While many of nature’s wonders and man’s architectural masterpieces have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, they might not be around much longer. Global warming and pollution are ruining natural wonders, and historians are fighting an often losing battle against architectural decay. If you’re able to travel, visiting these sites is a way to protect them and contribute to their health and preservation. Grab your bag and passport to visit these five iconic places before they’re gone.
1. The Great Barrier Reef
Scientists believe the Great Barrier Reef as we know it will disappear in the next two decades without regulatory intervention and community involvement. This is due to global warming that slows coral growth and causes massive die-offs of crucial animals in the ecosystem. When one animal or plant type dies, it creates a hole in the food chain, causing more animals to leave and seek a better food source. If you do go, look for eco-tours that respect the environment and support the reconstruction of the reef. This region is too precious to lose.
2. Venice, Italy
Venice is perceived as one of the most romantic destinations in the world. Gondoliers push couples through the canals and under picturesque bridges. Unfortunately, Venice is sinking much faster than scientists once anticipated, and both tourists and locals are taking notice. The tides are coming in higher, which means squares and streets that were once walkable are flooding, wreaking havoc on local businesses. While a trip to this city might be romantic, you will also want to pack galoshes and extra pairs of socks.
3. The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is actually a hypersaline lake in which the salt content is too high for most life forms to live in. For tourists, it’s a great spot for an all-natural mud bath. You don’t want to miss getting a photo of yourself floating atop the salty water, so be sure to bring a smartphone that has an excellent camera, like the iPhone 6 from T-Mobile. Then, taking advantage of your phone’s reliable network, send it to all your friends.
However, this durable and inhospitable body of water is no match for global warming — it has shrunk by almost 30 percent in the last 30 years. While it may not seem like there’s a lot of life in the Dead Sea, the water is actually home to bacteria and microbial fungi that can survive in no other conditions on Earth. As the Dead Sea dies, so do these organisms. Scientists are working to stop the destruction, but the sea that provided salt for Egyptian mummification may be no match for carbon emissions.
4. The Seychelles
The Seychelles are made up of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa. These picturesque islands boast crystal-clear waters, palm trees blowing lazily in the wind, and colorful wildlife that is unique to the region. However, recent coral reef die-offs have diminished wildlife numbers in the area, and coastal erosion threatens many beaches. Visitors can see rocks worn away by erosion and might find that they don’t have as much sand as they would like on their relaxing strolls. Many locals are working to prevent further erosion despite fears that the battle is already lost.
5. Florida’s Everglades
Global warming and human development have earned Everglades National Park a spot on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger. The Everglades are considered a water source for some Floridians, and the ecosystem can’t keep up with regional demand. Even a drop of a few inches in the water level can have a massive effect on flora and fauna, which is why environmentalists are working to protect this delicate region. Human activity and invasive species, like the Burmese python, have pushed some animals out of the Everglades, which is one reason why more Floridians are encountering snakes and alligators in their backyards.
These are just a few locations that are at risk of disappearing during our lifetimes, diminishing native plant and animal life. While it’s important to see these places before they’re gone, tourists need to make sure they’re helping the communities they visit, not just contributing to the problem.