We have all heard the news about environmental degradation, and the diminishing availability of our Earth’s natural resources. Unfortunately, resources such as oil, water and oxygen are not the only things that are endangered – many of the Earth’s wonders are in jeopardy as well, and are likely to disappear over the next several decades. We think it is crucial for people to travel to these environmentally fragile destinations, not only to see them before they disappear, but, more importantly, to raise global citizenship awareness regarding the environment. Tourism also provides much needed income to these vulnerable areas, that can potentially be put towards preservation efforts. Awareness about the environmental crises facing us can promote global awareness, foster proactivity, and potentially be the driving force behind saving our planet. We encourage travelers to invest some time and thought into these magnificent places before they are gone forever.
One of the most diverse and vibrant ecosystems, the Galapagos Islands are in danger of being destroyed due to a loss of biodiversity. This has been facilitated by workers who have been smuggling animals to the islands that compete with the local wildlife for food and resources. Furthermore, extensive tourism is contributing to the decline of the natural beauty of the islands. We encourage travelers to enjoy this wonder of this destination responsibly and to respect the 9,000 species that call the islands home – take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
Not only is the Maldives the smallest Asian population by both land area and population, it is also the world’s lowest nation. 80% of its 1,200 islands are less than 1 meter above sea level, and scientists estimate that this stunning destination has fewer than 100 years left before it sinks completely. Additionally, over 90% of The Maldives’ coral reefs have been lost due to bleaching caused by water pollution. The problems here have gotten so severe that the government has decided to start purchasing lands in other nations in order to accommodate residents for the future. The gorgeous beaches and quaint fishing villages are worth the trip.
Great Barrier Reef
Though the world’s largest coral reef, and one of Australia’s most adored natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef has recently fallen victim to rising ocean temperatures, water pollution, ocean acidification and coral bleaching. Climate change is so severe that it is projected that the reef has less than 100 years left in existence. We encourage travelers to make it to this marvelous destination, which features 350 species of coral and covers 134,000 square miles.
This precious Italian gem is sinking, and it is likely to be eradicated within the next 70 years. A highlight of many Italy tours, Venice is famous for its canals; ironically, it is these very canals that are destroying it. Due to rising sea levels and frequency of floods, Venice has sunk 9 inches in the last 100 years. Floods are only getting more severe each year, and soon Italy’s beloved St. Mark’s Square, winding little streets and bridges will no longer be able to stay above water.
The Dead Sea
In the last four decades, this oasis in the desert has shrunk by one-third, and has sunk over 80 feet. Because the surrounding countries such as Israel and Jordan use the water of the Jordan River, the sea’s only source, the Dead Sea is rapidly diminishing. As water levels drop at a rate of approximately 4 feet each year, it is believed that in less than 50 years it will dry up altogether.
Europe’s most famous mountain range, The Alps is a beloved destination to anyone traveling in that region. However, due to severe ice loss, they are predicted to disappear within the next 40 years. The Alps are at a lower altitude than other mountain ranges, and are therefore more vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The iconic snow-topped mountains we all know and love could soon be completely melted, ending skiing in Europe as we know it.
In less than 35 years, it is expected that deforestation in Madagascar will result in the downfall of the island, the fourth largest in the world. This would mean a huge loss of species, as over 80% of the flora and fauna of Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world. Currently only one-sixth of the original 120,000 square miles of forest are left, leaving Madagascar’s cherished lemurs without a habitat. Anti-poaching activists have taken a keen interest in preserving Madagascar, its myriad of species, and its beautiful land.
The Congo Basin
In just 25 years, over two-thirds of the unique and irreplaceable wildlife here could be lost. The tropical forest is being destroyed due to mining, illegal logging, farming and guerilla warfare. After the Amazon, The Congo Basin is the world’s largest rainforest; however it is shrinking rapidly, with over 10 million of its acres are destroyed annually. Adding to the severity, this natural wonder has a geographical presence in 7 already fragile African nations that rely on it for resources and income.
Glacier National Park
One of our very own natural wonders, Glacier National Park is situated in Montana and is considered one of the most picturesque places in America. Sadly, in only 20 years this important natural feature could be completely gone due to ice loss caused by global warming. The park comprises over a million acres and accommodates over 700 lakes. Thousands of plants, birds and other animals will be without a home if the glaciers all melt, causing further disturbances in the ecosystem.
Though not a natural wonder, the Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and in less than 5 years it could be closing to the public. Air pollution has been eating away at the façade for years now. If this landmark closes, its beauty will only be visible from afar.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sleepcreature/