Momentous changes ahead for the tropics

The world's tropical regions will be the epicenter of change in global economies, population growth, and environment.  That's the take-home message of a groundbreaking report that forecasts massive changes this century in the tropics.

Huge changes ahead...  (from Mongabay)

Huge changes ahead... (from Mongabay)

The ambitious State of the Tropics Report was launched last week in Burma and Singapore, in a special televised event. 

The report was kicked off by Nobel Laureate and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi with assistance from Sandra Harding, the Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University in Australia, and a panel of experts that included ALERT director Bill Laurance

Produced by a coalition of 12 universities and research institutes from the Asia-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America, the State of the Tropics report sees dramatic changes ahead for the world's tropical regions:

- by the latter part of this century, the population of tropical nations will swell by over 3 billion additional people, with Africa's population nearly quadrupling

- food demand in tropical and developing nations will double by mid-century

- by 2050, two-thirds of all children will live in the tropics

- land-use pressures will intensify sharply because of a dire need to increase food and biofuel production in the tropics

- as the century unfolds, tropical nations will increasingly be the centers of global economic growth and also rising geopolitical conflicts over land, water, and natural resources

- the tropics sustains 80% of all species, many of which will be imperiled by rising habitat loss, climate change, and other perils.

The State of the Tropics report is the first comprehensive effort to project change across the entire tropical region -- which will increasingly become a key driver of social, economic, and environmental change globally.


Will we run out of food?

It's the year 2050.  Earth's population has just passed 9.5 billion and it's still climbing.  Africa's population has quadrupled, and global food demand is now twice what it was in 2014. 

Will there be enough food for everyone?

Food for today, but what about tomorrow? (photo by William Laurance)

Food for today, but what about tomorrow? (photo by William Laurance)

As daunting as it sounds, that is the reality we'll soon be facing, according to demographers and food-security experts.  And it gets worse.

To feed our burgeoning populace, we'll need to turbocharge agriculture--transforming vast areas of relatively unproductive smallholder farms to bigger, more efficient, industrial-style farms.

But modern farms demand a great deal of energy, and energy prices will surely rise in future.  As energy prices go up, food prices will go up.

Worldwide, billions of people already devote much of their income to food.  What will happen if food prices rise sharply--perhaps doubling?

That's the focus of an essay by ALERT director Bill Laurance, which just appeared in Ensia Magazine

Entitled "Food + Energy = Crisis?", it asks tough questions about the future--and has two urgent implications for how we manage our world today.