The world is full of wonders, both natural and man-made. From ancient temples lurking in the jungles to pristine glaciers, plastered along mountainsides among the world’s tallest peaks, there’s no shortage of incredible beauty and awe to hit the road and investigate for yourself.
But everything has a shelf-life — even the natural beauty that has stood for millennia, and the monuments of cultures past that have stood almost as long.
The plain and simple fact is, a good deal of the world is in trouble. There are a variety of dangers at work, from global climate change to disorderly tourists. Just look at some of the headlines that have come out of the past few years. The Great Pyramids are have been vandalized by kids, radical religious extremist groups like ISIS are making it a point to destroy world heritage sites, and rising sea levels are reclaiming thousands of the world’s low-lying areas, causing mass migrations of refugees and reshaping the map as we know it.
In some cases, these are tragedies on the scale of the the Mongols burning Baghdad or the fall of Rome. We’re set to lose a lot of history and culture. For that reason, you’d better get out and see some of this stuff while you still can.
We’ve put together a list of six places that are facing destruction in the near future. Though some of these places have stood the test of time thus far, their time is about up. And if you don’t see them soon, you may never get another chance.
Read on to see six of the world’s most endangered places.
1. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is tucked away in the northwest corner of Montana, making it a rather out-of-the-way destination for a lot of Americans. But it’s also one of the most pristine and gorgeous natural landscapes you can find, and is filled with all kinds of things you can’t find almost anywhere else — like grizzly bears, magnificent mountain ranges, and of course, glaciers.
But not for long.
By some estimates, the glaciers at Glacier National Park’s glaciers will be gone as soon as 2020. That leaves you less than four years to actually see them, at which point the Park’s name will lose all meaning and relevance. Climate change is to blame, as you may have guessed, and as a result, you may need to go much further north to check out a glacier in the future.
2. The Great Barrier Reef
We’ve heard for years and years that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. But since it’s on the other side of the world, and a place that relatively few of us will ever actually see in person, the urgency surrounding its destruction is often overlooked. The Reef is in peril due to a few different factors, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing.
To put things in perspective, the reef itself has lost more than half of its coral over the past three decades, according to The Guardian. And things look to get much worse. Rising sea temperatures, further acidification of the ocean’s water, and increased development throughout Oceania and Australia will continue to eat away at the Reef as well. It doesn’t look good — so get there while you still can.
3. Venice, Italy
Venice — the fabled Italian city that was built on the water, is in major trouble. We all grew up seeing images of Venice, with its canals and gondolas, museums and monuments, and wondering when we’d get a chance to go. For a lot of Americans, the closest we’ll ever get to stalking the city’s streets and waterways will be a playthrough of Assassin’s Creed II; and if you don’t make the effort to get there in the relatively near future, that may be the only option from here on out. Because the city is sinking.
Not only is the city sinking, but the ocean is rising. So, Venice is seemingly destined to become a new Atlantis. It’s a slow process, but as climate change continues to throw us curve balls, it’s not clear what will happen to the city, or when. Your best bet is to see it soon.
The Maldives, a small island nation, are in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It’s located south of India and Sri Lanka, and from photos, pretty much looks like the island paradise you’ve always envisioned yourself retiring to. It’s a popular vacation destination, and also hosts a lot of westerners for holidays and weddings. And as you may have guessed, rising sea levels have it targeted for destruction.
As climate change continues to warp the world atlas, Maldives, in all of its low-lying glory, doesn’t look to stand much of a chance. Unless some absolutely incredible feats of engineering are developed to save it, the Maldives looks to slip beneath the waves at some point in the near future.
5. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China withstood the Mongol hordes, and has lasted into the modern age without being destroyed — making it relatively unique among man-made monuments. But that doesn’t mean it’s not in danger. Because what Genghis Khan couldn’t do, erosion and tourists will take care of, given enough time.
Visitors are already being told to avoid certain sections of the Great Wall, as weather is eroding it at a fast enough pace to create the danger of collapse. And accidents at the Wall are increasing in frequency — so much so that it’s been named one of the more dangerous places to visit in all of China. Oh, and farmers are also causing damage to the Wall, leaving roughly one-third of it undamaged.
6. The South Pacific
There are a ton of island nations dotting the South Pacific ocean, and many of them U.S. territories and properties. And just like Maldives, they are all in danger as sea levels rise. This includes places like the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Easter Island, and many, many others. And since climate change is set to continue reshaping the map, all of these low-lying island nations are in danger of disappearing forever — or at least until the next ice age.
With that said, if you ever wanted to visit any of the many island chains and atolls that make up the South Pacific and Oceania, now would be the time to do it. There’s really no telling what will happen over the next couple of decades, and as conditions deteriorate among the islands and their inhabitants, it will get harder and harder to go as time marches on.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger