I apologize in advance for the rant that's about to happen.... But you know, I get so frustrated when I hear our elected officials saying that "there's no such thing as global climate change." I'd like to take each person who denies the fact of climate change - global warming - by the hand and show them one of my favorite beaches in Ghana. Or what's left of it that is. Here's what it used to look like:
This beautiful stretch of clean, warm sand and surf is (well, was) just around the corner from Lome, the capital of Togo - you can see it from here if you look left from where this photo was taken. All those little boats out on the water are fishing vessels that the fishermen take out at dawn to drop their nets. Around noon, they'll haul the nets in by hand and hope for a decent catch. Those helping with pulling in the nets will divide up the fish, which become supper for the day. It's real subsistence living, and the catches are getting smaller and smaller.
It's pretty amazing to watch how the fishermen bring in the catch. The net is laid in the water in a huge U shape with a sort of trap in the middle of the U. Another group of men is down the beach from these guys, pulling in the other end of the U. All the fish swim into the trap and can't escape as the net is pulled in. The groups of men loudly chant in the local language while they work - and given that no one has ever been willing to translate what they're singing, I guess it must be rather, ummm... colorful!
To the right of this photo above, and maybe twenty feet back from where this group of men is, are (were) several concrete block homes; beyond that are other family compounds where the families of fisher-folk reside. This hits a little close to home, because this is where Healthy Villages co-director Godfried was born and raised - his mother's village - where his father was a fisherman. Godfried says that when he was a little boy, the shoreline was at least half a mile out from where it is now. His father would warn him to never go to the shore without an adult. The sea is deep just off the shore and the riptides are intense. In 50 years, the shoreline has moved a half a mile or more inland - Godfried has watched the sea level rise for his entire life. As has every person who lives along the coast. Here's another photo so you can see what the beach looked like about six months ago:
The fishermen stretch out the nets and repair any holes they find, working under the coconut palms for shade from the hot noonday sun. To the left you can see one of the concrete block houses I mentioned above.
So now for the rest of the story. Somewhere around July (2016), over a two week period of time, the beach disappeared. Literally in two weeks, the sea rose up and claimed twenty feet of beach for her own. The block houses washed into the sea. There's no beach left for the fishermen to haul in their catch, or to park their boats. Fishing here is too dangerous now anyhow - nets get caught on the cement blocks and the humans who set the nets run the risk of being bashed to death.
I didn't even believe the story Godfried told me - I thought he was being overly dramatic - could the sea have risen that much in two weeks?? When he took me there on a visit to some of his family, I saw it for myself. The people who live in this area are attempting to build a sea wall, but it's a meager effort compared to the strength of the waves. If the sea rises much more, his sister, brother, nieces, nephews, cousins... will all be homeless. And then the stretch of crumbling pavement that runs along the coastline - the "highway" that goes to the border crossing - will wash away. I don't need to elaborate on how potentially devastating this is.
I could show you more photos of other parts of this shoreline farther west, where the government has built a "sea defense" that's literally a row of boulders. The tide is lapping up against the boulders now, and soon sand will wash up and over them and onto the road, and over the road into the mangroves. There's nowhere to extend the road away from the sea without a major road building project that if the sea continues to rise at this rate, would fall into the category of "what's the point."
People in this part of the world have known about climate change for a long time. In health clinics, posters explain the effects of climate change on health:
In a part of the world already challenged health-wise, climate change is making its impact and will continue to do so. Now more than ever, we need to support initiatives for sustainable health. Healthy Villages, Inc. is working hard to bring good health to the poor in Ghana. Please consider supporting us with your donation!