“The Dead Sea is not only losing its salt and its surrounding waters, it is losing its inhabitants,” the BBC reports. A collective loss of the sea is a loss of civilization—and not only is the sea dying, but half the world’s population lives within a 2-mile radius, almost all of them Jewish. That fact, combined with an influx of Jewish tourists, is contributing to a 60 percent decline in the Dead Sea’s population since the first 1990s. The BBC visited the sea, deep under the desert in northern Israel and Jordan, with a geologist at Bar-Ilan University to look at the effects of rising sea levels on the region. In a region where the salt-poor Dead Sea was once the shallowest and deepest of the great salt lakes, today it is around seven feet higher than in the days when life lived there. Heavier rainfall is one cause of the salinization—the rate of change is proportional to the volume of water, and the more water, the more salt. With at least 20 million settlers living in the area surrounding the sea, the situation is not only a decline in the number of people living near it, but also in agriculture and natural resources, from the salt and liquid minerals to animal furs. “Now, those minerals are evaporating away, even the water,” said conservationist Yisrael Goldu said.