A Float in the Dead Sea and the Quest to Save it

On my last day in Jordan, there was one culturally and historically significant place left to visit: The Dead Sea. After an incredible week exploring this magical kingdom, I had opened my mind to an ancient world from the surreal beauty of the Wadi Rum to the Roman Ruins of Jerash and of course the icing on the cake, a day and a half exploring the ancient city of Petra. I was disappointed with our visit to the Red Sea, overwhelmed walking the hot, dusty streets of Amman and wishing I had more time to spend a night and hike in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Yet taking a float in the Dead Sea was that last one thing on my traveler’s bucket list to do in Jordan and thankfully I’d get to experience it before I left.

The Dead Sea has been a place of refuge and mystique since Biblical times. Formed over 3 million years ago, the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world with a salinity of 34% (9.6 times saltier than the ocean) and its salty waters and nutrient-rich mud have been attracting humans to its shores for millennia. Due to its high levels of salt, no animals or plants can survive hence the name “Dead Sea” however tourists and industry alike flock to the Dead Sea to reap the health and financial benefits of its products. In fact, the global market for Dead Sea mud-based cosmetics hit 678 million US dollars in 2015 and is predicted to grow. Tourism to the Dead Sea is also significant with an explosion in tourism. I could hardly wait to be one of those tourists, covering myself in mud, basking in the sun like a turtle and then floating in the Dead Sea.

The Magical Dead Sea. Photo credit: Pixabay

After a delightful morning exploring the Roman Ruins of Jerash, we set off for an hour and a half drive south to the Dead Sea. Many people chose to spend a night or two at one of the fancy resorts and spas located along the Dead Sea however since we were on a set seven-day tour of Jordan we would only have the afternoon. For me, that was all I needed as I’m not one who likes to lounge around however there were a few fellow travelers on our tour who opted to spend their last few days in Jordan there. Either way, the Dead Sea is only an hour’s drive from Amman so it is easy to do for a half a day or full-day trip from the capital.

As we left Jerash, we learned from our Jordan guide about the importance of the olive tree in Jordan culture and industry. The northern part of Jordan, where Jerash is located, is considered to be the breadbasket of this arid nation and is where 72% of the olive trees are grown in Jordan. You cannot find a breakfast table in Jordan without olive oil and Jordan is the 10th largest producer of olive oil in the world. It was surprising to see a greener landscape but it wasn’t long until the trees disappeared and the landscape returned to its dusty, sandy self.

Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea sits at the lowest point on Earth at 422 meters (1,385 feet) below sea level. As you descend to the Dead Sea, your ears begin to pop similar to how you feel when descending in an airplane. It is a rather strange sensation but perhaps not as surreal as catching your first glimpse of the Dead Sea. It first appears almost as an apparition off in the distance of hazy, stirred up sand and it is hard to get a true idea of how big it is. The Dead Sea measures roughly 50 km (31 miles) long by and 15 km (9.3 miles) long and borders Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. The main tributary is the Jordan River and that has been part of the problem. The Dead Sea is rapidly shrinking at a rate of 3 feet (1 meter) annually and humans are to blame. Without swift intervention, the Dead Sea could almost disappear by 2050 some scientists warn.

Dead Sea, Jordan

The first sight of the tourist beach at the Dead Sea

Conservation/Environment SOCIAL GOOD
Pure Iceland

Earth Day 2014: A Day to Reflect Upon and Cherish Our Amazing Planet

I have always been someone who is strongly connected to nature and the amazing world we live in. As we head into the next several decades and I watch my children grow, I become increasingly concerned about the fragility of our planet and our inability to protect what is most sacred: Mother Earth. Without fresh water or food to feed a growing population that is expected to reach 9 billion, what will we have? We are already seeing the devastating impact of global climate change yet not much has changed to stop it. There are even people who still don’t believe it is real.

So today on Earth Day, I wonder what will become of our planet? Will we have a place so full of beauty and life that we do now? Or will it all be gone?

Tour de Vanoise France

Taking a break and breathing in the fresh pure air of the French Alps.

I’m not trying to sound pessimistic but I take the effects of global climate change seriously. I even take it perhaps a bit too far to overcompensate for what we are doing to our planet. I recycle as much as possible, I try to cut down on waste, I stop the water tap instead of letting it run and I always bring reusable bags for shopping. I realize that I am often the only one in line at the store with my reusable bag while everyone is putting even one tiny item into a plastic or paper bag that they don’t need. It is all such a waste.

But sadly the little things that I am doing isn’t enough. We need everyone to come together to protect our world before the world we know is gone. So on this special Earth Day 2014, let us each think of one small thing we can do to reduce, reuse and recycle. To cherish, protect and save our planet.

We have so much at stake. Like this….

Conservation/Environment Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD

The Palm Oil Controversy

As a mother and advocate who cares deeply about our planet and is extremely concerned about global climate change, the debate about palm oil is extremely important to me. Earlier in the year, I wrote about palm oil on behalf of Rainforest Action Network in the following post here and argued that large food manufacturers must put an end to using conflict palm oil in their food. Sadly, palm oil is found in nearly 50 percent of the packaged foods on our grocery store shelves, and it is also the leading cause of orangutan extinction and rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia.

After learning about the negative impact of conflict palm oil, I made a personal choice to ban buying any products or brands that use conflict palm oil in their products. Like my issue with chocolate (read my post “The Dark Side of Chocolate”), ethically I feel it is a decision I had to made. I said goodbye to my favorite peanut butter and also stopped buying Cheese-Its for my kids. When they asked me why I explained what conflict palm oil is doing to our environment and why it is critical that we speak up about it.

Speaking out against conflict palm oil has definitely lead to some exciting changes. Earlier this week, Mars Inc. a 30 billion dollar US snack food company, heeded the pressure of advocacy groups such as Rainforest Action Network and announced a sweeping new responsibly palm oil procurement commitment plan that promises to eliminate rainforest destruction, human rights violations and climate pollutions from their supply chains or be dropped by 2015. (Read full press release here). 

Given the new developments in the palm oil debate, I wanted to feature a guest post about palm oil along with a recent US Scorecard released by the Union of Concerned Scientists about the recent push for debate about conflict palm oil.

Infographic courtesy of Rainforest Action Network

Infographic courtesy of Rainforest Action Network

Conservation/Environment Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD

Climate Change 101: What it is and Why it Matters to You

By far the greatest challenge we face in the world today is global climate change. Decisions made today will ultimately impact the future of our planet. Those who are still in denial that the world’s climate is changing need to open their eyes. Global climate change is real and it is already having devastating impacts on the environment including food security, water shortages, catastrophic weather and the air we breathe.

We are at a crossroads in history and a political tipping point on how we are going to act to fight global climate change. The facts are frightening. 2012 was the hottest year in the recorded history in the United States. Furthermore, the 12 hottest years ever measured globally occurred within the last 15 years. The month of August was the 342nd month in a row where temperatures were warmer than the 20th century average.  Ice is melting, oceans are warming up and our atmosphere is being treated as a huge garbage dump of our pollution. Global climate change is impacting us all. So what are we going to do about it?

The Climate Reality Project asks us "What I love".

The Climate Reality Project asks us “What I love”. What on our planet can we not live without? What are the sacrifices we will have to make if we don’t stop global climate change?

I have asked Harriet Shugarman, the executive director and founder of ClimateMama and a mentor and Climate Leader for the Climate Reality Project to write a guest post for my blog in order to get the conversation rolling on global climate change and why it matters.

Harriet Shugarman, Executive Director of ClimateMama

Harriet Shugarman, Executive Director of ClimateMama

Harriet is an Economist, policy analyst, speaker, writer, and “mom” activist, Harriet travels the country educating and informing audiences about the realities of climate change and how people can feel empowered to take individual and collective action – in their homes, businesses and in their communities.  You can follow Harriet’s insightful blog ClimateMama which is loaded with excellent articles and resources on global climate change.

Conservation/Environment Gifts that Give Back Global Issues SOCIAL GOOD