First Person

Climate change: Things are heating up

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A herder with his animals in Tigray, Ethiopia. Oxfam is working in this region to help farmers adapt to changes in rainfall. Photo: Eva-Lotta Jansson/Oxfam America

Our water supply in the US could be at risk–and that’s only the beginning. Here’s why we should pay attention.

By Lance Massey, volunteer for the Oxfam Action Corps in Iowa. Massey works as a national service professional in northeastern Iowa, helping to empower young adults to become leaders in volunteerism while strengthening communities across the US. He lives in Cedar Rapids and is looking forward to completing his first half marathon later this spring.

Oxfam volunteer Lance Massey.

Privilege is often not intuitive to the privileged. Yet, I am fortunate to be aware of my privilege. For example, when I’m thirsty, I walk about 10 feet to my kitchen sink where miles of underground water pipes bring me fresh, clean, and treated water from my municipality. I pay for it, of course. But I’m also privileged to have grown up in a developed country where I had access to education so that I could one day have a job that allows me to pay my monthly water bill.

Billions of people worldwide have lived their entire lives in a state of water scarcity – they have never had access like I’ve had access. I am privileged to have never gone a full day in my life where my water source (and thusly, my life or my livelihood) was at risk or not knowing when/where my next drink of that delicious H20 would come from.

And yet, I get the feeling like there’s a change coming. A quick online search displays a dizzying array of recent articles on climate change – most of them attributable to the “buzz” created around the White House’s release of the U.S. National Climate Assessment last week. This report paints a very serious picture of what a United States of America could look like when grappling with some of more terrible effects of climate change. The report “highlights” 12 major areas of impact – one of which is our water supply. Just a few snippets from the report:

  • “Short-term (seasonal or shorter) droughts are expected to intensify in most U.S. regions. Longer-term droughts are expected to intensify in large areas of the Southwest, southern Great Plains, and Southeast.” (pg. 42)
  • “The annual maximum number of consecutive dry days (less than 0.01 inches of rain) is projected to increase, especially in the western and southern part of the nation, negatively affecting crop and animal production.” (pg. 47)
  • “Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest.” (pg. 78)

It’s a very sobering reality that we, as a species, expect to face these hardships in coming years. Worse yet, these are the impacts to a developed country that has the infrastructure to respond and counteract (at least, temporarily) to crisis. What about developing nations? What about the countries that have already faced years of drought or floods? What about the hardships that poor communities face – those who are one negative natural event (maybe even a minor one) away from the complete loss of their way of life.

Climate change is real. And it’s devastating to people and communities all across the globe. Worst of all, it hits poor communities first and with a greater severity. They lack the resources and education to properly adapt to a changing climate. That’s where Oxfam steps in – helping to provide those tools with the ultimate goal of empowerment.

There’s this great story of a gardener in the Philippines named Josephine Alad-Ad. She’s had to adapt to severely unpredictable weather events (floods, droughts, landslides) and with the help of Oxfam’s Climate Resiliency Field Schools, she’s been able to do that – altering what she grows so the crops require less water and how she grows it so more water is conserved. It’s yet another way that Oxfam works to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+