EARTH DAY

10 Most Precious Places on Earth—And How to Save Them

In 2007 the Galapagos were considered endangered—today they're not. If only all of our planet's treasures could be so lucky. In honor of Earth Day, we present 10 places our world depends on most—and how you can help preserve them.


By the year 2070, we could lose...


The Himalayas

Like Antarctica, the Himalayas are covered in ice and snow. In fact, the world's highest mountain range—which runs 1,500 miles through seven countries, including India and China—contains the planet's largest non-polar ice mass, with over 46,000 glaciers. And just like in Antarctica, the ice is melting. Between 1950 and 1980, about half of the Himalayas' glaciers were shrinking. That number hit 95 percent in 2010, and scientists predict that the entire Himalayan land mass may be slashed 43 percent by 2070. Global warming is just one reason—soot from millions of coal- and wood-burning stoves in India and China also take a share of the blame. The glaciers absorb the heat, which exacerbates the warming process. The glacier loss will affect people living along Asia's 10 major rivers—who make up one-sixth of the total global population-that depend on glacial melt to stave off drought and starvation.

Donate: Founded by an Arizona man in 2009, the Himalayan Stove Project has an ambitious goal: Deliver 10,000 clean-burning, fuel-efficient stoves to Himalayan residents by 2014. himalayanstoveproject.org

Go green: Himalayan Eco Treks, which operates out of Nepal, organizes an array of earth-friendly trips, including a 25-day Best of Everest tour that includes eight days of trekking as well as easier days seeing cultural spots like the ancient town of Bhaktapur, a World Heritage site. 011-977-4/266-382, himalayanecotrek.com. From $2,765 per person for the 25-day tour.


By the year 2040, we could lose...


Wine Regions

The extreme heat waves and frosts that come with climate change affect soil conditions, so much so that the world's most prestigious wine regions from Bordeaux to Rioja to Napa Valley could be unable to grow quality grapes by the end of the century. To put it in perspective, temperatures in California's Napa (home to 45,000 acres of vineyards) could jump two degrees in the next 30 years, which would upset the balance of sweetness and acidity crucial to good wine, and essentially shrink America's most famous wine-producing region by 50 percent. The conditions are so extreme in Europe that long-established wine epicenters could be pushed northward to England and Scotland as continental temperatures rise. In fact, Brits are already ramping up the production of sparkling wines, traditionally the domain of France's Champagne region: In 1990, England was home to 140 acres devoted to sparkling-wine grapes; by 2010, the number spiked to 1,360.

Donate: Helping wine regions around the world is easy: Buy a bottle. The more money pouring into wine regions, the stronger the local economy—which means winemakers can invest in research and technology to keep their grapes healthy.

Go green: Napa Valley Reservations shuttles drinkers between four eco-friendly wineries in a fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. 707/252-1985, napavalleyreservations.com. From $130 per person.


By the year 2030, we could lose...


African Lion Habitats

Africa's wild lions have it especially rough: In the last 50 years, the continent's population plummeted from 450,000 to about 40,000, a drop of around 91 percent. The culprit: People. Africa could be home to 1.75 billion people by 2050. As Africa's human population explodes, the competition for resources (think food) increases while farmers and ranchers encroach onto the lions' territory. According to the University of Minnesota's Lion Research Center, Africa's lions may not survive into the next century; other experts say they could be gone in 20 years.

Donate: The Lion Conservation Fund raises local awareness about lion conservation and restores and protects the animals' habitats. lionconservationfund.org

Go green: Minnesota-headquartered Kuchanga Travel organizes "volun-tourism" trips to Zambia, where participants gather data on the country's wild lions and help guides care for the animals. Activities include educating local students about conservation and going on lion walks—literally strolling with the animals in the wild. 612/432-4473, kuchangatravel.com. From $2,080 per person for a two-week trip.

SEE THE PLACES

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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