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Earth Science

Aral Sea May Recover; Dead Sea Needs a Lifeline 131

An anonymous reader writes "It's a tale of two seas. The drying up of the Aral Sea is considered one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in history, but the northern sector of the sea, at least, is showing signs of life. A dam completed in 2005 has increased the North Aral's span by 20 percent, and birds, fish, and people are all returning to the area. Meanwhile, the Dead Sea is still in the midst of precipitous decline, since too much water is being drawn out of the Jordan River for thirsty populations and crops. To keep the sea from shrinking more, scientists are pushing an ambitious scheme called the 'Red-Dead conduit,' which would channel huge amounts of water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. However, the environmental consequences of such a project may be troubling."
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Aral Sea May Recover; Dead Sea Needs a Lifeline

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  • by V50 ( 248015 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @04:03AM (#31965480) Journal

    The Aral Sea is a horrifying and very visible example of the scale of what humans can do when their policies end up destroying the environment. A major lake, once the fourth largest in the world, reduced to almost nothingness in just a few decades. Unlikely to ever fully recover.

    While I remain skeptical (but not outright dismissive) of many of the claims of the environmental movement, particularly the global warming and carbon footprint stuff, it's stuff like this that really makes me worried. If on a small scale people can do this, I really do worry what might happen on a larger scale.

  • by adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Saturday April 24, 2010 @05:28AM (#31965752) Journal

    I've thought about it, and I'm OK with it.

    What does all that water do for me (the armchair antagonist) sitting in a big hole in the ground called the Aral Sea or the Dead Sea, when it could be providing me with fresh crops, healthier livestock, clean drinking water, and high-tech factories?

    [Disclaimer: I live near enough to the Great Lakes in the US that I should really give a shit about both them and other similar things, but I just simply don't. I see them all as resources.]

  • Re:If not us, who? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @05:32AM (#31965772)
    It is hard to know. Craig Venter has a project running to sequence random stuff from seawater. I haven't been following it lately, but it seems like there is a metric shitload of bacterial species in ordinary seawater that we had no clue about before. We really just scratched the surface regarding microbial life. Getting as many sequences as possible sure is a worthwhile preservation effort if all else fails. Note, however, that we still can't reconstruct a species from DNA sequence alone. So you gotta keep some cultures at least, and extremophiles like the Dead Sea bacteria are notoriously hard to culture. It's more alchemy than science to keep the little buggers at life. Back when I was still working in a biochem lab, the microbio guys kept joking that you don't need a microbiologist to culture them well, you need a micropsychologist to make the little bastards do want you want them too ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 24, 2010 @10:41AM (#31967034)

    "That is fine if you do not care about the human population..."

    Finally a ray of light....I don't care. If ignorant people want to destroy their countries let them. Just as people need heros to hold up we need those who failure misserably to serve as a warning to others.

  • Re:If not us, who? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @11:57AM (#31967464)
    A little reading [wikipedia.org] shows that it only barely became hospitable to microorganisms a few times when massive rains diluted the salt temporarily... Animals that live around it do not get water from it for the same reason, they need rain water and river water, not more salt... And adding salt water to saturated salt water does not reduce the net saline for long because so much salt is dried on the banks or fallen out of solution... sitting there just waiting to redissolve.

    It is tempting to want to "save" things from natural effects of modern life, people are using the water so people should fix it. But once that water entered the dead sea, it too died, better it be used for something. In the end this is just as big a waste of money as trying to protect a city that is below sea level but situated by the ocean... one day it will be game over.

    As to a tourist destination, well they could Monty Python the signs and call it:

    The Really Dead Sea
  • by 21mhz ( 443080 ) on Saturday April 24, 2010 @03:24PM (#31968682) Journal

    Please don't lump an obvious consequence of man's actions with one which is still in dispute. Anthropogenic global warming has not been established as a credible theory.

    "Global warming" is an unfortunately popularized term, which is prone to misinterpretation so as to breed mistrust in general public. The only remaining "dispute" about anthropogenic climate change is in the heads of the deniers, nodding to each other on internet forums and in media.

    And hey, the shrinkage of Aral Sea was probably still "in dispute" (especially with the region's cotton elites) by the time it was too late to avert the disaster.

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success. -- Christopher Lascl