The Middle East is home to some of the most intractable conflicts in the world. But it is also generating some of today’s most creative approaches to peacebuilding—several of which use the environment to promote harmony and stability.
Time magazine recently highlighted the efforts of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) to restore the Jordan River to a more healthy, natural state (video). Currently, the Israeli and Jordanian governments both heavily subsidize water for farmers, who grow unsustainable, water-intensive crops. As a result, in many places, the Jordan River has been reduced to a sluggish, polluted trickle. The water level in the Dead Sea, which is fed by the Jordan, sinks approximately one meter each year because it is no longer being replenished. In addition, according to FOEME, because much of the Lower Jordan River “is a closed military zone and off limits to the public, most people simply do not know that the river is drying up.” If less water were diverted from the Jordan, pollution were reduced, and access to the river were increased, FOEME believes that local communities could establish—and thrive on—ecotourism and sustainable agriculture.