The American writer and expatriate Paul Bowles said, “whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another.” But what if as the traveler moves slowly over periods of years, the earth moves slowly too, shifting and changing due to rising sea levels, desertification, contaminants and pollution, and those parts of the earth that once existed –the glaciers, reefs, and ancient cities –slowly and incrementally disappeared.
It’s easy to take beautiful places for granted, but environmental changes, economic development, pollution, and mass tourism are affecting both the natural ecosystems and manmade attractions around the world. How much these destinations will change in 50 or 100 years or when they’ll disappear remains to be seen. However, if one has any chance of seeing these 8 places before they vanish, then moving slowly over periods of years isn’t an option.
8 Little Green Street, London
Located off Highgate Road in Kentish Town, Little Green Street is one of the few remaining 18th century Georgian streets in London. With eight two-story brick houses on one side and two on the other, the cobbled street is a quaint slice of Regency London, a photogenic, blink-and-you-miss-it alleyway tucked between massive council estates. Little Green Street survived the Blitz in World War II, but the inexorable march of gentrification is proving to be a more formidable enemy.
7 Batoka Gorge Rapids, Victoria Falls: Zimbabwe
It’s believed the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone (“Doctor Livingstone, I presume?”) was the first European to view Victoria Falls. And while the world-renown waterfall –the Smoke that Thunders -on the Zambezi River in southern Africa isn’t in danger of vanishing anytime soon, a white-water stretch of river known as the Batoka Gorge Rapids might not be as fortunate.
6 Taj Mahal, India
5 The Dead Sea, Jordan
The Dead Sea is the earth's lowest elevation, and it's water is 10 times saltier than the ocean. In the past four decades, the world’s saltiest body of water has shrunk by a third and sunk 80 feet. Former seaside resorts and restaurants are now a mile from shore. Scientists have speculated the Dead Sea could disappear in less than 50 years. Political strife in the Middle East has blocked measures to stop the shrinking of the Dead Sea. Climate change has played a significant role in the sea’s decay.
4 Venice, Italy
Venice is sinking. The question is: how much longer can the “City of Bridges" stay above water? Known for its baroque architecture, winding alleys, piazzas, and canal palaces, Venice is an engineering marvel, as the entire city is built atop ancient posts driven into the barene (mud banks). While high tide has always been a challenge in the floating city, Venice has sunk nine inches in the past 100 years. The number is daunting, but more alarming, perhaps, is the severity and regularity of the floods; in 1900, St. Marks Square flooded 10 times, while in 2000 it flooded 60 times.
3 Glacier National Park, Montana
2 The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef covers an area of 134,286 square miles, which is roughly the combined size of England, Holland and Switzerland. Consisting of over 3,000 individual reef systems and cays, it's the world’s largest single structure made by living organisms; in fact, the reef is so large it can be seen from outer space. In 1981, the Great Barrier Reef was selected as a World Heritage Site.
1 The Galapagos Islands
Located 620 miles off the coat of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin to write On the Origin of Species. Nearly 9,000 species call the volcanic islands and the surrounding waters home, and many of them can’t be found anywhere else on earth (marine iguanas, giant tortoises). However, the Galapagos Islands were on the World Heritage Site Danger List from 2007 to 2010.
Since 2008, tourism has increased 12% per year and threatens the Galapagos Island's ecosystem. Invasive species like pigs and goats have been smuggled to the islands by workers, and they now compete with the local wildlife for food. Rats have come ashore from docked cruise ships and spread disease. Hotels, restaurants, and an increasing number of motor vehicles are altering the landscape of this once isolated archipelago. Mass tourism and overuse have spawned a wide range of environmental threats. With 100,000 people annually descending on the Galapagos Islands, stricter limitations and travel restrictions are sure to follow.
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