Over Spring Break, I traveled to Jordan with a group of Arabic students to immerse ourselves in the culture and to learn about the issues with water scarcity that the country faces. We spent a couple of days in the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark, which was created by FoME, where we learned about the region. The EcoPark aims to highlight the importance of preserving ecological habitats in the Jordan River Valley, increase public awareness in local and international communities, as well as promote sustainable development efforts locally. At the EcoPark, we learned about the different sustainable projects they have, including fashioning seating out of used tires and mud. We also lent a hand by filling used soda bottles with sand to help them build a bird-hut.
As well as practicing our Arabic, FoMe helped us understand the region’s water issues, highlighted the following day when we went to visit the Yarmuk River. Overlooking a cliff, we saw how the contrast between the level the river used to be at and now is. We learned that this was due to political complications, between Syria, Israel and Palestine.
FoME also taught us about their efforts to prevent the Red-Dead Canal, a proposed solution to the Dead Sea’s shrinkage, where Red Sea water would be brought from the Gulf of Aqaba up to the Dead Sea where it would be desalinated and provide drinking water for the surrounding areas as well as fill the Dead Sea. FoMe taught us how all the economic and environmental downfalls to this proposed canal through role-play and many discussions. We then visited the Dead Sea, where we went to a museum and were struck by images showing the decrease in water level over time. We learned that the Dead Sea shrinks by 1 meter a year, as well as seeing the direct effects of this shrinkage in sinkholes.
Going to Jordan was eyeopening in many ways. Not only were we exposed to culture, but we also learned about water scarcity issues in Jordan and how it affects the surrounding people. Working with FoME was very interesting as they have many local employees, including Bedouins, which not only provides employment but also creates lasting local interest in environmental conservation, which is very important. FoME taught us the importance of persistence when dealing with environmental issues that are closely tied with politics. I really enjoyed learning about Jordan’s ecosystem and the emergence and progression of the water scarcity.