Global warming, urbanization, pollution, and neglect have caused many destinations irreversible damage already. Now might be the time to plan a trip if any of these places are on your bucket list!
1. Antarctica: Penguin Country
Known in part for its substantial penguin population, Antarctica might be uninhabited but it's far from untouched.
In the past century, studies by Australian authorities have found that atrocities such as the harvesting of Antarctic species, contamination of soils, discharge of sewage and garbage into the sea, and general disturbances have affected all species in the world's most mysterious continent.
While specialists are trying to minimize the damage as best they can, much of it is probably irreversible.
One piece of good news came recently with the discovery of a "supercolony" of Adelie penguins, a species that many had feared was in massive decline for decades. The colony was found on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula on the Danger Islands. The negative effects of human activity and climate change have apparently been less devastating here.
The best way to see Antarctica is by cruise, but make sure that when you book, you select a cruise line that is a member of IAATO and abides by regulations for safe and responsible operation.
2. The Great Barrier Reef
Off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia sits 2,300 km of reef known as the Great Barrier Reef. It's not only the largest living thing on the entire earth, its magnificence can actually be seen from space - much like the Great Wall of China.
Sadly, scientists report that nearly 93% of the reef has already been devastated by coral bleaching, with the result that the reef has lost much of its color. The cause is pollution and global warming.
While the Great Barrier Reef is resilient and capable, at least to some extent, of restoring itself, many fear that its resilience is reaching its limits. Some scientists believe that if the current level of damage is sustained over the next couple decades, the reef might cease to exist entirely.
Whether you cruise or snorkel along it or take a hot air balloon ride above it, you might want to think about seeing the Great Barrier Reef sooner than later!
To read more about the Great Barrier Reef and other wonders of the ocean, check out 10 Safe And Serene Scuba And Snorkeling Destinations.
3. The Snows Of Mount Kilimanjaro
The snow that sits atop Africa's highest mountain actually earned itself some fame in 1938 when Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Since then, the state of the environment has deteriorated dramatically, and it has taken a toll on the great mountain.
While climbers have been ascending to the peak for years in a bid to capture memories and photos from the icy summit, that won't be an option for very much longer.
Scientists estimate that by 2020, the glacial ice that rests on the crest of the mountain will likely be gone forever. Yes, the mountain will still exist and people will still be able to climb it, but it won't ever be quite the same without that iconic snowy peak.
4. Florida's Everglades
There are few places in the world that have remained untouched by the expansionist development of mankind, and it's hitting close to home for many in the States as well.
Florida is beloved for its large wildlife population, including over 350 species of birds, and many of these species live in the Everglades, a national park and a wetland of global significance.
As urbanization and pollution have increased internationally, the Everglades have been deeply impacted, and the degradation has landed this national treasure on the UNESCO danger list. While it has been on and subsequently off the list in the past, skeptics doubt that it will be removed this time, citing increasingly substantial losses of marine habitats and a decline in marine species.
Environmentalists certainly hope for some kind of reversal, and for the glades to be taken off the list soon, but regardless, now is the time to check out this magnificent park before it loses more of what makes it so special! (Just as long as you do so in a responsible way.)
5. Venice: The Sinking City
A legendary city of romance and a crown jewel of Italy, Venice has made a fortune from tourists on the premise that it's a "floating city." Unfortunately, this floating city is actually sinking.
The World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed Venice on its list of places under threat, a list that no one wants to make. The cause of Venice's increased risk is the large number cruise ships that have been traversing the canals more frequently in recent decades, damaging the ancient foundations of the city with underwater vibrations.
There was a ban on passenger ships for a short period of time, but Italian courts reversed the ruling and the problem is now as serious as it has ever been.
With more flooding, continued sinking, and rising sea levels all over the world, Venice might not be around much longer without a significant change.