Disappearing Destinations

5 01 2009

 

mount-kenya-mw

Snows of Mount Kenya – Africa’s second highest mountain.

 

In the back of a desk drawer sits an expired passport bearing the visa and stamp for a country that does not exist. Sadly, it is not Narnia or Middle Earth, although a childhood spent hiding in my parents’ wardrobe and a pair of very hairy feet suggest that I actually have familiarity with both. Instead, it is for Zaire: a country that existed in name from 1971-1997.

 

Over the past 50 years, many places have disappeared. No matter how hard you look, you can’t find Upper Volta, Rhodesia, Peking, Nyasaland, Bombay, Bechuanaland, Ceylon, Dutch Guyana, Yugoslavia, Leningrad or Czechoslovakia on current maps.

 

While these places have only changed names or borders and may not have actually disappeared, there are unfortunately many places in the world that are at risk of existing only in memories and photographs.

 

Some years ago, famed author Douglas Adams wrote “Last Chance to See”, a travelogue/natural history book examining the plight of desperately-threatened species. Now, Kimberly Lisagor and Heather Hansen have contributed “Disappearing Destinations” which highlights the plight of such well-known threatened spots as the Amazon rainforests, the Maldives, glaciers, Kilimanjaro’s snowcap, Tuvalu, Timbuktu, China’s Yangtze River Valley and even Machu Picchu.

 

Very recently, Australian scientists announced that the Great Barrier Reef experienced less growth last year than at any other point in the past 400 years and is under very severe threat from global warming and high levels of acidity in the world’s oceans.

 

While we have long been aware of the threat to individual species such as whales, tigers and gorillas, for the first time in most of our lifetimes, we are seeing particular sites or entire eco-systems under threat.

 

Not only are we on the threshold of our very own ‘last chance to see’ with many of these epic places, but visiting them may actually help to save them. In cases where today’s threat may in part be due to past unrestricted tourism, sensible limits have in many cases been imposed and responsible tour operators created to ensure that visitors are now not only no longer part of the problem but actually part of the solution. Park fees and environmental taxes are re-invested in conservation efforts and many people who visit these endangered places often return home as their most enthusiastic supporters and greatest activists.

 

Like never before, we not only have a chance to see the great sights of the world, but to actually help to ensure that they are still there for future generations.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

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One response

2 04 2009
brian from nodebtworldtravel.com

Even more reason to travel now. I encourage folks to travel because of the great prices. Now we have to worry about what we want to see not being there!

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