Century Marks

Century Marks

Dry future

There is an 80 percent chance that later in this century a megadrought will plague the American Southwest for decades, according to a study released by researchers at NASA and at Columbia and Cornell universities. The drought will be caused by reduced precipitation and changes in evaporation rates. The researchers say other factors, such as the El Niño weather pattern, could interrupt long periods of severe drought. The researchers say there is time to reduce the factors contributing to climate change (Washington Post, February 12).

Common good

Calling for a new kind of politics, the Church of England has issued a 52-page letter in anticipation of the May general election in the United Kingdom. Exhorting Christians to engage in politics, it says the chief motivation should be to address the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Calling for an end to “retail politics” and a renewed focus on the common good, the letter suggests that voters should challenge political candidates on such issues as the accumulation of wealth by the few, the need for the participation of diverse communities, and the value of the weak, dependent, sick, and aging (Guardian, February 17).

Frosh world

College freshman are increasingly distancing themselves from religion, according to the annual survey, The American Freshman. Nearly 28 percent of those surveyed didn’t identify themselves with any religion, an increase of 12 percent since 1971. The survey indicates that 43 percent of first-year students anticipate pursuing a master’s degree, compared to 28 percent in 1974. The increased interest in graduate work indicates that students are concerned about the competitive nature of the job market (RNS).

Rejecting the devil

The general synod of the Church of England voted to remove all references to the devil in its baptismal liturgy. The traditional wording, which remains an option, asks parents and godparents if they “reject the devil and all rebellion against God” and whether they “renounce the deceit and corruption of evil.” The new wording implores them to “turn away from sin” and “reject evil.” The alternate wording was made out of sensitivity to the unchurched, and especially to youth who misunderstand references to the devil (Telegraph, February 13).

Regime change

Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Djinovic are leaders of Otpor, the student movement that helped bring down the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Serbia in 2000. They are now teaching nonviolent tactics in the Middle East. Violence is what dictators often do best; don’t fight them on their terms, the two argue. Popovic and Djinovic say that drawing attention to human rights violations often doesn’t attract much support. People are often more interested in having reliable electricity and garbage collection (New York Times, February 13).