6 Ways Selfie-Addicted Tourists Are Destroying The World
The human race is like one gigantic toddler. We get fixated on something, and once we have it, we promptly start destroying it. Unfortunately, that includes historically important places. Here are a few famous destinations that are feeling the awful effects of being on too many travelers' bucket lists.
Mount Everest Is Covered In Dead Bodies And Poop
Prior to 1953, the summit of Mount Everest was a frozen, windswept peak in the Himalayas, inhospitable and untouched by humans. Today it's still frozen, windswept, and inhospitable, but now everybody and their brother seems determined to go stand on it. Whether it's for bragging rights, a sense of personal accomplishment, or because "It's there," a record 381 people were issued permits to summit the mountain in 2019, and 11 have already died trying.
On a mountain like Everest, where the slightest misstep can mean an awful death, concern for other people and the environment tend to take a flying leap. Climbers facing the real possibility of dying start looking out for #1 and not much else. Which means Earth's majestic high point has become seriously contaminated with literal tons of garbage and more than 200 dead bodies. Oh, and speaking of looking out for #1, of course there's also poop. So much poop.
While efforts are made to move the mountains of trash, it's a monumental task that becomes exponentially more difficult as the altitude increases. As a result, the highest camp is more like a garbage dump by now. Not only do tents and rogue turds pose a hazard to climbers, but there is now so much fecal matter that it's contaminating the water supply. An estimated 17,000 pounds of excrement was left on the mountain during the 2019 season alone.
Since there aren't restrooms, climbers deposit waste in frozen crevasses. But like most poop, it rolls downhill when there's a thaw. According to Ang Tshering, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, "The biggest problem and concern now on Everest is human waste." We're not sure if he's talking about the poop or the ones leaving it.
The Easter Island Heads Are Being Destroyed By Tourists Taking Nose-Picking Selfies
Easter Island's giant head statues (or Moai) are possibly the biggest and definitely the most badass cemetery markers in the world. Representing deified ancestors, the Moai are sacred to the Rapa Nui people, who buried their dead under grandpa's stone nostrils. The Rapa Nui believe the spirits of their ancestors still live in the stones ... which means they're doomed to an eternity of having to watch tourists doing this:
Van Tilburg says all those vacationers are causing damage to the island's delicate ecosystem, on top of "disrespecting the statues by climbing on them, sitting on graves, and trampling preserved spaces." There are signs reminding people to act like adults and stay the heck off the statues, but noses that large are just begging someone to step right up and pick a winner.
And though the Moai may be huge and heavy, the volcanic rock from which they were carved is actually quite porous and easily damaged ... as rock goes, anyway. Now, in addition to being slowly destroyed by wind, rain, and lichen, their demise is being accelerated by a bunch of outsiders climbing all over them and shoving fingers up their snot boxes. Such is the price of progress, and by "progress" we mean "a Facebook profile picture you'll change in two weeks."
The Exotic Animals You See On Social Media Live In Misery
Unfortunately, it's not just places that humankind is literally loving to death. Through the growing "wildlife tourism" industry, we are encouraging -- and bankrolling -- the imprisonment and gross mistreatment of all those animals that make us go "aww" and "ooh" as we procrastinate on the phone every day.
Zoos have been around for a while, but the practice of forcing animals to perform for or interact with tourists, day-in and day-out, is a relatively new phenomenon -- and one that's exceedingly cruel. In tourist-friendly Bali, investigators found that dolphins had their teeth removed or filed down so they couldn't bite. Orangutans were used as photo props, tied to platforms for hours so tourists could take satiate their thirst for selfies. Elephants were trained to give rides and kept in chains, often with metal spikes that cut into their flesh. And perhaps most disturbingly, a study on wildlife tourism revealed that tourists are really, really bad at telling the difference between cutesy animal encounters and gruesome torture happening right in their noses. If it looks good on a photo, can it really be that bad?
A National Geographic investigation of Amazonian port towns found animals being "illegally captured from the rain forest, kept in cages, and hauled out for well-meaning tourists to hold and take selfies with." The investigation further found that "illicit wildlife practices have become endemic" around the world. And it's fueled by so-called "selfie safaris" and the quest for the perfect picture.
There's even an emerging genre of photography that involves models (or even mere mortals) cuddling with wild animals. While they might look awesome on Instagram, what that photo isn't saying is that the animals are often sedated in order to get the shot. Viewed in this light, a hunter's bullet suddenly sounds like the more humane fate.
The Beach From The Movie The Beach Has Been Closed To Tourists
The Beach is a 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie about tourists showing up and ruining a tropical paradise. Apparently into method filmmaking, the production company did a pretty good job of destroying Thailand's Maya Beach for real, since it truly was an island paradise until Fox Studios showed up and infected it with a nasty virus called "fame."
But how awful was it, really? About 4,000 tourists a day quickly turned the paradise into a "cesspool" and caused "critical" damage to the island's coral reef with their junk, underwater farts, and general obnoxiousness. In 2018, we mentioned that Thailand had announced a plan to close the beach for a few months every year, hoping that annual "time out" could help the tiny island recover. So how's that going? Uh, not well. Upon further assessment, Thailand's Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation determined that the damage was so significant that they closed the beach indefinitely that October.
On the bright side, a massive coral restoration project is now underway, and the painstaking process of growing a new reef has seen initial success. While there's hope that the bay and beach could eventually reopen to a limited number of tourists, both remain closed for the foreseeable future, giving humans some much-needed time to sit in the corner and think about what we've done. And maybe rethink Leo's Oscar, while we're at it.
Tourists Are Infecting Antarctica's Penguins With New Bacteria
Our determination to visit off-the-beaten-path locales is hitting Mother Earth where the sun don't shine ... at least for a few weeks every year. The number of tourists traveling to Antarctica has skyrocketed, and for a continent that's been isolated for so long, the relative influx of people is not easy to handle. And not just because of social anxiety.
Despite all warnings and precautions, even the most conscientious tourists keep bringing one thing on their happy little feet: germs. For the penguins and other wildlife that call Antarctica home, those everyday germs might as well be alien organisms.
Scientists have found "human-linked pathogens among Antarctic seabirds" for the first time in history, and researchers warn that the presence of these new bacterial strains could have catastrophic consequences for the continent's wildlife. As in, there might be considerably less wildlife in the future.
Tourism to Antarctica is regulated, and those who set foot there go through decontamination procedures aimed at preventing anything invasive -- bacteria, seeds, pollen, and the like -- from impacting the fragile ecosystem. But that might not be enough. Despite attempts to enforce "responsible tourism" in Antarctica, research indicates that even the most minimal and careful presence of humans is already altering the continent's biome. If the germs or the melting of the ice caps don't kill the penguins, the stress of it all might.
Tourists Are Finishing What The Volcano Started At Pompeii
When Mount Vesuvius blew its load nearly 2,000 years ago, the ancient city of Pompeii was buried under several meters of ash and rock. While death by volcano is nobody's idea of a good time ...