The world is changing. You can’t have failed to notice that – global warming, ice caps melting, habitats disappearing…the world we hand down to our children and their children might be very different.
As a result, there are places that you should probably put on your list to visit in the next few years, before they disappear or are irreversibly changed. Some of these places are culturally significant, some are examples of outstanding natural beauty but they’re all under threat. Start planning your trip while you can!
10. The Malaysian Coastline
Malaysia is often cited as a Place to Visit, due to its sunny climate and miles of beautiful beaches, but now there’s another reason to visit – those beaches may not be around too much longer. A report in 2010 said that 1,300km of Malaysian coastline was under threat from erosion – that’s 29% of the coast. Combined with the threat of raised sea levels as the ice caps melt, there’s a chance that the kind of beaches shown here won’t be there in the future.
9. Blackgang Chine, the Isle of Wight
From the tropical to the tepid, the next item on our list comes from the sedate island just off the coast of England, known as the Isle of Wight. It’s a haven for pensioners and holiday makers in search of peace and quiet, but it also boasts a quite remarkable amusement park. Blackgang Chine has been entertaining visitors since 1843, and is slowly slipping into the sea. Perched on the edge of a crumbling cliff (at a rate of 3.5m a year), it has lost large sections of its land in landslides in 1921, 1968 and 1994 and no-one knows when the next major landfall will be. But be assured that the management are prepared – they’ve had lo ts of experience moving rides and exhibits further away from the cliff edge.
It’s no Disneyland, but this eccentric attraction is worth visiting before it entirely collapses into the sea!
8. Yangtze River, China
The Yangtze River is the 3rd longest river in the world, but also one that’s under threat from dramatic changes in the last 50 years. One of the pressures faced by the region is the deforestation and aggressive agriculture that impose on the natural habitats along the river – even nature reserves face being destroyed for agricultural reasons. That means that species like the snow leopard and the giant panda are threatened too, as their habitats disappear.
Another threat is the urbanization that’s taken place along the river -the population has doubled in the last 50 years and with that has come rapid industrialization and heavily populated cities. There are also a number of hydroelectric projects planned, which interfere with the natural flow of the river and destroy ecosystems. So, a river once famed for its beauty is disappearing under the strain of human progress, taking its wildlife with it. Visit before it becomes unrecognizable.
7. Timbuktu, Mali
You may not know that this is a real place (I’m not judging – I’m sure I thought it was made up for a long time), but not only is it real it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to the sacred tombs and mosques there. Unfortunately, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage in Danger site, as climate changes threatens to turn the whole area into desert. But that’s not the only threat to Timbuktu – last year, the city was taken over by two armed groups (MLNA and Ansar Dine) and the subsequent looting and violence has raised real concerns about the future of the ancient monuments.
Ansar Dine described the shrines at Timbuktu as “idolatrous and un-Islamic” and reports suggested that three sacred tombs had been destroyed. So, be cautious – this may not be the most calming place to visit for a holiday, but the ancients tombs are certainly worth seeing.
6. The Alps
Another area under threat from climate change now . The Alps are famous for their beautiful glaciers, but they are disappearing rapidly as temperatures rise. Since the 1880s, temperatures have risen by twice as much as the global average and will continue to increase by 0.72F every 10 years. That might not sound like a lot, but it has a massive effect on the rivers of ice. Since the 1980s, the glaciers have lost 20% of their size, and may disappear entirely by 2050. In America, the National Glacier Park is suffering in a similar way and only has 27 glaciers left, compared to 150 just 100 years ago. In other words, if you want to see a real glacier go and visit quickly because they may all disappear this century.
5. Portobelo, Panama
Another from the list of UNESCO World Heritage in Danger sites, this coastal fort is considered to be a fine example of Panamanian military architecture, but it’s also crumbling. UNESCO described it as “deteriorating at a rate which could undermine the outstanding universal value for which it was inscribed” and called for the Panamians to urgently plan for its maintenance. A mix of neglect and erosion from the sea has endangered the fort and without some drastic action, it could well join the list of “things you should have seen while they were still there”.
Another icy place that is suffering under global warming, Greenland is losing ice at an unprecedented rate. It now loses 5 times as much ice per year as it did in 1992, so the land mass is quite literally disappearing. A report released last year by a combination of polar research teams tracked the ice loss so far, but did not attempt to forecast what was coming next. It doesn’t take a great deal of specialist knowledge to realize that the future looks pretty grim, though. One estimate says that a global temperature rise of 3C would cause the melting of the entire Greenland ice sheet, and this is not unlikely given that the 1990s were the warmest decade in the Arctic since records began, and most models predict a 5-7C increase over the 21st Century. So, to see what Greenland has to offer – including the famous Aurora Borealis – it’s best advised to head there pretty soon!
3. Great Barrier Reef
Another place that always gets into the list of places to visit because of its spectacular beauty and abundant colorful fish. It’s one of the most impressive sights in the world, but it is also in danger of disappearing altogether, thanks to pollution in the water. The ocean is becoming increasingly acidic, and increasing in temperature, which causes coral bleaching. The local cyclones also don’t help!
It’s estimated that 80% of the world’s coral will be lost by 2030, which is not very far away really! The Great Barrier Reef is estimated to have 100 years before it disappears, but for something 8,000 years old it’s a pretty bad life expectancy. So, it may last your lifetime, but it probably won’t last your grandchildren’s. Take them on a visit while you can.
2. The Maldives
A lot of countries have areas under threat, but it’s unusual for an entire country to be under threat. But that’s exactly what The Maldives are facing, with rising sea levels threatening to overwhelm the low-lying land. At only 2.3m above sea level in some parts, it’s highly likely to be submerged should the ocean levels rise significantly – in fact, after the tsunami in 2004, up to 40% of the Maldives were covered in water.
There have been a number of reactions to this impending catastrophe, from the President leading an underwater cabinet meeting in scuba gear, to the construction of a floating golf course. More seriously, there are also plans to start evacuating one of the most densely populated islands – Kandholhudhoo – and 60% of residents have volunteered to leave in the next 15 years. The government have also started buying land in other countries to house potential displaced residents.
In terms of tourism, it seems that the potential for visiting may be severely limited. Estimates say that there is another 100 years until the Maldives becomes uninhabitable, but that’s not considering the possibility of another major disaster. Book now, and get some rock-solid travel insurance.
Venice is one of the world’s most iconic cities – the city of love, of art and of stunning architecture. But all that might be gone very soon, as Venice continues to sink. It has sunk 9 inches in the last 100 years, and the sea level is rising by 4-6mm a year. In 2000, St Mark’s Square flooded 60 times, compared with less than 10 in 1900. Whichever way you look at it, the future doesn’t seem very bright. It could be gone in as little as 70 years.
There seemed to be hope in the early 2000s, when it was suggested that the subsidence was being caused by extracting water from below ground all the time. There was a brief time when stopping this seemed to help, but the decline continues. So, if you’re planing the ultimate romantic proposal, on a gondola during the Venetian night…you only have 70 years to organize it. Better get started!