Mary Katharine Ham
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In Rosia Montana, Romania, George grew up in a one-bedroom apartment with seven other family members. Two thirds of the people in his village have no running water. They venture outside in brutal negative temperatures just to use the bathroom. Many of them, George included, hope a planned gold mine will bring jobs and a taste of modernity to a town long-ago abandoned by state-owned mines and gainful employment.

Almost 500 miles away, from her home in the prosperous, modern capital city of Bucharest, Belgian environmentalist Francoise Heidebroek says of Rosia Montana's poverty, "It is part of the charm of Rosia Montana and this lifestyle. You know, people will use their horse and cart instead of using a car. They are proud to have a horse."

In Fort Dauphin, Madagascar, a tiny harbor town in one of the poorest countries on Earth, Rasou Nirina Odette is waiting on a job in a new ilmenite mine planned for the area.

"I would use the money for school fees for the children and I would buy something at a low price and resell it at a higher price for a profit."

Many miles away from Fort Dauphin, in the regional capital of Tulear, World Wildlife Fund's Mark Fenn plans for a beachfront home and sails his catamaran. He has different priorities for the people of Fort Dauphin.

"In Madagascar, the indicators of quality of life are not housing. They're not nutrition, specifically. They're not health in a lot of cases. It's not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the parents don't consider that to be important… People are economically disadvantaged, people have no jobs, but if I could put you with a family and you could count how many times in a day that that family smiles…then you tell me who is rich and who is poor," Fenn said.

In Pascua Lama, Chile, Eduardo Ayolo is one of 27,000 residents who have applied and trained for a job in a planned gold mine in his area.

"I'm not asking for much. Just a normal job," he said.

Another Pascua Lama resident said, "There are a lot of poor people who need opportunities to make their dreams come true."

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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