Go to the listed destinations before it's too late.
It is a tragic irony – as more people are able to travel, many of the world’s most treasured destinations move toward extinction, or at least rest on the verge of enormous change. Global warming, pollution and even political turmoil have put many of these iconic places in danger of disappearing within the next lifetime or so. Today we’re lucky enough to be able to still visit such areas in all their beauty, so move these five places to the top of your travel bucket list:
1. Venice, Italy
The pasta! The pizza! The romance! The art! The cathedrals! The rising tides brought on by global warming? Sure enough, the most fragile and mysterious of Italian cities has been flooding at increasingly rapid rates, with the water level of recent floods reaching over five feet (DeFranza par. 1). While its architectural brilliance draws millions of tourists every year, Venice’s manmade construction – built on 118 small islands as if to float on the waters of the lagoon – is also leading to its possible destruction (UNESCO par. 1). Most experts attribute this rise in flooding to climate change, in which case extreme flooding will in the coming years as ice continues to melt and create a rise in sea level (DeFranza par.
2. Great Barrier Reef
Another victim of global warming, the vibrant colors of the world’s largest coral reef system are slowly fading. The rising sea temperatures fueled by climate change pose a threat for the symbiotic algae that allow the coral to thrive, while the destructive pesticides found in the runoff from coastal farms are beginning to cloud the water, taking a toll on the sea grass and the fish population (Smith 1).
What is in danger here is not the physical but the cultural: since Tibet was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China in the 1950’s, Tibetan language, culture and history has faced the possibility of slow and steady erasure (Song 5). Laws such as those that replaced Tibetan language lessons with Chinese Mandarin potentially dim the life of Tibetan culture, threatening to make its tradition only a memory (5).
4. The Taj Mahal
One of the world’s most famous architectural silhouettes is under threat of environmental destruction, with pollution and acid rain from nearby factories gradually transforming the monument’s façade from its iconic white to pale yellow (Smith 2). India’s Supreme Court took action to stop this degradation, closing the doors of these nearby producers of pollution. Electric buses and horse-drawn carriages are now the main source of transportation to reach the mausoleum (2). But, if you want to see the Taj Mahal at it's finest, go now.
5. The Alps
One of the first things many people think of when they hear the words, “global warming” is the melting of glaciers. It is no wonder – across the world, glaciers are retreating faster than action can be taken to stop them. In Switzerland, the change in the Alps has been particularly noticeable, as the cherished mountain range is a popular tourist destination. Scientists predict that most of the glaciers in the Alps could be gone by 2050, and some ski resorts have taken extreme steps to combat damage from global warming: some have taken to making their own snow, while others have begun wrapping their glaciers in blankets to stop continued melting (Schlichter sec. 2).
Yet while it is only natural to want to rush off and take advantage of these places (and you should!), it is also important to take the toll of human traffic into account. In many of these places, tourism itself has played a major role in physical and environmental destruction. So travel as unobtrusively and as “greenly” as possible – minimize pollution, waste and negative stereotypes. Do research on these destinations before you go, ask how you can help, and take whatever action you can to preserve some of our world’s most exquisite landmarks. Keeping this in mind... enjoy what these sites have to offer while you still can!
DeFranza, David. "Focus on Focus Earth: Flooding in Venice." - Planet Green. 5 Dec. 2008. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/focus-earth/venice-floods.html>.
Schlichter, Sarah. "Climate Change Travel: The World's Most Endangered Places." TheIndependentTraveler.com. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/none/climate-change-travel-the-worlds-most-endangered-places>.
Smith, Julian. "Endangered Destinations." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 15 May 2008. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2008/05/15/endangered-destinations?>.
Song, Vivian. "Endangered Places: Visit before It's Too Late." MSN Travel, 5 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://travel.ca.msn.com/endangered-places-visit-before-its-too-late>.
UNESCO. "Venice and Its Lagoon." - UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/394>.
The Woman Behind the Travel Section:
Katie Helete is a cultured old soul with a kind of energy that would entice you to travel with her anywhere. Attending UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, she is majoring in Political Economy. Explore the world, bucket list by bucket list with the brilliant and bold Katie.