5 iconic places you need to visit before climate change ruins them.

A new report from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has highlighted 31 World Heritage Sites at risk of being seriously damaged by our changing climate.

Many of them are popular tourist destinations, and all of them would be devastating to lose — many represent important pieces of our culture and history.


Here are five iconic landmarks that are in serious danger from climate change and what it would mean to lose them:

1. The Galápagos Islands could see its food web collapse, forcing animals that rely on it to abandon its shores.

Off the coast of Ecuador lies the stunning archipelago of the Galápagos Islands. It's home to many species of animals, including tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, and, yep, even penguins! There are tropical, sun-loving penguins in the Galápagos!

It's a magical place.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

Unfortunately, the weather system known as El Niño is getting worse, and it could disrupt the livelihoods of the Galápagos' unique collection of creatures. As the UN report states:

"El Niño affects the entire food web, with warmer waters reducing the upwelling of nutrients that usually characterizes the cold waters around the Galápagos, resulting in a reduction in phytoplankton availability and causing small fish and invertebrates to migrate away, as well as reducing the growth of algae on which many species rely."

Food webs are called webs for a reason. Every part of them structurally relies on the other parts; if even the smallest part is in danger, the whole thing is in danger.

Photo by Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.

After a visit to the Galápagos, Charles Darwin started positing his theory of natural selection, which forever changed the way we look at the natural world. The islands aren't just a beautiful vacation spot — they're home to a historic, culturally important, and fragile ecosystem.

2. Yellowstone National Park could become a dry wasteland.

Yellowstone became the world's first national park when President Grant signed the Yellowstone Act in 1872, designating the region a public "pleasuring ground" (probably right before he realized how weird that sounded).

People from all over the world come to see Yellowstone's jaw-dropping landscapes, cheer for the Old Faithful geyser, and see bison and moose, all the while wondering how to pluralize "bison" and "moose."

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.

Unfortunately, according to the UN report, Yellowstone is a candle burning at both ends. Warming temperatures are causing shorter winters and longer summers, which means less snowfall feeding the rivers, lakes, and wetlands during winter months, as well as a longer, more dangerous fire season during summer months.

Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.

The vibrant forests of Yellowstone could be replaced with drier shrublands. And no one wants to Instagram that.

3. The Statue of Liberty is at "'high exposure' risk from sea-level rise due to the extremely low elevation of the island and its vulnerability to storms," according to the report.

In what is perhaps the greatest metaphor of all time for the threat climate change poses to our national interests, America's giant copper symbol of freedom and security is in pretty serious danger.

Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images.

For generations of immigrants, the Statue of Liberty has been a beacon of hope, an outstretched hand in a world of fists, a light at the end of the tunnel of tyranny where they could finally be free.

It remains a symbol of the promise of a second chance, comforting the tired, poor, and huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.

Rising sea levels, which are already a real-life disaster, could bring to life the iconic disaster-movie image of the "ruined Statue of Liberty." That would be a tragedy.

4. Stonehenge could become unstable and inaccessible due to flash flooding.

Stonehenge was constructed thousands of years ago by either ancient humans or aliens, depending on who you ask, and no one really knows how they did it. First of all, some of the stones were from 200 miles away. Second of all, the wheel wasn't even invented yet — it was barely a glimmer in the eye of some ancient Steve Jobs.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

There are theories, sure — everything from brute force to druid magic to this guy, who figured out how to move giant stones with the clever use of tiny stones (honestly, my money is on him).

Stonehenge gets over 1 million visitors a year. Climate change, combined with such heavy tourist foot traffic, could threaten the structural integrity of the world's most famous ancient monument.

"Of most concern for Stonehenge are increasing rainfall amounts, more extreme rainfall events and worsening floods," says the UN report. "Flash floods can result in damage through gullying and wetter conditions are also expected to increase the impact of visitors walking on the site."

Photo by Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images.

Frankly, if Stonehenge is in danger, that should be one of the biggest warning signs of all. The monument has stood for thousands of years and has remained in remarkably good shape. If the changing climate has the ability to ruin its winning streak, we should all be shaking in our boots.

5. Venice, Italy, is already sinking — but rising sea levels are making the floating city drown even faster.

Venice is one of the World Heritage Sites "most at threat" from sea level rise.

"Flooding at especially high tides or as a result of storm surges has always been an issue for Venice. But now, with sea levels rising, the problem is becoming much more severe," the report says.

Photo by Franco Debernardi/Getty Images.

The report also suggests that flooding in Venice could damage the buildings that sit on the lagoon, as it did in 1966. Venice's floodgates will also have to remain closed longer and longer, which could lead to worsening stagnant water pollution.

Venice is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, and the city relies heavily on those tourist dollars. If the tourists stop coming because of the damaged buildings or unstable structures, the economic impact on the city will be massive.

Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

Beyond economics, though, Venice is a city filled with history and vibrant culture. Its Renaissance architecture and old-world charm draw so much tourism for a reason. It's a beautiful place, and we should do what we can to keep it around.

The biggest takeaway from the UNESCO report is that climate change, left unchecked, can damage a lot more than we think.

There's a seemingly insurmountable amount of work to be done if we want to save these World Heritage Sites from their impending doom. There are some who say it's impossible, but humans have already done more improbable and incredible things.

We built a giant copper lady on an island to dedicate a nation to liberty. We protected 3,400 square miles of natural habitat by declaring it a national park. We discovered the origin of species. We built a city that floats on the water. We built ... whatever Stonehenge is.

And while that last thing was (debatably) created by aliens, the point is this: Humans are capable of amazing things. Stopping the effects of climate change can be one of them.

All it takes is the doing of it.

Pexels
True
Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.