Feature

Now You See Them ... Soon You Won't

Disappearing Destinations

The Maldives

Known for their amazing reef life, the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, have a dubious claim to fame: they are among the lowest-lying islands on Earth (their average elevation is just over two metres above sea level).

Credit: Carolyn Barry

Venice

Even the gondoliers can’t out-pole what’s currently happening. The city has been slowly but steadily subsiding since the early 20th century – and climate change may submerge it completely.

Credit: istock photo

Glacier National Park, USA

In the middle of the 19th century there were as many as 150 glaciers in the park; by 2005, there were 27.

Credit: LOUISE SOUTHERDEN

North West Passage

In August 2007, the Northwest Passage was close to ice-free for the first time since records began, and earlier this year Greenpeace’s world-renowned sea ice expert Peter Wadhams predicted Arctic summers will be completely ice-free within 20 years.

The Reef's Its 3,000 coral reefs and almost 1,000 tropical islands, stretching more than 3,000 kilometres along the Queensland coast, are, like coral reefs in other parts of the world, increasingly at risk from rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification.

Credit: TOURISM QUEENSLAND

Borneo Sumatra

Sumatra’s orangutans are facing certain extinction unless deforestation is reversed.

Credit: BANDARIN/UNESCO

Timbuktu

Hand-in-hand with over-grazing, deforestation and depletion of groundwater, desertification is what happens when wind-borne sand and dust smothers towns and cities out of existence.

The Alps

It’s predicted most of the glaciers in the Alps and the majority of Europe’s ski slopes will be gone by 2037.

Credit: SWITZERLAND TOURISM

Galapàgos

In 2007, a UNESCO mission to the Galapàgos found its integrity threatened by the “uncontrolled development of tourism” and re-assigned the islands (which were on the very first World Heritage List, in 1978) to the World Heritage in Danger list.

Credit: UNESCO

Since the first snow survey was conducted in 1912, Kili’s famous glaciers have shrunk by an incredible 82 per cent.

Credit: iSTOCKPHOTO

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The Maldives

Known for their amazing reef life, the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, have a dubious claim to fame: they are among the lowest-lying islands on Earth (their average elevation is just over two metres above sea level). The 2004 Tsumani destroyed 14 of the archipelago’s 280 inhabited islands and three of them were evacuated in March this year due to rising sea levels. Newly elected president Mohammed Nasheed has taken this as a call to arms. Among his plans to counter the effects of climate change are: construction of a new capital, Hulhumale, due for completion in 2020; a $3-a-day green tax to be levied on visitors; and an ambitious scheme to make the Maldives the world’s first carbon-neutral country within a decade, through the use of solar, wind and biomass energy.

More info:

Alila Villa Hadahaa, which opened in August, is the first resort in the Maldives to adhere to Green Globe standards. See http://www.alilahotels.com/hadahaa

That Sinking Feeling - Venice

One of the best things about Venice, environmentally speaking, is that it’s completely car-free. Instead, residents and visitors to this watery city on the edge of the Adriatic use gondolas and motorised vaporetti (water buses) to get around. But even the gondoliers can’t out-pole what’s currently happening. The city has been slowly but steadily subsiding since the early 20th century – and climate change may submerge it completely. A report by the Institute of Marine Science in Venice, released in August this year, looked at the combination of land subsidence and global sea level rise and found that by the end of this century, high water could swamp the city up to 250 times a year (it happens just four times a year now) and eventually overcome the flood barriers currently being erected to protect it from such a fate.

More info:

Laguna Eco Adventures runs eco-tours of Venice’s hidden lagoons in traditional Adriatic sailing boats.

The Glacial race: Glacier National Park, USA

Of all the environmental changes happening around the world, the shrinking of glaciers is most often hailed as the harbinger of doom. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the aptly named Glacier National Park, in Montana. In the middle of the 19th century there were as many as 150 glaciers in the park; by 2005, there were 27. Photographs showing the retreat of one of the remaining glaciers, Grinnell, between 1938 and 2005, have provided one of the most graphic illustrations of global warming, as seen in An Inconvenient Truth. Grinnell is still visible from the 9.6-kilometre Grinnell Glacier hiking trail from Swiftcurrent Lake. But don’t leave it too long: The US Geological Survey estimates if climate change continues at its current rate, there will be no glaciers left in the park by 2020.
More info: See www.nps.gov/glac for more on Glacier National Park. Closer to home, New Zealand’s South Island has glaciers galore, including the Tasman (in Mt Cook National Park), Fox and Franz Josef. See www.newzealand.com

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