A healthy, sustainable living in tropical Australia

According to The Conversation, life in the tropics is often seen as “living in paradise”, a place where everything grows and flourishes. This picture-postcard environment is not the year-round reality. At certain times of the year, intense heat, humidity and the wet season affect the livability, making outdoor activity unattractive and thereby reducing social cohesion.

Urban living can already be pretty insular these days. People move from temperature-controlled houses to temperature-controlled cars to temperature-controlled offices, and vice versa. There’s no need to talk to anyone really. And exercise? It’s something you try to fit in if you can – but you probably don’t.

An ideal city life might be one in which you walk or cycle to work easily, say hi to a neighbor, and pick up some fresh produce for lunch along the way. While it is nice to expect that people will do this for a healthier self and planet, the truth is that daily life choices depend on convenience.

Furthermore, the planning and design (or haphazard evolution) of urban spaces largely dictate the way we live. This, in turn, affects our health in many ways. It can, for instance, encourage or discourage active lifestyles, social cohesion and access to healthy food choices. This is where the New Urban Agenda comes into play.

The New Urban Agenda, drafted by UN-Habitat and endorsed in late 2016 by the United Nations General Assembly, aims to help everyone to benefit from urbanization.

Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 (Sustainable cities and communities), the agenda provides a guide for developing safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable new cities that promote social integration and equity. It can also provide the impetus for conversations about the growth, redesign, and redevelopment of existing urban spaces.

Making the New Urban Agenda work locally depends on more than overall regulations, or “importing” southern Australian solutions to the tropics.