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Beyond the Sandy Beaches of the Tropics

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has goals for countries to end all forms of poverty, inequality, and to combat global change. For the next 14 years, countries will mobilize all efforts to obtain these goals with the mindset that no one is left behind. As a world united, we are only as strong as our weakest link. As such no developing country will be left behind while the superpowers thrive. It may come as a surprise that some of the world’s weakest links are what people think of as the most amazing vacation destinations, the Tropics. While the Tropics have beautiful white sand beaches, diverse cultures and environments, they face significant challenges behind the tourist resorts. Poverty, climate change, sustainable economy, energy, sanitation, disease, and many more are problems the Tropics increasingly have to face. Fiji resorts are some of the most desired tropical destinations in the world, but behind the resorts, communities are still struggling to have proper toilets. Toilets, something everyone uses every day all around the world, but yet this Tropical destination struggles to even have them. The world has been blinded by media in their perception of the world, which is why ambassadors from the Tropics have created International Day of Tropics.

June 29, 2016 marked the first ever International Day of Tropics, a day created to shed light on how important the Tropics’ role is in the global future. Marked between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn holds the most cultural and linguistic diversity in the world, accounting for 40% of the world’s population and more than half the world’s children. Perhaps the Tropics are the most desired travel destinations because it is surrounded by 80% of the world’s terrestrial species as well as 95% of the world coral species and mangroves. The United States is total has 700 species of trees, The Tropics has twice that number of species in just one square kilometer.

International Day of Tropics wasn’t created to celebrate the abundance of opportunities to snorkel and scuba dive, but to cast a light on the increasing and significant challenges this region faces during the time of intense global change. Ambassadors met at the United Nations on Wednesday, June 29th for a table discussion on the Tropics and the Sustainable Development Goals in which they struggle with. Some of the world’s richest people stay in the resorts in the Tropics without knowing that the population living in the surrounded cities are often living in extreme poverty, which is defined by $1.25 a day. The first goal in the 2030 Agenda is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere and this resonates all across the region of the Tropics. Unfortunately, poverty is not the biggest battle that the Tropics will face in the next 14 years.

Too many places in the world, diseases such as Ebola, Zika, Malaria, West Nile, and many other tropical diseases seem too far from home to worry about. For the Tropics, these diseases are hitting home and vaccines seem miles away. Within the last 5 years, the emergence of tropical diseases has increased due to the growing altercation of the environment from humans. The UN’s sustainable development goal 3.3 aims by the end of 2030 to end the epidemics of AIDS, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. The role of the United Nations and private organizations working to create vaccines will be more crucial than ever to help the Tropics combat the diseases.

The Tropics are surrounded by beautiful crystal clear water, holding such diverse species that are now struggling against the increasing warm waters. Sustainable development goals 13; urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, 14; conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development, and 15; protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and half and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss, are all huge goals that relate to the struggles the Tropics are facing. The Tropics have such a magical and unique environment that is beyond amazing, but such a unique environment needs a unique climate. The increasing change of climate poses a huge threat to much of the regions beauty because even the smallest change in temperature could have a large effect on the climate. Vacation travelers may enjoy the warm weather and warmer waters, but in the perspective of our ecosystem, it could completely change and redefine the Tropics. The Tropical region of Africa has started seeing droughts where it’s supposed to rain and floods where it’s supposed to be dry.

If you haven’t heard of the “paradise on earth” that is the Maldives, then it’s probably because the Maldives are such a small group of coral atolls in the Tropics. Small and isolated in the Indian Ocean, their identity becomes one with the ocean. Who they are is based on the oceans that surrounded them for all their lives. To avoid over fishing and catching unwanted species, Maldives fisherman catch one fish at a time. The coral reefs, that are slowly starting to diminish, are their life lines. Many ocean species thrive off the coral reefs which helps keep the people of the Maldives thriving as well. Climate change poses a huge threat to their oceans which is why the sustainable development goal 14 is most important to them.

As does any island in the Tropics, the Maldives have different resorts on different small islands. The resorts are what bring the tourists to them which makes up almost their entire economy. Resorts do not just pop up on the islands alone and electricity does not just appear there. Every resort that is created, they must recreate electricity on the island and waste disposal, which ties in with sustainable development goal 7; ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all and goal 6. The Maldives have made huge progress already, created the world’s first resort that runs 100% on solar power. This is only the first success story of many in the Tropics. In much of the region, reforestation has over taken deforestation, which is a huge success in relation to the development goal 15.

International Day of Tropics focuses not just on the challenges faced in the region, but the opportunities the region holds. The economy of many countries in the Tropics heavily rely on the tourist culture, whether it’s tourists staying in the many five star luxurious resorts or through eco-tourism, the funny dressed people living out of a backpack and traveling. Efforts to expand their economy further than just the tourist aspect, is just one of many opportunities in the Tropics for business development. I urge you, on June 29th, to put the media perspective of sandy beaches in the back of your head and take a look at the reality of the people living in communities behind the five star resorts. The Tropics hold so much more for our world than just a vacation spot and in the world of change and development, no one, and no thousand little islands, are left behind.

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