Hannah Huber of the Architectural Digest put together a list of 30 places to visit before they disappear. Having lost the Azure Window last year, it is easy to be tempted to jump at the suggestion and modify your travel bucket list. But is such alarmist stance good for the destinations concerned?
Let’s look at the list first. It starts with the Dead Sea, which is losing water because of reduced inflow from the over-exploited Jordan river, as well as the impact of tourism and cosmetics industry. Many tourists rush to take a dip before this natural wonder is gone – and buy salt and mud products along the way. As a result, the over-exploitation intensifies.
Floating in the Dead Sea. Photo credit: Daiva Repečkaitė / Eve
Next is the Great Barrier Reef. It is suffering from climate change and ship traffic. Visit before it’s gone – by ship!
The Great Wall of China is No. 4. Erosion and destruction, as locals sell it brick-by-brick for souvenirs, are clearly caused by increasing tourism. The same goes for the Grand Canyon.
Climate change is attributed to the gradual demise of islands like the Maldives, the Galapagos and Nauru. Not without the impact of pollution resulting from plane travel. Erosion is gradually destroying even Machu Picchu and Stonehenge.
Is it fair to travel there today just to be ahead of others and contribute to the ongoing destruction of the place? Most probably writers who compose similar lists believe that they are inviting only the right kind of tourists – those who are genuinely concerned with the world’s future and want to contribute to its preservation. They distance themselves from these other tourists who go around polluting and eroding the place. It is far too easy to believe that only others are the wrong kind of tourists.
Is the only solution then not to travel and to leave these places for others to see ‘before they’re gone’? It’s worth looking at them case-by-case. Are sustainable travel practices available on location? Is there any way to support measures to undo the damage from tourism and exploitation? If not, perhaps the best we can do is to give this place a break.