The world is filled with many beautiful places to visit. However, because it’s also filled with humans, many of these wonderful sites are being destroyed due to climate change, pollution, human contact, or even purposeful destruction. These unfortunate outside forces are what make some of the most amazing places on Earth in danger of disappearing. Though preventative measures have been taken for some of these places and though some have been restored, we are at risk of losing some of the world’s most beautiful historical sites and favorite places to visit both natural and manmade.
While it may not seem like a big deal, almost all of these sites have been around for hundreds or thousands of years but, because of several factors, may only have a few years left before they vanish completely. Climate change is a major reason a lot of our natural wonders are being depleted and things like looting, using up natural resources, and too much human contact are other causes of the potential disappearance of important destinations. You’ve no doubt heard of each place on this list and might even know a lot about them but weren’t aware of their soon demises.
If you have a case of wanderlust and wanted to know where you should go, here’s a list of fifteen of the world’s most beautiful places that may disappear during your lifetime or, at the very least, be diminished to something unrecognizable.
15. Great Barrier Reef
Scientists predict that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be completely gone by 2030. In the past 30 years, the world’s largest coral reef has decreased by more than half its size due to rising temperatures. Increased acid pollution has led to coral bleaching, and many of the reef’s famed vibrant corals are slowly being turned white. Plus, large parts of the Great Barrier Reef may be torn up by a string of proposed mining ports. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, but poor fishing practices, pollution, coral bleaching, and increasing sea temperatures due to global warming are all threatening the reef’s future. According to WWF Australia, reef industries (tourism and fishing), which contribute around $5.4 billion annually and provide about 69,000 jobs, rely on a healthy environment.
14. Tasmanian Forests
The forests of Tasmania face a lot of risks. Some of Tasmania’s forests may be torn up for export and the north-west of Tasmania is seeing an unprecedented amount of bushfires caused by lightning strikes. If these fires can’t be contained, then areas like Walls of Jerusalem National Park face the threat of extinction. In addition to the land forests being in danger of disappearing, the large kelp forests in Tasmania may also see an end soon. The undersea forest is made up of giant kelp (the largest marine plant in the world) and is disappearing most likely because of the climate change in the ocean.
13. Islands of the Seychelles
These islands, located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar, are disappearing due to beach erosion and rising sea levels and are in danger of almost completely disappearing within the next 50 to 100 years. Most of the islands of the archipelago will sink, leaving the rest uninhabitable. Seychelles’ citizens greatly rely on the coral reef for its fish and protection against large waves. Crazy fact: The Seychelles’ airport is already located just 30 feet above the sea!
12. The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal, India’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the seven wonders of the world, might not be here much longer due to continuous damage from pollution. Growth in industry, traffic, and population in Agra, the city where the Taj Mahal is located, all contribute to the destructive pollution. The monument is also affected by the lowering levels of the Yamuna, a river which runs right next to the structure, as the wood in its foundation needs to stay moist to avoid collapse. Though preventative measures have been taken(banning vehicles within 500 meters of the monument and using clay pack treatment to maintain the building’s appearance), the crowds and pollution continue to eat away at the landmark’s white stone facade and tourism officials are considering closing it to the public altogether. So, even if it doesn’t collapse into ruins, it may not be much longer for you to have the chance to visit it.
11. Egypt’s Pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza
These ancient Egyptian structures are dealing with erosion caused by pollution. Sewage is weakening the plates they stand on while air pollution eats away at the structures and the pollution may soon lead to their complete collapse. Because some layers are softer than others, a lot of the original detail has already been lost from erosion. While many people attribute the loss of the sphinx’s nose to Napoleon(there’s a rumor that his men shot it off), it was actually shot off by the Turks in target practice in the Turkish period. Camel rides and horseback tours are now banned, but tourists are still allowed to touch and climb the pyramids, leading to even more damage. While it’s slowly falling apart on its own, terrorist group ISIS has threatened to destroy it themselves.
Venice has been sinking for years and is showing no signs of stopping. It has sunk by nine inches in the last 100 years. Rising sea levels play a role (the sea level rises 4-6 mm a year) and more and more severe floods are also contributing to the disappearance of the city. Compared to 100 years ago, when it would flood about 9 times a year, today, St. Mark’s Square floods about 100 times per year. Unfortunately, tourism is a factor in its demise too; in 2007, Venice saw over twenty-one million tourists which is almost forty times its population. The city is only expected to last less than 70 years more so get in your gondola ride while you can.
Babylon, the capital of Babylonia, an ancient empire of Mesopotamia, has been seriously damaged by war and development. The city known as the birthplace of writing and literature has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and only its foundation has survived. More damage was done in the recent Iraq war. Basically all that remains of the famed city today is debris, though historic pieces and more information and pictures can be found in the Babylon museum. Even the ruins may be totally gone soon, though, as talk of restoration or development is always in the works. Restorations in the past haven’t been very impressive and the ancient city is seeing less and less tourists. Even more sad(and embarrassing) is that the military base “Camp Alpha”, with a helipad and other facilities were built right on top of Babylonian ruins following the Iraq War which they said was approved by the “head of the Babylon museum.”
8. The Dead Sea
Bordering Jordan and Israel, the Dead Sea has shrunk considerably, sinking 80 feet in the last four decades. The main reason for its disappearance is the River Jordan’s (the sea’s only water source) continued use by the countries surrounding the sea. It shrinks about thirteen inches of water a year while the water level goes down about four feet. If people continue to draw water from there, the sea could vanish in the next five decades. The sea, which is actually a lake, is the world’s saltiest body of water and has the lowest elevation on Earth. In 2013, ABC News reported that more than three thousand sinkholes exist along the banks of the Dead Sea and some of these go eighty feet into the ground. These sinkholes are also a direct consequence of using up too much water from the River Jordan.
7. The Forbidden City
Tourism is the main threat to this iconic Chinese structure. The Palace Museum, which was once home to the imperial Chinese court, is now one of the world’s largest open-air museums and has been China’s most popular attraction for 90 years. Restoration attempts(including that which took place before the 2008 Olympics) have been considered appalling as ancient tiles, bricks, and carved marble were replaced and some stolen. Other scandals, like the theft of $1.5 million worth of rare trinkets and revealed plans to open a private club have angered the public. Many other items have been stolen from the site which is already delicate to begin with. It will stay fully accessible for now, but there’s no telling how much longer the weak structure will last.
6. Africa’s Congo Basin
Africa’s Congo Basin is the second-largest rainforest in the world. It houses over ten thousand plant species, one thousand bird species, and four hundred mammal species. The United Nations predicts two-thirds of the 1.3-million-square-mile forest may be completely gone; this can occur as soon as 2040. The causes of the rainforest’s demise? Illegal mining, illegal logging, farming, ranching, and guerrilla warfare. It’s not only a blow to the species its home to but to humans as well: tropical rainforests produce forty percent of the world’s oxygen.
5. The Alps
With the changing of the climate, the Alps have strongly been affected because they’re at a lower altitude than other mountain ranges. Temperatures have increased twice as much as the global temperature since the 19th century. Each year, 3 % of glacial ice is lost, and if this continues, there won’t be any more glaciers left on the Alps by 2050 (in 2006 it was estimated to last until 2100). Not only will the loss of the Alps hurt the European ski industry, but it will also change the supply of drinking and irrigation water and lead to more falling rocks.
4. The Great Wall of China
The largest man-made structure in the world, the Great Wall of China has been around for over 2,000 years. China’s main tourist attraction is in danger due to recent over-farming, which has led to nearly two-thirds of the wall being damaged or destroyed. Natural erosion and human damage have destroyed about two thousand kilometers(thirty percent) of the wall. Erosion may leave the wall in ruins within the next 20 years if nothing is done to preserve it. A surge in tourism, theft and graffiti are all taking their toll and accelerating deterioration.
3. The Florida Everglades
Sometimes referred to as the most threatened park in the US, The Florida Everglades has a lot of problems to combat; too much water, new species, and urban development are all part of what puts it in danger. The Florida Everglades National Park is home to endangered plants and animals(the manatee and panther live there, for example), but human actions have drained the park of resources to the point that it is now half the size it was 100 years ago. The park and its rare and endangered species are in danger and, even with the funds the US government has allocated towards restoration, the landscape is already changed forever so its best to visit now before it’s depleted even more.
2. The Amazon
South America’s Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, measuring over 2 million square miles. Housing some of the most diverse species in the world, it may not exist for long; more and more people are using agriculture, which has lead to the forest’s destruction. Close to 300,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed across the many countries it spans since 1978. Although some countries like Brazil have implemented policies to stop forest loss, other countries need to help in order to save the forest.
1. Michoacan Monarch Biosphere Reserve
The migration of the monarch butterflies (over 2,000 miles) is pretty amazing, especially when you consider how none of them has ever taken that path before. Each spring, they fly to the same area for nesting in the mountains of northeast Michoacán, Mexico. Their nesting grounds are in grave danger, which means the butterflies soon will be, too.
Logging of the surrounding forests is slowing taking away the butterflies’ habitat. Almost 80% of the monarch butterfly population was killed in a 2002 winter storm. In 2001, Mexican President Vicente Fox established the Monarch Trust to protect the monarchs’ winter home and in 2004, President Obama met with new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to establish a working group to ensure the conservation of the monarch butterfly.
While there are seven monarch nesting grounds in Michoacán, only El Rosario and Chincua are open to the public. Without the local wildlife or butterflies, though, there won’t be much to see in the possible near future.