It sits at the lowest spot on earth, is fed by one of the world's most significant waterways, and served witness to humanity's passage out of Africa. And it's dying. The Dead Sea, among the most remarkable natural phenomena on the earth's face, has lost a third of its surface area over 50 years, and continues to shrink three or more feet annually -- entirely because of human behavior.
Standing at Israel's Alumot Dam, a 30-minute walk south from the Sea of Galilee, it's a typical midwinter day: deep blue sky, birds everywhere and a brisk breeze that carries a nauseating stench. Reduced to a thin stream by this point, the Jordan River stops. A few feet south of the dam, untreated sewage gushes directly into the riverbed.