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.
Why: With an average elevation of five feet above sea level, The Maldives, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is the lowest country on the planet. Comprising thousands of coral islands and reefs spread over nearly 56,000 square miles, this surfing and diving paradise is naturally more ocean than land. But if sea levels continue to rise, the Maldives may end up completely submerged by 2100, according to the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
What to do: Fly into Malé Airport from Europe, the Middle East, or Southeast Asia. Stay in an over-water villa at Six Senses Laamu, the greenest resort in the Maldives. Surf Yin Yang point, dive in the coral reefs of Laamu Atoll, and swim with dolphins just five degrees north of the Equator.
More info: visitmaldives.com
Credit: Steve Allen / Getty Images