THE TRANSBORDER DEAD SEA TRIANGLE PLATFORM
Seeding Humanitarianism and Conciliation through Earthquake and Environmental Research and Education In the Middle East
Science Diplomacy, heretofore, has been a rather limited enterprise. It created meeting spheres where scientists, as citizens of states in conflict, could meet and build provisional networks for communication at times when ordinary citizens could not. The purported “neutrality” of science made this legitimate; the limited technologies for communication made this a special privilege for scientists and a benefit for the statesmen who sanctioned this exception, particularly when this could provide any opportunities for intelligence gathering.
In the 21st century, science diplomats cannot claim neutrality in relation to political, economic or social interests because of the extremes of destructiveness and peacemaking enabled by scientific research itself. Neither can scientists claim a privileged position in creating networks. Ordinary citizens are not limited in their access to the dramatic expansion in the means of communication, neither by their limited technical savvy nor by their limited resources; and this communication the most repressive regimes cannot completely control. The communication of scientists in the global era, therefore, will be either part of the solution or part of the problem.
In a corner of the Middle East, science solutions proliferate and science diplomacy is taking on a new course. A group of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian scientists are showing that they, overcoming restraints on cooperation, can bring about a renewed state of reflectiveness, communication, and responsibility by writing innovative scripts for trans-border scientific cooperation that benefits all people. Applying their scientific appreciation for complexity and taking a long range perspective on how they define the welfare and security of their respective nation states and that of the citizens of those states, they are melding their shared expertise to assure a sustainable development for the unique Dead Sea ecosystem, its local inhabitants, and beyond. Through the intensity and scope of their cooperation, they are modeling new hope for many millions of people, in the Middle East and elsewhere, caught in the ravages of intractable conflicts.
Recognizing that earthquakes, as well as other natural hazards, know no boundaries, these researchers are focusing on these specific predicaments afflicting the Middle East, utilizing them for an innovative cooperation platform: “If nature can bring destruction across borders, humans across borders must mobilize to mitigate nature’s destructiveness.” They are developing a curriculum for science diplomats and stewards of the environment that responds to earthquakes and natural hazards as realities as well as metaphors for what undermines the very earth on which we stand. They are drawing their lessons from three realms: the best scientific research, the best policies for environmental sustainability, and the best experiences with cultures of cooperation and conciliation.
This Dead Sea region, with its mythical city of Jericho, is remembered since Biblical times as a region of active destruction through wars, earthquakes, and environmental depredation. These events, as well as the memories of these events, have repeatedly disrupted the lives of contemporary Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians, and their ancestors alike. Now Abdallah of Al-Balqa University in Jordan, Hillel of Tel Aviv University in Israel, and Jalal of An-Najah University in Palestine, three pioneering earthquake scientists, are joining together to take the pulse of the planet from its lowest point and to raise humanitarian cooperation to higher possibilities. Taking advantage of the greatest technological breakthroughs of just the past five years, in the increase in the range of sensitivity and broadcast of data of their professional monitoring tools and the comparably dramatic miniaturization in size, as well as cost, that makes this equipment available far beyond the few subsidized government and academic laboratories, they are developing a new scientific and educational package of instruments and programs: DeadSeaNet.
Reaching beyond borders as well as deeply within their own communities, they are organizing DeadSeaNet as a stethoscope to record ground-motion on both sides of the Dead Sea Fault and to decipher its complex dynamics. Their research focuses on microseismicity because investigating the behavior of small frequent earthquakes provides more valuable and abundant insights into the earth’s mysteries, globally, than observing the powerful and palpable but relatively rare earthquakes that provide less data for inferences. Since sharing seismic data and expertise saves lives and fosters sustainable development, DeadSeaNet is also developing innovative earthquake visualization tools.
Online display of on-going seismicity will be made available to researchers, educators, decision-makers and concerned citizens of all ages. ShakeMaps, microzonation maps and active fault maps will be designed and up-dated regularly to provide the professional, life saving needs of rescuers, local engineers, builders, planners and decision-makers, within and across borders. These state-of-the-art earthquake mitigation techniques are integrated into an appropriate cultural context and take advantage of direct cross-hierarchical interpersonal relationships between experts. This will result in monitoring that is more instructive, data analysis that is more comprehensive, and rescue strategies that will express greater empathy, and reduce suffering more effectively. The developments of these new standards will draw international humanitarian initiatives, as expressed in 19th century organizations like the Red Cross, into the actual possibilities of the 21st century by appropriating new technologies of life sustaining prediction, communication, and transportation.
To engage its social responsibility, DeadSeaNet has been expanding the scope of its original earthquake research activities to include education, training and public awareness. It has initiated expertise transfer across borders through a series of professional training courses for local engineers and builders as well as seminars at local public schools. Spotting new opportunities for vastly expanding the usefulness of innovative research and monitoring potential, DeadSeaNet in January 2012 established a new strategic partnership:
International Center for Conciliation (ICfC)
Additionally we are working closely with Friends of the Earth-Middle East (FoEME). FoEME is a transborder NGO that has made outstanding efforts for two-decades to protect the environment by educating the Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian public about their fragile ecosystem. We hope to learn from their experiences as an in cross-border cooperation and that this partnership will expand the impact of their work.
This new international partnership, whose members strive to model the relationships that this partnership promotes, is designing and promulgating a trans-border, interdisciplinary earthquake education program. This includes leadership and professional training for prevention and management of crises among adults, Quake-Brigades enlisting teenagers for training in disaster assistance in interactive earthquake learning stations and Quake and Eco Parks for children to learn the power and fragilities of their environments through hands-on displays, games, amusements and experiential learning.
We believe that an educated and well-trained public will be less vulnerable to future earthquake destructiveness and act more responsibly in regard to their natural and social environments; raised earthquake and environmental awareness will generate additional work opportunities to local populations; facilitating the integration of young local scientists trained overseas, DeadSeaNet will reverse brain-drain from the region thereby developing positive role and leadership models for young Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians.
The members of our partnership, themselves from different parts of the world, of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and with varied professional skills and experiences, strongly believe and have the initial evidence to demonstrate that: the state-of-the-art science promoted by DeadSeaNet, the constructive cultural and emotional attitudes promoted by ICfC, the strong commitment to the environment promoted by FoEME — this unusual combination of competence and devotion will function as a vector for positive change in conflict regions. Banking on positively valued research directions and creative interpersonal relationships, our interdisciplinary model has the capacity to look freely towards the future, beyond political boundaries for the good of our children and the fragile environment we share.
The DeadSeaNet was set up incrementally over a period of five years. Generous grants for over US$ 1.8 million were provided by leading international funders including the Minerva Foundation, the Rothschild Foundation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Swiss Development Agency and USAID-MERC. To advance our humanitarian and conciliation efforts through earthquake and environmental education, the DeadSeaNet-FoEME-ICfC strategic partnership is seeking additional budget resources. Our group has been privileged to recognize and now achieve this unusual mode of trans-border cooperation. But today we need your help to foster the next steps of the trans-border Dead Sea Triangle Platform. As we progress in this work we will evaluate and develop this vision.
There is no paucity of areas prone to natural disasters, intra- and inter-state conflicts. We already receive inquiries from other regions to assist in developing programs to be administrated by local leadership. With your assistance, we hope to develop the capacity through which our science diplomats and environmental stewards, with their experience in trans-border operations, will seed these new leadership skills in science, humanitarianism and conciliation to other global hotspots.