The idea of going to the beach was invented as a way for people to escape the crushing capitalist horrors of 19th-century factory life. But just as industrialization invented the shore, industrialization now threatens to undo it. The climate is changing -- which you (probably?) already knew -- and with it goes our most picturesque coasts.
The rate of sea level rise has tripled since 1990 and is only speeding up. Some of this change is inevitable; even if we don't manage to completely melt all of Greenland's ice shelf by running our air conditioning and overcharging our phones, we're still pretty screwed. There's enough carbon in the atmosphere that at least 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is simply "locked-in" -- and a corresponding ice melt and sea-level rise goes with it. Warm water also takes up more space than cold, meaning a hotter ocean is also a higher one.
So if you'd like to renew pre-industrial society's long-dormant fear of the ocean, you're in luck! Here's our five favorite vacation destinations that will soon be underwater.
This is a city so monumentally screwed by climate change that a mayoral candidate's campaign commercial showed him paddling down a flooded street. (That candidate, Philip Levine, won. He's joked that he "floated into office.") Miami Beach and indeed all of South Florida sits on porous limestone and former wetland that's constantly bubbling with brackish water, attempting to return to its natural state. Sea level rise is exacerbating this and it's predicted that many parts of the city will be permanently under water by 2050.
At this year's Venice Biennale, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn exhibited a set of giant hands, the size of boats, reaching up from the depths of the water to delicately prop up a hotel. Venice has been slowly sinking for decades, a natural process that was exacerbated by the city's groundwater pumping, which they've since stopped. But it's also the victim of rising waters that worsen their regular flooding, known locally as acqua alta. (Though locals claim the real threat to the city is the 60,000 tourists who flood it daily.)
In terms of sheer number of residents who'll be affected by sea level rise, Thailand ranks number seven globally. By percentage of their population, it's number three. But that hasn't deterred a massive tourism boom — the country has 2,500 miles of coastline, frequented by 32.9 million visitors every year and every single one of them has already discovered that "secret" beach you heard about. Like Venice, Bangkok is also sinking but at an even faster rate; a combination of overdevelopment, rising seas and depletion of the water table mean Thailand's capital city could be underwater in as little 15 years.
Just south of Miami, the Bahamas' legendary beaches are obviously also in trouble. Unlike their more mountainous neighbors like Jamaica, the Bahamas are flat, barrier islands -- they're just a little more elevated than a sandbar. That low elevation and highly erodible coasts leave them even more vulnerable than other islands. Even restoring beaches that suffer from erosion is growing ever more costly — sand has become, believe it or not, one of the most rapidly dwindling resources on the planet.
The Maldives, a chain of atolls and coral islands in the Indian ocean, became a symbol of climate change's devastation, thanks to its former president, Mohammed Nasheed. He not only pledged to make his country carbon neutral but said he would be seeking an entirely new homeland for his soon to be flooded citizens. But the current president (the kind whose name is often prefaced with terms like "embattled") has moved to the opposite extreme: betting on luxury resort development. So depending on how that goes, maybe this will ironically be your best beach option on this list.
Visiting these places isn't just an exercise in pre-apocalyptic decadence.
"Increasingly if you can't maintain a stable environment, you'll impact the economy," Seth Schulz, the Director of Science and Innovation for C-40, a global coalition of cities committed to fighting climate change, told VICE Impact. "But a huge, huge portions of cities economic income every year increasingly is through tourism."
That means if the beaches or developments that lure vacationers are threatened, that can spur local governments to action. "One of the best ways to get the attention of local governments and mayors," he says, "is talking about loss and damage associated with the tourism business."
So visit them while you can, and in the meantime you can urge your local representatives to support a movie to 100 percent clean energy as a way to legitimately combat climate change.