Coordinates: 45 27 N 12 21 E
Population: 69,361 (2008 est.)
Historically speaking, humanity has been quite successful at shaping the environment to suit our wants and needs. We’ve blasted through mountains, irrigated deserts, and altered the course of rivers. But sometimes sheer willpower and engineering aren’t enough. Venice, Italy is a case in point. Founded by Romans this city has grown to cover more than 100 islands in the Venetian Lagoon. The trouble is these small landmasses are low-lying and susceptible to flooding. Over the centuries, rising sea levels as well as water extraction from the mainland have caused the Queen of the Adriatic to gradually sink; yesterday news sources reported that Venetians were contending with water levels that rival previous records. Years ago however, city officials recognized that their problem would only become more serious, and in 2003 began a costly undertaking to protect their architectural heritage with 78 massive floodgates. Personally, I wonder about the long term consequences mobile barriers will have on the Mediterranean’s largest wetland area.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.