International Day of the Tropics was initiated by the United Nations as an opportunity to celebrate communities in the tropics and highlight the challenges they are facing. Celebrated on 29thJune, the day offers a unique perspective on the region’s extraordinary cultures, biomes and ecosystems.
Accounting for 40 per cent of both the world’s total surface area and population, the tropical region surrounds the equator, covering continents from northern Australia to central Africa and South America.
The tropics are known for consistently warm temperatures and frequent rainfall, and are home to around 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, as well as over 95 per cent of the world’s corals and mangroves. With studies suggesting that half the world’s population will call the tropics home by 2050, it’s more important than ever to protect these unique and fragile ecosystems.
The tropics also boast some of the most diverse and interesting cultures in the world. North Queensland alone is home to countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures dwelling in regional, remote and island communities.
Dr. Kris McBain-Rigg, a JCU medical anthropologist who has lived and worked in some of these communities, hopes that International Day of the Tropics can bring to light some of the issues these communities face. In particular, she is passionate about bringing better health care systems into the tropics.
“We need to work toward innovative changes across our health systems to continue to meet the needs of these communities, and ensure that no-one gets left behind – because currently, there are populations that are suffering because they do not have sustainable access to the care that they need,” Dr. McBain-Rigg said.
Some other issues facing the tropics include an alarmingly high loss of biodiversity, climate change, higher levels of poverty and hunger, and a higher proportion of people living in slum conditions.
Dr. McBain-Rigg said the first step to overcoming problems within tropical communities is for people to reach out and connect, and to find solutions to the challenges they are facing together.
“It’s the people that make these communities what they are,” she said.
“Community is so important, and having other humans around you helps to buffer the isolation and hurt that so many people feel.
“I am fascinated by the ways that people create solutions for themselves. Getting to know someone in your neighbourhood, or finding a group of people to share a common interest or experience with is so protective for our wellbeing.”
James Cook University is a uniquely-placed institution in that it provides a world-class education in the midst of this incredible region. With award-winning courses in marine biology, geoscience, environmental science, and public health and tropical medicine, there is nowhere better to prepare for a more sustainable future.
Find out more about our tropical region and celebrate #TropicsDay on 29thJune.