Source AP ©

Seven natural world wonders to be chosen by global voting

Millions of people around the world are to select the seven natural wonders of the world by voting.

Around 300 suggestions from six continents have come in so far. Starting in January 2009 people will be able to vote for their favorite sites by Internet, mobile phone or telephone, according to the nonprofit foundation New7Wonders.

The organizers have turned to highlighting the most impressive natural wonders after their success earlier this year in the selection of the seven structural wonders, including India's Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Rome's Colosseum.

Over 100 million people participated in the first contest, which concluded in July. Also chosen as manmade wonders were Peru's Machu Picchu , Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer, the rock city of Petra in Jordan and Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid.

Swiss-Canadian adventurer Bernard Weber, who started the foundation in 1999, said his aim is to "create respect and enthusiasm ... for the beauty of our planet."

The new wonders should be places with striking natural beauty, Weber said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"The closer we bring the beauty of our planet ... to the people, the more likely they will say, 'Oh, we have to do something to conserve it,"' Weber said.

It will take several years to complete the selection of natural wonders. The multi-step process was launched in July with the public invited to make suggestions for sites to be considered. Suggestions are already posted by continent on the Web site.

Internet users who nominate a site to be among the finalists must fill in a form with contact details for the authority responsible for the site, such as the park service in charge. New7Wonders organizers will then contact the authority to ask that an official committee be created to support the contest process.

Once the committee is created, the public can vote - by Internet only - to include the site among contest finalists. That voting will continue through the end of 2008.

In early 2009, the 77 sites that have received the most votes will go before a panel of experts, which will choose the 21 finalists.

People will then be able to vote via the Web, text message or phone on the final seven.

The seven winners will be announced in late 2010, Weber said.

The campaign is meant to be a popular campaign rather than a scientific exercise, Weber said.

"We're not telling people what to do, but we're trying to create a positive feeling and enthusiasm for these things so that eventually (people) will react," he said.

The Zurich, Switzerland-based foundation is run by about 20 people and is funded through income from broadcasting rights.

Among the suggestions for natural wonders already received are places like Mount Everest, Ireland's Cliffs of Moher, Russia's Lake Baikal, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Egypt's Mount Sinai, Vietnam's Ha Long Bay, Tanzania's Serengeti National Park and Australia's Ayers Rock.

Weber said the massive interest in the first campaign for the seven wonders showed that people can be fascinated and motivated by more than just sports.

"There are ... parts in this world where culture is very alive and important for the society," he said.

To suggest nominees and learn more about the campaign, go to http://www.new7wonders.com/natural.php.

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