Environmental change, economic development, and the constant demand for energy are profoundly affecting natural systems the world over. There are places where this is a good thing. New jobs, electricity, and new water sources can be great news for local populations. Unfortunately, they can also spell curtains for the singular landscapes and ecosystems that suddenly find themselves besieged. These are some of the beautiful places that may not be around for the next generation — places to visit before it's too late.
The Galápagos Islands
Why: The sheer number of endemic species inhabiting the Galápagos Islands, an archipelago 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his evolutionary theories and write On the Origin of Species. There are myriad species living on these actively volcanic islands found no place else on Earth, including marine iguanas and giant tortoises. The World Wildlife Fund, which supported the construction of the Charles Darwin Research Station, asserts that "Illegal fishing, non-native species, and the demands of more than 160,000 tourists each year threaten this irreplaceable ecosystem and the people who depend on it for their food and livelihoods." Environmentalists warn that the islands, which were placed on the World Heritage Site Danger List from 2007 to 2010, aren't yet in the clear. Tourism continues to rise 12 percent year over year with the infrastructure alone threatening to forever alter the once isolated islands.
What to do: Vancouver-based BikeHike Adventures offers active travel with a minimal footprint. Their 10-day Galápagos Multi-Sport does away with cruise ships and motor vehicles, opting to explore the island by kayak, foot, and bike.
More Info: galapagos.org
Credit: Getty Images