Glaciers are receding. Ancient ruins are collapsing. Natural disasters are shaking up entire continents. And a global economic crisis is changing how the world works.
You’d better see it all now, before it’s gone.
Who knows what will happen 5, 10, 100 years from now. Perhaps some of the world’s treasures will be gone by then. Maybe the statues on Easter Island will collapse like a row of dominos. Maybe the pillars of the Acropolis will snap in half. Maybe the Great Wall of China will be nothing more than a pile of rubble.
Look at the original Seven Wonders of the World — only one (the Great Pyramid of Giza) still stands. The others have been destroyed or eroded by time, and now only exist in drawings and history books.
Time takes some funny twists and turns, and it’s impossible to anticipate them all. Unless you’ve got a talented fortune-teller at your disposal, it’s impossible to predict the future — yours or the world’s.
So why not just see and experience it all now, while you still can?
Recently, Italy has had some instability in some of its famous ancient ruins. Last spring, a huge segment of Nero’s fabled Golden Palace beneath Rome gave way, raining down pieces of vaulted ceiling in one of the galleries beneath a garden. A couple of months ago, three chunks of mortar broke off the Colosseum. And, at the beginning of November, a frescoed house in Pompeii collapsed into a pile of debris.
Italy prides itself on its number of ancient ruins, churches, monasteries and other artistic and architectural treasures. But less and less is being done to preserve them. Palatine Hill — once home to Rome’s ancient emperors — is said to be at highest risk because of poor upkeep.
But it’s not just happening in Italy. Ruins are crumbling daily all over the world. Even natural wonders are slipping away in this changing world.
It’s a reminder that nothing truly lasts. The years and the pollution and the climate change are constantly taking their tolls.
But, at the same time, we have to remember that most of the crumbling ancient structures we aim to tick off our bucket lists were not built to last for centuries, or millennia. The Romans who built their mansions on Palatine Hill or the Incas who built Machu Picchu did not build with 21st-century tourists in mind. They never planned for archaeologists to discover their ruins, or for national governments to dedicate large sums of money to their preservation.
Put simply, they were not meant to last.
At least, not for as long as they have. Perhaps the pharaohs who designed the pyramids were thinking ahead, considering how imposing their tombs would look to friends and foes alike in the future. But do you think they were thinking thousands of years into the future? Probably not.
It’s fantastic that our world likes history; that we see value in preserving the past.
Because the past is important.
But preservation and restoration of the crumbling castles and amphitheaters and arches takes time. Time, and lots of money. And, in such a sour economy, the latter is increasingly more difficult to come by.
So perhaps we should treat the treasures of the ancient world as if they’ll all turn to dust next week. We should treat these aged feats of architecture and engineering with the appropriate amount of respect, always remembering in the back of our minds that they won’t last forever; there may not be a “next time.”
Most of all, we should travel now. Because who knows what will happen tomorrow.
What ancient sites or treasures would you like to see while they're still around? Which have you already seen?