It may not be at the top of everyone’s list of biggest fears, but it is disconcerting:

Venice is threatened by crumbling infrastructure and rising sea levels, and also by the inexorable growth in the number of visitors. But with effective management, one problem could solve the other. The gates that let the tourists in could pay for the gates that keep the waters out.

If left unmanaged, the sea of tourists may be a lot more threatening than the Adriatic Sea. Currently, around 15m people visit Venice each year, while the city has a resident population of about 60,000. Around the world literacy and cultural awareness are increasing. Incomes in India, China and Eastern Europe are now increasing very rapidly; there are 2.5 billion people in India and China alone who within 50 years might have incomes comparable to ours.

That means that the number of people who want to see Venice and will be able to afford to see Venice might very plausibly expand by a factor of three or more over the next few decades. There is little we can do to stop that happening and I don’t believe we want to stop it happening. If we regard Venice as one of the crown jewels of Western European civilisation—and we should—we want as many tourists as possible to go to there. The issue is how to accommodate, indeed to promote, such cultural tourism without letting visitors destroy what it is that people go to visit. Managing the flow of tourists into Venice involves segregating in time and in space the people who want only to be photographed in front of the campanile of St Mark’s from people whose aspiration is to wander the streets of the city as Ruskin did.

Full article here.

I will shed a tear if Venice goes under, but I do believe this is the most attenuated argument against overpopulation I’ve heard in quite some time.

Somebody, quick — call UNESCO; maybe we can get them to work on achieving poorer literacy and cultural awareness throughout the world before it’s too late.

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