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Disappearing Destinations: 37 Places in Peril and What Can Be Done to Help Save Them (Vintage Departures) Paperback – April 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The expression tourist hot spot takes on new meaning in this fact-packed survey of travel destinations endangered by global warming, environmental degradation, predatory logging, mining and fishing and the impact of too many tourists. In 37 essays, travel journalists Lisagor and Hansen vividly document places in peril, ranging from the ocean nations of Tuvalu and the Maldives, slowly submerging beneath rising waters, to the historic ski chalets of the Alps, where snow is falling less and melting faster. The catalogue of disasters is chilling: the glaciers are vanishing from America's Glacier National Park; the ancient city of Timbuktu in central Mali is succumbing to desertification; warming seas are bleaching Australia's Great Barrier Reef; dry winters and inept water management have drained life from the Rio Grande; and the relentless march of hundreds of thousands of enthralled tourists is causing irrevocable damage to the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. The authors' accounts of how the world's beauty is being despoiled, based on sharp on-site reporting, are a cautionary call to arms for tourists to fight environmental excesses and, when traveling, to tread lightly. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Dive into any chapter in this unusual and ensnaring collection, the one on Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays, let’s say, or Mount Rainer, or the Dead Sea, and you enter the pleasure zone of vivid, smart travel writing. But journalists Lisagor and Hansen quickly break the spell by chronicling the environmental devastation under way in the planet’s most glorious places. Lisagor and Hansen not only vividly document the problems but also seek solutions in conversations with activists determined to halt mountaintop-removal coal extraction in Appalachia, the littering hordes wrecking Machu Picchu and Mount Kilimanjaro (nearly bereft now of its fabled snows), and the overdevelopment threatening the Galápagos Islands. But the most harrowing damage is caused by global warming. The planet’s glaciers are melting, causing floods and promising severe water shortages. Ocean levels are rising, placing Venice and many coastal areas in jeopardy, while desertification is endangering legendary Timbuktu. By reporting on observable environmental decimation in places of profound natural beauty and cultural and spiritual significance, Lisagor and Hansen seek to arouse alarm and stoke resistance to further ruination. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277367
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,753,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Henry M. Trotter on September 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
Disappearing Destinations is a timely book about the impact of our actions on the places that we love. Through profiles of 37 iconic travel destinations--like the Florida Everglades, the island of Oahu, Yellowstone National Park, the Amazon Basin, Machu Picchu, the Canary Islands, the Congo Basin, and the Yangtze River--Lisagor and Hansen show us that they are in peril. But they can also be preserved for future generations with some smart, pragmatic efforts.

Each profile starts with a seductive description of the place, reminding us how much pleasure we associate with it. But just as you're about to book your ticket--to Napa, Lapland, Venice, Patagonia, or Alaska--the writers hint that these wonderful places are under threat. They quote experts who explain the impact that humans are causing (often incidentally) to the place through industry, development, pollution, tourism, etc. In some cases, like the mountain-top mining in the Appalachians, the scene is almost apocalyptic. But in every case, it is deeply troubling. (And you won't find it mentioned in the tourist brochures!)

Then locals testify to their own loss of heritage through the degradation of the place. Their input shows that these issues not only impact "we" travelers, but also the local population that has a historical, cultural, and spiritual relationship to the area. It's poignant stuff. And after a few pages of each profile, you start to feel a real connection to the place. You feel pained for it and the community.

But just before you're about to give up traveling altogether, Lisagor & Hansen provide local counter-examples showing that these problems are not irreversible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on September 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book serves as both an introductory travelogue to locations of interest for eco-tourists, and as a warning about what we're doing to our planet. Lisagor and Hansen introduce 37 threatened areas around the world, with some usual suspects like ANWR, the Amazon basin, and the Great Barrier Reef; but also some surprises like Lapland, southern West Virginia, and the Danube delta in Romania and Ukraine. Most of these pristine locations are threatened by either climate change or unregulated development; or rampant tourism in a few cases like Machu Picchu or Mount Everest.

The adventurous or caring reader will surely feel the urge to visit these incredible destinations before they're gone. But the structure of this book leaves a little something to be desired. The 37 locations of interest are covered in fairly brief chapters that resemble feature articles, and the structure is nearly always the same - describe the beauty of the location, discuss the threats faced by the ecosystem, provide coverage for local activists and organizers, and wrap things up with a closing paragraph on what the reader is missing. (The latter is often accomplished with forced and awkward prose like "a rainbow from a passing shower lingers" or "the range curves along the landscape and into the future.")

While the locations covered here definitely deserve the attention, the book feels a little arbitrary and perfunctory, like a collection of magazine articles with an identical structure applied to selected settings. And after learning about how each location is facing the same threats, there is potential for a higher theme that doesn't quite arrive for the reader.
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Format: Paperback
It is rare to find a travel book that can bring to life the allure of the world's greatest destinations while instilling in you the urgency to protect them. But here it is, chapter after chapter of thorough and deeply authoritative travel reporting executed as beautifully descriptive prose. It would be one thing for the authors to have given us a sense of the importance of the places with the abundance of facts they have gathered. But their own reverence for these places comes through in every detail, from the sprawling panoramas that feel so real that it's like you're there to the endearing way they describe the "critters" that inhabit every landscape.

Great travel writing makes you feel like you've visited a place without having left your seat. The best travel writing makes you want to jump out of your seat and go there. Disappearing Destinations adds another layer: you read each chapter and encounter each new place with a sense of wonder at its incredible natural gifts, you hope that what you are reading never transitions into historical artifact, and you are given the action plans to ensure that it doesn't. Disappearing Destinations is a must-read for anyone who's interested our natural paradises and wants to know what they can do before they're lost forever.
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