As I was inspired by the response to yesterday’s post (if you haven’t, please take a look), and as I have set a goal for 2015 to post at least four blogs a month, thought I’d get a head start with this observation from my recent trip to Australia. The Center for International Tropical Resilience Education and Implementation (CITREI) was born of this event, and encouraged by my longtime Aussie friends Tracy Scott-Remington and Rod Brown. Subsequent meetings with my mate Mark Matthews at Advance Cairns, who is a true visionary, provided further context and support. Watch for further posts as we work to move this vision into reality.
In September, I did what some would consider suicidal—flew from the middle of the U.S. to the northeast coast of Australia, and back, in five days. Why on God’s earth would even a simpleton like “Preacher” (nickname given by my dear friend Rod Brown that is better known in international speaking circles than my given name—have no idea why a southern-speaking, high emotion presenter would acquire that moniker) Dodd do that? Turns out, to learn about the future of perhaps the most important region of the planet-not a region in the traditional sense, but a linear region, that circles the globe-the Tropics.
The Future of Tropical Economies Conference, at James Cook University in Cairns, sponsored by the Advance Cairns regional economic development organization and the Cairns Regional Council, and held in conjunction with the G-20 summit there, was very impressive. Speakers included the G-20 President, Australia Treasurer Paul Hockey, and a slate of international experts on all facets of tropical environmental, political, social, and economic issues. Learning about the region that will have 2/3 of the new children born in the next 30 years, has 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and is home to several dynamic economic powers was fascinating. See http://stateofthetropics.org/events/ftec for more.
Coming from a semi-tropical climate in New Orleans, I could identify with both the opportunities and challenges presented. One area that presents both, that was not explicitly discussed during most of the proceedings, was resilience to disasters and adverse events. The tropics are particularly vulnerable because the warmth of the climate lends itself to more severe weather activity than more temperate zones. And, the nature of urbanization in warm climates, to head toward the seacoasts, along with low-or-no-standard building codes in many developing nations, and one can see why some estimates say that as much as 2/3 of loss in terms of lives, property, and economic output comes from the globe’s tropical and semi-tropical regions.
Resilience, while at times seeming nebulous, is gaining traction as a legitimate global activity to reduce economic, societal, and human costs of disasters. It has been documented to produce a 4:1 return on investment when disasters strike. It just makes sense. Yet protecting this fast-growing, productive, and increasingly important region from disaster and disruption did not seem to be top-of-mind to most speakers. Oh well, a yank in a white linen suit from 5,000 miles away did explicitly discuss it, and it did seem to strike a chord with some. In fact, most, including some influential guests with G-20 ties, seemed interested in how resilience could have a positive influence on the future of not only the tropics, but in raising global GDP by reducing disaster-related losses. Stay tuned…….
And again, have a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year!