CELL/Euphrates program:Jordan Valley, 2011
It’s all about WATER. This week’s Weekly Current focuses on the environmental threats in the Middle East and a Euphrates-partnered trip students can take to the region to address them.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the most water scarce in the world, and drought conditions are only expected to worsen, even as populations rapidly increase. 12 of the world’s 15 most water-scarce countries — Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel and Palestine — are in the Middle East, and have experienced 30 years of high population growth, which only exacerbates scarce resources.
In a US intelligence community assessment released last month, analysts concluded that “water problems—shortages, poor water quality, or floods—will risk instability, state failure, and increase regional tensions.” An earlier 2009 World Bank report on combating water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region also noted, “It is almost a feat that the Middle East, which is plagued by conflicts, has so far managed to avoid major water wars, even though water is a life-and-death economic issue for the people of the region. But for many of these nations, which already are treading the razor’s edge of conflict, water is becoming increasingly a catalyst for confrontation – and an issue of national security and foreign policy as well as domestic stability.”
Earlier this month, Tom Friedman described in a column titled, “The Other Arab Spring” how the “Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well (emphasis added). If we focus only on the former and not the latter, we will never be able to help stabilize these societies.” Friedman closes with an appeal: “ We and the Arabs need to figure out — and fast — more ways to partner to mitigate the environmental threats where we can…”
Euphrates takes these issues, (and Friedman’s appeal!) seriously, and we not only follow the environmental and resource challenges in the region, but we partner with an environmental learning organization, the Center for Ecological Living and Learning (CELL), to lead three-month study abroad trips to the Middle East, focusing on sustainability and peace. Water scarcity is a primary subject students tackle, both in the classroom and by doing on-site service projects with environmental organizations, such as Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME).
CELL is currently accepting applications for the next three-month study trip to Israel, West Bank, and Jordan. If you know of students interested in experiencing up close and personally the world’s most pressing needs — peace and sustainability — this is the trip for them!
Each Thursday, you can look forward to finding relevant, refreshing quick-reads in your inbox that inform you about current events, inspire you with stories of bridge-builders, or offer up tips and tidbits we think are worth a mention! Just like the current of a river is always progressing downstream, how we think more deeply about the Middle East and our relationship is a constant flow of ideas. So whether you’re new to Middle East issues or a proven pro, these weekly bulletins can help to round out your knowledge of this critical region, as well as boost your skills as a peacemaker in an era when both are equally critical towards the ultimate goal–personal and global transformation!
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