International Day of the Tropics on 29 June is a chance to celebrate and reflect upon the diversity, opportunities, and unique challenges faced by the nations of the Tropics. In the face of recent global challenges, let’s explore the essential role that the Tropics will play in a sustainable and prosperous global future.
Home to just under 45% of the global population and consisting of 40% of the world’s surface area, it is difficult to overstate the importance of the Tropics for a flourishing global future. But has life in this essential area of the world continued to improve? How are the diverse peoples, economies, and environments of the Tropics faring?
The next State-of-the Tropics report, to be released on 30 June, will answer precisely these kinds of questions. A sneak preview of the report indicates that there is a mixed bag of results. JCU’s Ann Penny, State-of-the-Tropics Project Manager, says while much has been achieved there is still work to do.
“Across the board we have seen improvement in the social and economic indicators,” she says. “However, since the publication of the 2014 report that rate of improvement has slowed and in a couple of cases reversed.”
Food, personal finance, and environmental issues are just some of the spaces where Ann notes that the improvement seen in the 2014 has begun to reverse. “Undernourishment globally has increased for the first time in about 20 or 30 years, and despite trending down since the 90s debt crisis debt burden has started to increase again,” she says. “In terms of environmental indicators CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise.”
Despite these reversals, it’s not all bad news. “From a health perspective, there has actually been a lot of positive news,” Ann says. “Child and maternal mortality are trending down and countries are eliminating malaria.”
Since the end of the research and reporting period of the 2020 report, the advent of COVID-19 has led to rapid global change. A publicly available State of the Tropics webinar will accompany the release of the report. Domestic and international researchers and speakers will join together to discuss the implications of the report’s findings in light of this recent change.
“We need to consider where the Tropics was before this great big change that happened globally,” Ann says. “What impact may it have on that question – will life continue to get better in the Tropics or are we likely to see a reversal to the improvements we have seen?”
For Ann the future of the Tropics remains bright, even in light of the slowed improvement that the latest State of the Tropics report reveals. “I am quite optimistic about the future for the Tropics,” she says. “We are seeing a great deal of innovation coming from tropical countries, who are finding new culturally appropriate and unique ways of addressing the challenges of life in the Tropics.”
To join the discussion of the big issues facing the Tropics now and into the future, register for the State of the Tropics webinar.
Want to explore the details life in the Tropics? Stay tuned to the State of the Tropics Project for the release of the latest report on 30 June.
Want to help build a better future for life in the Tropics? Find the JCU study area that is right for you.
Feature image: JCU