The Jordan River

4 May 2010

At May 2nd ... the Jordan river is nowadays little more that a polluted stream a few metres wide that is on the verge of drying up according to environmentalists. Although it is easy to say this is another example of the dripping effect of AGW alarmist stories it is not strictly climate change - but pollution. Mind, they do pull the correct strings as they use Christian pilgrims to milk the apocalyptic tenor of the alarmist preacher. This is the river in which Jesus was baptised, it says - and claims Russian pilgrims were wading into the polluted waters in a re-enactment of John the Baptist ducking Jesus. I don't know if this is true but people will believe it - why should they doubt what seems an authoritative claim. Friends of the Earth, the NGO with it's armpits deep into AGW mega-bucks funding, says 98 per cent of the Jordan flow has been diverted by Israel, Jordan and Syria. The remaining flow consists primarily of sewage, fish pond water, agricultural run-off, and saline water. It is expected to run dry at the end of 2011 - almost 2012 but not quite. All 135 miles of it. The environmentalists say that in the 19th century the Jordan had cascades, and a wide river bed but today it is a brackish stream. It's a good job they were not at Redhill on saturday as Emmet Sweeney claimed the Jordan valley was a lush environment with a fauna and flora descended from African and Indian ecosystems (when the climate was much warmer). Of course, this disappeared long ago, but Emmet was at pains to demonstrate that frankincense plants could have grown on terraces below Jericho as late as the Iron Age. The Jordan rises on Mount Hermon and descends to Lake Huleh, the Sea of Galilee, and at its deepest point, the Dead Sea, with a shoreline some 1292 feet below sea level. That is unique and makes for a very special environment - or rather, it did. The valley is a warm pocket that once hosted a tropical climate with an exotic flora and small animals peculiarly with African affinities. These have their origin in the Mid Holocene Warm Period when the deserts of Arabia and the Sahara did not exist. They were a savannah habitat playing host to the wildlife typical of the Sudan, a belt of savannah to the south of the Sahara. When the climate changed, most dramatically at around 3000BC - and progressively since that time, some species found themselves stranded. It is well known that ancient kings of Assyria and Egypt hunted big game in what is now North Syria but in the Bible we have lions and leopards and plants such as the Balm of Gilead, the camber oil plant and oleander, acacia, tararisks, and various semi tropical plants - and according to Emmet Sweeney, frankincense. The latter became a huge crop grown in southern Arabia and Saba in Africa - in the Roman period. Roman temples, and temples in general, used a lot of frankincense, and Arabs grew rich - with modern parallels. It is not impossible that frankincense might have grown in the Jordan valley in an earlier period - but archaeology has not recognised this as a fact. However, Diodorus of Sicily refers to giraffes and leopards on the border between Arabia and Syria, a reference we might note that would fit the Jordan Valley or thereabouts.

There is a dam to the south of the Sea of Galilee and a sewage treatment plant downstream. Friends of the Earth think the solution is not to stop the sewage, as such, as salinity levels might then increase. They think the answer is to allow fresh water to be allowed to naturally replenish the ecosystem of the river - which means a political agreement not to take so much water from ground sources that feed the river and from the river itself. This worked at a stream over here in the UK. It had virtually disappeared - it did annually in the summer months, for a variety of reasons such as the water board extracting large amounts of water and by diverting what remained into drains that led to sewage works and which flushed the treated product downstream where it was treated once again and dispersed into larger bodies of water. Last century the stream was wide and there were numerous water-cress beds along it's length - but it faded to a trickle before anything was done. It is now a thriving chalk stream once again. However, it would seem most unlikely that the Jordan could reclaim it's African fauna and flora - that is lost to history.