Humans are awful sometimes. Sorry, but it’s true.
We are given all manner of nice things by our planet—picturesque canyons, fields ablaze with wildflowers, pristine sandy beaches—and instead of looking after them, we stampede them in a mad rush to get as many Instagram likes as possible. Must we do this? It appears we must.
In the age of social media, it has become an all-too-familiar cycle: A nice place is discovered by the world (via a celebrity visit or a magazine spread, for example). It is transformed into a tourist destination. Then it is overrun by tourist hordes, and is either ruined forever or, to prevent that fate, is closed down for rehabilitation. This cycle has become stunningly short. All it takes is a trending hashtag or a pastel backdrop.
Here’s a list of just a few of the places Instagram has ruined in the past year. Let’s resolve to do better from here on out.
A superbloom occurs when heavy rains in southern California lead to a widespread (and visually stunning) bloom of wildflowers all at once. When the town of Lake Elsinore experienced one such superbloom of bright orange California poppies (the state’s flower) earlier in March, it also experienced an influx of an estimated 50,000 Instagramming visitors that gridlocked the small town, causing traffic jams and mayhem.
The city’s social media accounts noted that the “weekend has been unbearable in Lake Elsinore,” and dubbed the whole thing a #poppynightmare. “We know it has been miserable and has caused unnecessary hardships for our entire community.” It was forced at one point to temporarily shut down Walker Canyon, a popular entry point for the superbloom.
Mount Everest’s base camp in Tibet has been closed by the government due to excessive human visitation and a growing trash problem. While Nepal’s side—which must be accessed on foot, via a two week hike—will remain open, Chinese authorities on the Tibetan side have declared the attraction too popular, and the traffic to the site too heavy, to sustain for now, though the closure is not thought to be permanent. In addition, authorities said in January that they will limit the amount of people permitted to climb the peak to 300 for the year.
When Justin Bieber shot his music video “I’ll Show You” in 2015 in Iceland’s Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, it’s fair to assume that he didn’t intend to hasten the beautiful location’s demise. But the canyon, which is east of Reykjavik, is being closed for the month of June due to an unmanageable amount of foot traffic from increased visitors. While the location was a known attraction in its own right pre-Bieber, the head of the country’s environment agency said the rush of international visitors started post-Bieber, citing an increase of between 50% and 80% from 2016 to 2018.
When a small Canadian seed farm in Ontario invited visitors to come visit its towering sunflower fields late last summer, the result was an onslaught of 7,000 visitors seeking the perfect Instagram shot before a backdrop of blazing yellow flowers—and an unmitigated disaster for the farm and its immediate surroundings. Just eight days after the farm invited visitors, it had to demand everyone go home, and take their selfie sticks with them. “We are farmers,” the farmer told the New York Times. “We don’t want to be famous.”
How can an unassuming residential street in Paris’ 12th arrondissement become a tourist attraction, you ask? Pastel colors and cobblestones, that’s how. As first noted by CityLab, the street has “become one of Europe’s most popular spots to strike a pose.” Meanwhile, the miserable residents of Rue Crémieux are asking that the street be closed to visitors on weekends and evenings so they can walk home in peace, without tripping over influencers posing for photoshoots. Why are we like this?