise! Again, all contribute to the totality of a complex matrix of global change.


September 11, 2001, is now one obvious example of a spectacular surprise. It was a declaration of a terror war that has continued on in the shadows all around the globe. The attack was aimed at having an economic impact, which must be an understatement to say the least. The costs are tallied up by the Western world in terms of security, mobilizing troops, restructuring governments, and economic ripples that affect second and third party countries. primary targets and their trading partners all feel the impact posed by the threat of continued terrorism. A local attack has global repercussions. This is a dramatic example of a surprise. But examp0les that come next are possibly known to you, but the extent and serious implications run far deeper than the mere threat of more terrorism!


... In 1997, for example, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a branch of the World Bank, circulated an internal document listing various kinds of surprise attacks that could disrupt international investments. The indicators included assassinations, strikes, riots, armed attacks, war casualties, political executions, and terrorism.

... There was no mention, in this document, of such probable surprises as plagues of pesticide-resistant insects, the massive hemorrhages of topsoil into the oceans, or important rivers going dry–or of how such events might interact. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 93

Let's really look over the entire global landscape—all kinds of forces drive the direction of human events, including those initiated by human events. But others, like diseases, plant and animal pests, loss or a native soil, or sources of water being depleted have astronomical impacts that are as disruptive as the surprises listed by the IFC. The surprises are more than human incidents. Unless we are alerted to the magnitude of all forms of change we see nothing more than just another story in the news.


If we want to consider some "truly world-shaking surprises in store for us, consider the recent past ... " as Mr. Ayers puts it, so check out the following listing:

- The Internet did not exist in 1980, and though it is dependent on telephone lines, was not anticipated even by AT&T.
- The AIDS pandemic was unknown in 1980, but within decades of its appearance had ravaged a whole generation of Africans and killed at least 17 million people on all six inhabited continents.
- The fall of the Soviet Union, without war, though dreamed of by Western governments for four decades, took the CIA and other intelligence agencies completely by surprise when it actually happened.
- The resurgence of once-conquered diseases took the World Health Organization by surprise.
- The decline of the world nuclear industry took electric utilities, governments, and the industry itself by surprise.

… The nuclear engineers and investors of the 1970s, for example, saw a technology that could take tiny amounts of uranium and produce huge amounts of pollution-free electricity–and naturally, they expected to create an economic revolution. They did not anticipate the enormous complications, safety hazards, disposal problems, local resentments, and spreading fears and outrage that would dog them and eventually bring them to a halt. They did not expect the catastrophe at Chernobyl, or the unenterable dead zone it would he leave in Ukraine for thousands of years to come. They certainly did not anticipate that the number of nuclear plants under construction in an energy-hungry World would fall from a peak of 30 per year in the mid-1970's to 2 per year in 1990's Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 96

Perhaps we make assumptions, like the phones lines are capable of absorbing all the new Internet traffic, but the assumption is only an indicator of our being detached from the coming impacts associated with change. Likewise, years ago, those who were not HIV carriers were not likely to think AIDS is such a big deal, but now a much greater population is affected and many of us know at least one person who has been impacted by this disease. The changes we see today are recent and really broad sweeping to the point of blanketing societies locally and abroad.


Elsewhere, ironically, something we'd hoped would be a solution to our energy needs, that is —nuclear power—ends up creating more problems than long-term solutions! Governments have responded at great expense to clean up or close facilities and remediate nuclear contamination stemming from normal operations. Accidents or irresponsible disposal of wastes created other nightmares still not resolved. The anticipated benefits have been swamped by the reality of problems that changed the industry over time.

These examples of change help characterize the surprises that we might continue to expect in the future! A little more information given in the following selected scenarios show the complexities involved:



Ogallala Aquifer North America (see Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 99)

In the western US east of the Rocky Mountains there exists an extensive underground water deposit. This aquifer contains ancient 'fossil' water that accumulated below ground over the larger expanse of geologic time. Today, farmers and communities in the West pump this water for use above ground. Need water, turn on the pump! Simple, but THIS solution comes with a consequence. Surprises are in store for the future!

To pump the water, a non-renewable resource, such as natural gas or other fossil fuels, are used. Because the water is not recharged (i.e., refilled) by surface rains at a rate equal to or exceeding the pumping rates, the aquifer is continually being drawn down. This practice is leading to the eventual depletion of the aquifer as a human resource. One day the food production currently supported by this water will be lost and this in turn will diminish food supplies to local and global populations.

Here is an example of an ongoing change. Water is pumped at higher rates in lean rain or drought years. And these conditions are exacerbated by the climate changes we've described elsewhere. The ultimate change, aquifer depletion, is an event that will happen. Knowing when depends on forecasting water demand in relation to surface conditions and to some extent knowing what amount of recharge occurs when surface water does refill a portion of the aquifer. Until this resource is pumped dry, it may seem like there is no end in sight. When the pumps draw their last drop, ripples of surprises will emanate from barren fields.

Scenario: Nile Valley, Africa (see Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 103)

Water management for agriculture is an age old issue. The Nile River by virtue of its natural cycles of seasonal flow and flooding enriched agricultural practices in northern Africa for millennia. Egypt's ancient agriculture was so bountiful as to export surpluses abroad. This was a sustainable system run by natural cycles. But modern thinking has come along in an attempt to maximize the use of the river's waters. Ironically, the effort to build a dam to control the water flow created unforeseen changes and big problems:

... In the 1960s, the Aswan High Dam was built about a thousand miles upstream (south) of the river's mouth, and for a while the plan seemed to work. Egypt's crop output expanded. But even as it did, two unexpected results became apparent. The first was that, paradoxically, even as the amount of food Egypt could produce expanded, its ability to remain self-sufficient – an ability it had maintained for 7,000 years – was lost. Within a few years after the Aswan's completion, the country that had supplied bread to Rome became a "net grain importer" – having to buy wheat from other countries. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 103

This scenario includes a reduction in silt and water flow to the northern end of the river ... irrigation waters used up stream evaporate and do not return to the river ... and all this to such a degree that the Nile River Delta is no longer being supplied water and silt to optimally maintain this fertile area. Who would have thought a dam so far south would cripple the delta at the river's mouth ... to the point that only a trickle of water now reaches the Mediterranean Sea!


Scenario: Southern Thailand (see Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 106)

The problems along the Nile River may seem localized, but the demise of global fisheries is indeed far reaching. Humanity has reached a point of stripping the oceans of fish ... and the diminished populations of some commercial fish species brings them to near extinction—if not extinct already!

... By 1998, worldwide, people were eating twice as much fish as beef, and most of the fish was coming from the oceans. Sales of Thai tuna soared.

But fishing hadn't fully closed the gap between rising population and flattening grain production, because ocean fishing too had reached its limit. By 1997, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 11 of the world's 15 major oceanic fishing grounds had gone into serious decline as result of over fishing. More ominously, as pickings got thinner the fishing ships were dropping their nets deeper and taking species once rejected as "trash" fish – species that a few years earlier would not have been worth the cost of processing them. Despite strong demand, the fishing ships were finding it more and more difficult to fill their holds.

... The small species are normally the food for larger ones, so as the nets reach down the food chain to the smaller varieties, the larger ones lose their sustenance and begin to die off. At the same time, and their efforts to take more of the smaller fish, the floating factories also haul in more of the juveniles of the larger species – thus undermining future fish populations as well as exhausting the existing ones. That, in turn, not only steals food from future human generations to feed the present, but pushes more oceanic species to the brink – or over the brink – of extinction. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 109

What's most shocking is no one has effectively regulated the ocean's populations to help sustain a healthy balance. Open waters provide one of those seemingly free resources available to all comers. As noted above, the historical practice of going ever deeper to harvest any sort of catch undermines the web of life in the sea. This becomes a global biodiversity issue, a concern for sustaining life on the planet, more than any commercial or regulatory concern!


Picture change as a network of effects. The demand for resources grows with human population and continued behaviors related to use of nonrenewable resources, or worse, depletion of renewable resources such as the fisheries described above.

... as the primary impacts of rising population and consumption fan out, the complexity of the ripple effects grows exponentially and explosively. As noted earlier, the impacts don't progress in straight lines. Instead, the lines branch and intersect, becoming vastly more numerous as they progress. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 117

Today, globalchanges form immense matrix. The branch points and intersections in this matrix make it ever more difficult to simply fix one problem here or another over there. In fact, fixing change in one location may end up creating adverse changes linked throughout the matrix. All we are really seeing here is an immense need for the entire human population to make a significant behavioral shift—that if made in unison promises progress to counter change. However, the newspaper headlines declare the distractions that occupy humanity's attention—and these are not concerned with redirecting, countering, or offsetting the impacts of global change.


Another ominous facet concerns the human response to change. The following quotation cites several dramatic examples. But consider that a growing unrest will permeate more of humanity as global changes impact life on a growing scale. The affected people groups are not just of certain nationalities, but also of belief systems that cross boundaries to blanket regions of the world.

There is a chain reaction to contemplate. First, change occurs in a region, this may impact a localized population for a short time, but if prolonged the impacts will have a psychological impact generating frustration, and local belief and behavioral systems will factor into an outward expression ... frustration, anger, even hatred ... again, that is simply a response to a global scenario that knows no boundaries nor is restricted to any particular nationality.

Along with the unabombers and Texas snipers, we could see more religiously outraged World Trade Center bombers. And, as high-powered weapons technology percolates into the hands of private groups and individuals of all ilks, such attacks could escalate into generalized assaults on worldly society, as in the Tokyo subway gassing. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 120

Ayers writing predates September 1, 2001. And the world has watched the Trade Towers collapse, Palestinian suicide bombers, trains in Spain blown up, and a rise of anti semitism globally. Conflicts on are the rise!

The idea that the quality of life on the entire planet will one day be impacted is essentially making a logical projection of where global changes are leading us in the future.

... The biggest problem, now, is that under the surface, there's a latent anger or denial in hundreds of millions of us. As twentieth-century humans, inheritors of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, we felt the world was ours. Now we feel betrayed by our own destiny. Many of us feel betrayed by technology. We feel let down by God. Ayers, God’s Last Offer, page 121

But which God is letting us down? Some idolize material gods, money and status. That god indeed fails us. Being a worshiper of environmental causes or putting faith in technology to "save us" is cause for frustration. Change supercedes this. There are many 'religious' gods that draw vain worship. In the face of change, perhaps it's the God of Israel and what is described in the Bible that needs our attention here. In fact, on close inspection, the Scriptures do more to anticipate our frustration and disappointment in present circumstances than one might first think. So, why else do we feel let down!

In the final analysis, the surprises may come in many forms. The connections between changes that in turn create the matrix of relationships requires study for a clear understanding, but overall we know enough to recognize a reaction is needed. How to respond to the surprises becomes ever more complex with time.

So, with regard to feeling betrayed or let down as indicated above the WindowView timeline itself sets up a tension between the expectations for technology and the belief driven events we see in the Middle East. Where we place our faith and how we respond to change are put in the framework of the time line itself. Consider the direction in which the time line is now headed. What conclusions come to mind?

The importance to global change is in looking at how social, biological, and physical sciences all reveal data and signs for more ominous changes in the near future. This is change in every aspect of human and earthly affairs ... globally. The Window looks further to see change as a backdrop to a biblical timeline. Driving forces for change force us to ask the most important questions about our true origin, who we are, why we are here, and what the Scriptures tell us about the future. Change forces us to look deeper to face choice or crisis. Life is an opportunity to look for the answers.

Please Note! We are presenting a number of quotations in the "Signs of the Times" series that are taken from their original context. So Be Aware ... the impact of these statements is only heightened and intensified by a reading of the original text cited below. WindowView serves to reflect many original sources and in this case we highly recommend a reading of the entire book used as a source here! The 'Signs' are woefully important to revealing humanity's future, reading these quotations in their original context makes this point all the more clear!

Quotations attributed to 'Ayers' are from: Ed Ayers. 1999. God's Last Offer - Negotiating for a Sustainable Future. Published by: Four Walls Eight Windows (

Mr. Ayers is the Editor of World Watch magazine, a product of the Worldwatch Institute, Washington D.C. The institute is a 'think tank' that often puts out publications that note change in the world theater from the perspectives of economics, policy, resource uses, and the potential for global trends based on past and current human activity. This is a secular institution and the title of Mr. Ayers' book makes no special reference to a particular theological framework.

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