To facilitate such cooperation, FoEME reasoned that it was essential to forge a common understanding of the real value of the Basin to the stakeholders--not just the value of potash mining revenues and hotel receipts, but a range of values that don't show up in conventional measures of GNP.
To measure how important some of these often overlooked values might be to the region's own quality of life, FoEME recently conducted a study (1) of "willingness to pay" (WTP)--the amount of money each household would be willing to contribute toward conservation and sustainable development of the Basin.
Today, FoEME sees the Dead Sea's decline as a reason to underscore not only that the region's diverse industries, cultures, and environment all have great economic value, but that they are highly interdependent--and thus mutually threatened.
FoEME is not alone in regarding the Dead Sea's demise as a fast-closing window of opportunity.
FoEME is promoting the development of an integrated and coordinated plan (2) for the whole region, balancing the needs of all industrial and cultural stakeholders and guiding development in ways that give maximum protection to the ecological assets of the region.
FoEME says that with reasonable cooperation between neighbors, the Dead Sea can be very much alive.
Most recently, FoEME organized an event called "Big Jump into the Lower Jordan River" to call attention to the environmental situation of the Lower Jordan River.
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Over the coming months, FoEME will be comparing its findings to his.
Ultimately, FoEME hopes that its scientific research will capture the attention not only of the region's communities and governments, but also the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah could yet lead to Israeli rapprochement with Syria and open the door to regional environmental talks; on the other hand, a single Palestinian attack or Israeli raid could reverse any small advances FoEME makes.
While they acknowledge this uncertainty, the leaders of FoEME maintain some optimism.