If you have been paying attention to the news the last several days, you might have heard that the New 7 Wonders Foundation released their list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. You also might remember a similar announcement a few years ago for the New 7 Wonders of the World.
The New 7 Wonders of Nature
Here is the list they released:
- Amazon Rainforest and River
- Halong Bay
- Iguaçu Falls
- Jeju Island
- Komodo Island
- Puerto Princesa Underground River
- Table Mountain
What’s Missing From The New 7 Wonders of Nature?
If you haven’t seen the list before, you might be scratching your head about some of these. Jeju Island? Puerto Princesa Underground River? If you think about it a bit more, you’ll probably realize that a bunch of things are missing:
- Puerto Princesa Underground River: I’ve been there. It is interesting, but probably not even the most significant natural site in the Philippines. I’d put the Taal Volcano above it and maybe the Chocolate Hills. Yes, it is the longest underground river in the world, but I’m not sure that is that big of a deal. Filipinos are notorious for voting in online polls. If it is something that can be spun as a matter of national pride, Filipinos will come out in force online, which is exactly what they did here.
- Jeju Island. Maybe the worst selection on the list. South Korea is a big rich country and the government put on a HUGE campaign to get people to vote—and vote they did. I actually considered visiting Jeju Island when I was in South Korea, but I passed because I thought there were better things to see. This has always been a marginal vacation destination for Koreans and through sheer force of will, they got it listed as a UNESCO site (justifiable) and now this. Also, if you don’t know, South Korea is one of the most wired countries on Earth, and this New 7 Wonders of Nature allowed online voting. Doh.
- Komodo Island. I’ll grant you that Komodo Dragons are cool, but no one would care about the island if they weren’t there. Again, I don’t think it is even the most significant thing in Indonesia. Mount Bromo and Ujung Kulon National Park are probably more interesting, and that doesn’t even include the amazing things in Sumatra, Borneo or Papua.
- Table Mountain. The only reason why Table Mountain is considered special is that there is a city situated below it. It’s the city that makes it special. Take away Cape Town, and Table Mountain is just another mesa, like any other you can find in Africa, Australia, or the American West.
My Issues: Here’s Why This 7 Wonders Business is Absurd
I don’t even know where to begin with the deep flaws in the entire process of selecting these sites. For starters, the entire operation is nothing more than a cynical attempt to get money from a fake national competition. Unlike the World Cup or the Olympics, this is a chance for countries to compete on something less than skill ability or talent.
The voting process is the least scientific thing you’ll find. People can vote multiple times. Governments at the national and local level spent millions campaigning to get people to vote. At the various travel conferences, I traveled to this year I personally saw pitches from Israel, Jordan, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, UAE, Ecuador, India, South Africa, Philippines, Indonesia—and probably a few I can’t even remember.
Somehow, the tourist boards of countries around the world have got suckered into playing this game, and the only real winner is Bernard Weber, Chairman of the New 7 Wonders Foundation—and all the telephone companies who are making money off of everyone’s text voting.
You’ll also notice that the winners all have something in common: They are mostly developing countries with large populations. Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and South Africa all fit this category. South Korea is less populous but a bit richer. Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines have vibrant online communities.
The biggest tragedy to this voting process is that it turns what could be a genuinely construction discussion about the greatest place out planet has to offer, into a crass attempt to exploit nationalism.
If I had to create a personal list, here is what it would look like:
- Mount Everest
- Great Barrier Reef
- Amazon River Basin
- Ngorongoro Crater
- Galapagos Islands
- Grand Canyon
Instead of voting each of these new contests as they are announced, why not instead create your own list, share it with others, and talk about it—that will do a lot more good to raise the profile of the world’s most beautiful historical sites.