One of the clearest memories I have from my time in Ghana was examining the water in Dumasi, which was literally making people sick. I was working as a writer with the Canadian NGO Journalists for Human Rights, documenting some of the impacts of the mine on the local community.
What I found was distressing. Chemical runoff from the mining process had destroyed the local water sources, and made nearby land untenable for growing the community’s food. People were sick from the arsenic and cyanide present in the land and water. Health issues in the community were rampant. Almost every other community member I met suffered from skin ailments, ailments exacerbated by lack of access to clean water. And, a community that formerly had active and bountiful farms now had far less fertile land.
I was thinking about my time in Dumasi last week as I began writing a letter Oxfam is sending to Congress about climate change. My job at Oxfam is to translate our policy goals into actions for our supporters, and I was debating the best way to make climate change – and how it’s affecting the world’s poorest people – more tangible to people who might feel disconnected.
How could I explain what Oxfam means when it says ‘the world’s poorest communities will be hit the hardest’ by climate change?