The eighth wonder of the world is under siege.
So says Noam Bedein, an Israeli photojournalist who has dedicated his life to the restoration of the Dead Sea.The Dead Sea is a body of water that sits between Jordan and Israel and is known for its high salt content, allowing anyone to float with ease. At a meeting co-hosted in SUBO’s Penthouse by United 4 Israel, the BC Sustainability Club, and the Biology Club this past Tuesday, Mar. 3, Bedein discussed his findings, and whether the region could still be saved.
Bedein is the director of the Dead Sea Revival Project (DSRP), a non-profit organization trying to raise awareness of the problems and changes the “eighth wonder” of the world, as he puts it, has seen of late. Among these are not only the recession of the Dead Sea, but also the ravaging of the area by sinkholes and curiosities, like signs of life in a place quite notoriously named after its inhospitality for any form of life.
“Look at that vegetation,” Bedein said, pointing at a photo he’d taken. “The fact that you have vegetation growing out from the sinkhole, there’s life coming out from these areas.” According to Bedein, where there is vegetation, there is also further life, which he found in the form of fish.“The first time I went to explore the Dead Sea shores and a sinkhole, I actually saw a fish,” he said.
These curious findings have inspired some big names to throw their weight behind the DSRP’s vision. Notably NASA had this brought to their attention thanks to the DSRP and have collected samples in order to study the capability for something to grow where their previously was evidence of an inability to. The next planned voyage to Mars purportedly will factor in this research.
When Bedein witnessed this impossibility, he took a picture and posted it, stoking curiosities worldwide about how such a thing would have occurred. This would spawn a fascination with the growing capabilities to spread a message and unite a generation in a movement.
This is apt because what Bedein seems to find himself doing most through the DSRP is “environmental education and advocacy” through visuals. As a photojournalist, he aims for representations that a willing audience could see and connect to, which lays out the situations both in and out of our control that have wrought havoc on the salt body. On a practical level, this involves boat tours that he administers himself, taking people around the Dead Sea and exposing them to his findings. The profit he makes off of these tours go directly into DSRP and further means of presenting their case. One such demonstration was a three-year timelapse taken in virtually identical spots, showing how salt formations that emerged from the water eventually solidified into completely new structures, making caves and shores that previously weren’t there.
Rapidly evolving technology has helped Bedein grow the ways in which he can use “visual arts to connect people.” For now, he releases a photo daily on his Instagram, but his work has also included work done in conjunction with CNN VR to reconstruct the environment for audiences to get a firsthand look at the effects on the Dead Sea and a fully 360° documentary. 360° work and virtual reality seem to be the latest field that the DSRP is largely working in, with Bedein going so far as to say that he wanted to “share Dead Sea stories however we can.” He later proved this with a demo of the VR recreation being made available to the audience at the talk through the use of Facebook.
Now though, Bedein is taking the concept and running with it. His latest idea: a virtual museum, preserving the history of the Dead Sea and building on it. The plan for now is an exhibition that can travel while work is done on a state-of-the-art installation.The idea behind Bedein’s educational efforts is a simple one: unite people in the knowledge of what’s gone wrong with the Dead Sea in order to avoid it ever happening again. It’s a sort of unity that the region has been denied because of the complexities of existing geopolitical contention; conflicts which have aided along the drying up of the Dead Sea and that steps are being taken to prevent now.
These steps primarily include the introduction of the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal, an effort being made by Jordanto provide the freshwater that the Dead Sea is lacking to survive. Water being siphoned by pumps along the Jordan River, which would naturally supply freshwater, have been providing drinking water to the region at the cost of the Dead Sea’s health. The canal, which would bring freshwater from the Red Sea, aims to amend this and, as Bedein would put it, serves as the sole symbol of Middle-Eastern cooperation via water diplomacy.
By the time Bedein’s presentation was over, the situation for the Dead Sea looked dire. By 2050, it’s projected there will be only be a small portion of the salt currently there and Bedein’s efforts to present it to the world seem like cataloging the death throes of the body, rather than outright saving it. But while these existing plans to save it are taking place, someone surely must be tasked with ensuring the world knows what happened and how to prevent it happening again. In this regard, the Dead Sea Revival Project instills some hope.