Dead Sea – Israel, Jordan and Palestine
The water level in the world’s saltiest sea is dropping a few feet each year, mostly because of water diversions from its main source, the Jordan River, and mineral extractions from its southern basin. Throughout most of modern history, the sea held steady at about 50 miles long. Now it barely covers 30 miles, and experts say it could lose another third—or more—before the water hits its maximum salt saturation and evaporation stops.
The Dead Sea appears in Muslim, Christian and Jewish texts and has turned up more than a few relics from the past—this is where Bedouin goat herders stumbled upon the Dead Sea Scrolls in a seaside cave in 1947. It’s also a stone’s throw from Jericho, which is possibly the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlement. Also in the Dead Sea region lies Masada, the ancient fortress where Jewish refugees chose mass suicide over Roman capture nearly 2,000 years ago. And some believe the sea’s confluence with the Jordan River is the site of Jesus’ baptism.
Boreal Forests – Finland
Despite the protests of local reindeer herders, the Finnish government continues to mine the old-growth woods of Lapland, one of Europe’s last remaining wilderness areas. The loss of trees here harms not only aesthetics but also local reindeer. The animals normally subsist on tree lichen when the ground is frozen, but with fewer forests to graze in, they’re going hungry.
On a Lapland Adventures safari, you’ll hike, camp, kayak and even snorkel through some of northern Finland’s stunning waters and wildlands with guides well-versed in the region’s natural and cultural histories. Summers above the Arctic Circle are drenched in endless sunlight. Conversely, winters are sunless but lit by star-jammed skies and bright curtains of the Northern Lights. In spring, a myriad of flowers surface on the Arctic fells and reindeer calves emerge.
Kiribati islands – Pacific Ocean
The island nation consists of 33 atolls scattered in a vast marine area. Most of the Kiribati islands don’t exceed 2m above sea level, and scientists estimate that it is a matter of very few years until they sink into the Pacific waters, due to the global warming and the rise of the ocean level. Two uninhabited atolls have already disappeared, while pessimistic, yet realistic estimations say Kiribati will drown between the years, 2060 and 2070. It is therefore not a surprise that Kiribati’s president has already negotiated the movement of the population to New Zealand.
The Kiribati Holidays company organizes different types of alternative travel packages in different Kiribati islands. Activities range from bird watching, reef excursions and sea exploring with a kayak, to snorkeling and diving lessons.
Aysén – Patagonia, Chile
Spanish power company Endesa plans to build two dams along the Rio Baker and two on the Rio Pascua in southern Aysén, one of the last truly
pristine places on the planet. The 2,430-megawatt project will flood up to 36 square miles of land, permanently alter the ecology and turn the upper Baker stagnant.
Raft the Baker from source to sea with Patagonia Adventure Expeditions. It’s an eight-day, 125-mile journey from the Northern Ice Field to the Pacific in water that’s clean enough to drink. December is the peak of summer in the Southern Hemisphere when you’re least likely to encounter icy gusts and storms.
Sagarmatha National Park Everest, Nepal
The park, which encompasses 443 square miles. has become increasingly dotted with glacial lakes that pose a flooding threat to the villages below. As glaciers melt, they shed the layers of rocks and sediment that were trapped inside the ice, and the debris forms natural dams. Scientists have predicted that 20 of Nepal’s glacial lakes are filling so quickly they could breach their walls by 2009.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay launched their Everest summit from the edge of the Khumbu glacier. To reach the glacier today, you’ll have to walk two hours from their 1953 base camp. KarmaQuest treks include a visit to the national park visitor center for a primer on responsible trekking from the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, the region’s conservation group. If you go in October, you’ll get to see the colorful Mani-Rimdu festival at Tyangboche.
Napa Valley vineyards – California
Climatologists predict that rising temperatures could alter the growing conditions that have long been key to Napa’s famed wine. Grapes require hot days and cool nights throughout the growing season. Napa’s 63°F average is already on the warm end, where varietals like Syrah and Merlot thrive. If the current climate trajectory continues, Northern California will warm 2–3°F in the next 50 years. That’s more than enough to affect grape quality.
The 1973 Chardonnay by Napa’s Chateau Montelena Winery won a 1976 blind tasting competition in Paris that ended the era of France’s uncontested winemaking dominance. Avoid summer or wintertime and stay at the eco-friendly Solage Calistoga resort and spa, where room service is delivered by bike, the produce is local and organic, and natural hot springs provide radiant heating for the spa treatment rooms. Explore the vineyards on two wheels instead of four with Napa Valley Bike Tours.
Inside Passage – British Columbia
With more than a million waste-producing tourists riding cruise ships to Alaska each year, British Columbia’s stunning coast is poised to become “the toilet of the Pacific Northwest,” says Dr Ross Klein, a sociologist at Newfoundland’s Memorial University.
Explore the hidden coves and inland fjords, which bigger ships can’t access, with small-ship, low-impact outfitters like AdventureSmith Explorations and M/V Catalyst. The small-ship cruising season runs May through September, but be prepared for the possibility of cool, wet weather year-round.
Great Barrier Reef – Australia
Large swaths of the spectacular but sensitive reef are “bleaching” white in response to an increase in water temperature; coral often rebounds from this condition, but sustained high temperatures are now making recovery impossible. Ocean acidification is a lesser-known but equally threatening phenomenon. Caused by an excess of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere, acidification stunts the growth of coral and weakens its skeleton.
Heron and Wilson islands, two coral cays that lie at the heart of the reef, are a great way to bypass the day-tripping masses. The islands, which straddle the Tropic of Capricorn, have only one resort each, both of which are certified by Ecotourism Australia. Heron Island is also home to the University of Queensland’s Centre for Marine Studies, which researches both coral bleaching and acidification.