International
The Galapagos Islands, which are vulnerable to rising sea temperatures and increasing land tourism. Getty Images

Tourists are flocking to locations threatened by climate change. That only makes things worse.

“Last-chance tourism” is hastening the decline of destinations like the Florida Reef and the Galapagos Islands.

Plopped in the Florida Reef is a 4,000-pound bronze Jesus named “Christ of the Abyss.” The statue is one of the most photographed sites in the Florida Keys, and at Lobster Trap Art you can buy his portrait printed on ceramic tiles for $24.

Like many of the products at this local photography shop, pictures of Christ of the Abyss look almost photoshopped — Jesus being circled by tropical fish, a sea turtle, and a shark.

But Lobster Trap Art owner Glenn Lahti says that when he moved to the Keys 27 years ago, the beauty was even more surreal: “The water was clearer, there were more fish and even more coral.”

Home to the only tropical coral reef in the continental United States, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park, rakes in $2.7 billion a year in tourism, much of it from those coming to see its national treasure. However, the city’s tourism-dependent economy has put the region in jeopardy, as travelers may also be killing the area’s biggest asset; Lahti’s is one of many businesses in the Keys that simultaneously profit from and are threatened by travelers.

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