CHAPTER 2: SHONA ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY
Environmental philosophy is the inquiry into the nature and justification of metaphysical, epistemological and ethical claims relating to the environment. While environmental philosophy can take various perspectives, this chapter shall focus on environmental philosophy that has been handed down through the generations by cultural transmission; in particular, the Shona culture. Firstly, the chapter explores the debate on the conception of African environmental philosophy. Some scholars are skeptical about African environmental philosophy on the assumption that there is either nothing or very little to be known about African environmental philosophy. Other scholars hold the view that African environmental philosophy cannot be possible because African philosophy is human centered and does not extend to the environment. In addition, Africa is considered as the worst on earth in terms of environmental records and as such, cannot be expected to contribute meaningfully to the global environmental responsibility debate. Secondly, and contrary to the above view, it shall be argued that African philosophy, which has very deep roots in the history of pre-colonial, colonial and independent Africa will be used as the basis and example of African environmental philosophy. African environmental philosophy, through ubuntu, emphasizes cosmic interconnectedness, relationality and coexistence. Further, the chapter aims to contribute to the articulation of an environmental philosophy based on Shona proverbs and inspired by broad African environmental perspectives. This shall be done through an analysis of three Shona proverbs that provide evidence of environmental responsibility. These proverbs may be used to refute the skeptical view on African environmental philosophy in general. The three selected proverbs shall examine Shona environmental philosophy that culminates in environmental preservation, conservation and nature relatedness. Further, the chapter shall discuss the significance of environmental philosophy.
Proverbs can be used to construct an indigenous environmental philosophy with the potential for global application in the spirit of the pluriversal understanding of knowledge. African environmental philosophy has been described by the natural resources literature as ―a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through the generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment‖ (Berkes, 1995:100). In indigenous environmental philosophy, knowledge of foods and medicinal plants embodies relationships and self-identification with places in the use of what nature has offered (LaRochelle and Berkes 2003:366). Campbell and Shakeroff (2007:351) identify three aspects that relate to indigenous environmental philosophy in general and African environmental philosophy in particular, the first is that indigenous environmental philosophy involves symbolic meaning through oral history, place names and spiritual relationships. The second is that indigenous environmental philosophy encompasses a distinct world view; including a view of the environment different from that of Western science by emphasising relationality, dependence and interconnectedness. The third is that indigenous environmental philosophy examines relationships based on sharing and obligations toward other community members and other beings
Understanding the Environment
Belshaw (2001:2) identifies four conceptions of the environment. The first account is a human centered approach that sees the environment as ―where people live, work and enjoy themselves.‖ This understanding places emphasis on human beings yet it is very broad to cover offices, homes, cities, countryside and open seas. This perspective suggests connection only with human life to the extent of excluding wilderness areas, polar regions, remnants of deserts and the bottom of the sea from which people are absent. The second view which considers the environment as ―the natural and non-human world‖ (Belshaw, 2001:2) stresses on nature. This approach sees human beings, alongside with their cities, roads, industries and airports, as encroaching into the environment and competing with it for space. Human activities are seen as disturbing the natural state of the non-human environment. The third view, which can be described as the global approach, sees the environment as the component that is spread over the surface of the world. According to this view, the environment is one and it existed before humans were found on the earth. This conception takes the environment to include zones that are unoccupied by human beings. The fourth view is called the localized approach and it takes the environment to mean, ―home ground, the territory familiar to and supportive of a particular kind of life‖ (Belshaw, 2001:2). This means that one can make reference to an urban environment, a rural environment and a cultural environment, among others.
While the first view of the environment places emphasis on the human surroundings, it tends to exclude the non-human world and as a result, it is a narrow conception of the environment. The second view is the opposite of the first and it places emphasis on the non-human environment while neglecting the human environment. These perspectives seem to rest on the fallacy of false dichotomy13 by assuming that there is either a human environment or a non-human environment. A balanced approach considers the environment as consisting of the human and the non-human components. The third view, which is the global approach, fails to convince because it is too broad and too general to capture the environment as it relates to specific groups of people. The last view may be significant for this study because it takes an approach restricted to a particular territory that can be used to express an environmental understanding by a group of people such as the Shona. Restricting the study of the environment to a particular group of people is done for the sake of convenience even though the effects of environmental protection or destruction remain unrestricted.
If one has to apply Occam‘s razor14, it may be better to understand the environment as one rather than many. An African view holds that, by environment, we mean our surroundings, including the life support provided by the air, water, land, animals and the entire ecosystem of which human beings are part (Osuntokun, 2001:293). Osuntokun‘s view has two advantages; firstly, it is consistent with common usage and this means that it is credible from a common sense perspective. Secondly, it suggests that living spaces affect one another as they interact. This interaction is a relational perspective that has important implications in understanding African environmental philosophy in general and Shona environmental philosophy in particular
Since the ecosystem is part of the environment, it is necessary to define ecology and show its significance to the environment. Etymologically, the word ecology is derived from the Greek words oikos meaning household and logos meaning ―study‖; this means that it is the study of the environmental house that includes all organisms in it and all functions that make the house habitable (Odum and Barrett, 2005:2). Ecology can be defined as ―the study of the interactions between living organisms and their environment‖ (Bowler 1992:309; DesJardins, 1993:166). As an empirical science, ecology claims that it may not necessarily make a particular commitment to preservation or pronouncement of the value of that which it studies.15 Even though ecology is distinct from the study of the environment, ―in so far as environmentalists aim to understand the character of environmental problems that they detect, and hope to uncover the methods for preventing or reversing unwelcome change, then they need to draw on ecology‘s resources‖ (Belshaw, 2001:8). The point being made by Belshaw is that ecology informs thinking about the environment with specific details that may enable sound and informed decisions.The convergence between environmental studies and ecology is seen in the deep ecology movement16 (Belshaw, 2001:8). Naess (1973:151) argues that, ―the idea that a human being is such an individual possessing a separate essence, radically separates the human self from the rest of the world. The separation leads to selfishness towards other people and induces human selfishness towards nature.‖ As a counter to egoism at both the individual and species level, Naess (1973:152) proposes the adoption of an alternative relational image of the world. According to this relationalism, organisms (human or otherwise) are best understood as knots in the biospherical net (Naess, 1973:154). The identity of a living thing is essentially constituted by its relations to other things in the world, especially its ecological relations to other living things. If people conceptualise themselves and the world in relational terms, the deep ecologists argue, then people will take better care of nature and the world in general. Naess (1973:155) maintains that, the deep satisfaction that we receive from identification with nature and close partnership with other forms of life in nature contributes significantly to our life quality. Naess‘ position has important implications for this study because it sees nature as central and the human being is seen as depending on the natural world and this is in line with the African view of environmental philosophy
Contextualising Environmental Philosophy
Brennan (2009:8) observes that, various schools of philosophical thought arise from diverse methodologies in approaching environmental philosophy. The analytic or Anglo-American tradition in philosophy emphasizes conceptual clarity, logical rigour, empirical soundness, and scientific validity of arguments (Brennan, 2009:8). In its approach to environmental philosophy, the analytic school focuses on the analysis of environmental concepts. By contrast, continental philosophy 17 is more critical of claims of scientific rigour. It is more open to exploring the historical and cultural context of ideas, and is more inclined to explore larger philosophical themes such as the nature of being, existence, and consciousness (Brennan, 2009:8).
Contemporary environmental problems are complex; they involve issues of public health and social justice, attitudes to nature, and deep disagreements about matters of science, policy, rights, and ethical obligations (Brennan, 2009:10). These complexities apply to many areas of contemporary environmental debate: drought, changing weather patterns, the loss of habitat and species, the burden of caring for environmental refugees, the effects of consumerism, and the health problems associated with various forms of pollution. The resolution of such conflicts and ambiguities demands increased interdisciplinary cooperation between philosophers, political theorists, legal experts and scientists. Such a cross-disciplinary approach would require environmental philosophy because it borrows from both theoretical and applied philosophy.
While the above trends may represent Western environmental philosophy, they are hardly exhaustive because they do not, in general, discuss environmental debates within African historical and cultural contexts. African environmental philosophy in general and Shona environmental philosophy in particular are part of marginalized knowledge systems. The perspective of pluriversality gives room and legitimacy to the examination of African environmental philosophy as seen in the section that follows.
African Environmental Philosophy Debate
Three distinct positions can be identified in the African environmental philosophy debate. The first view is comparative, holding that ―scholars have kept quiet or what they have said about Africa is rather thin compared to what they have said about Native Americans, Asians and Australian Aborigines‖ (Kelbessa, 2005:20). This shows that Africa has been a neglected zone in terms of environmental philosophy. In addition, certain scholars tend to totally disregard Africa and focus on other regions as shown below; ―An open-minded comparative study of Eastern environmental attitudes and values will enable Western environmental philosophers better to recognize and criticize their most ingrained and otherwise unconscious assumptions inherited from the long and remarkably homogeneous history of Western thought‖ (Hargrove, 1989: xx).
The second position sees Africa contributing to environmental philosophy in a weak sense. The weak sense is based on the anthropocentric understanding of African ethics in particular and African philosophy in general;―Apparently, therefore, Africa looms as a big blank spot on the world map of indigenous environmental ethics for a very good reason. African thought orbits, seemingly, around human interests. Hence one might expect to distill from it no more than a weak and indirect environmental ethic, similar to the type of ecologically enlightened utilitarianism.‖ (Callicott, 1994: 273).
Some will object that, empirically, Africa has one of the worst environmental records on earth (as exemplified by widespread deforestation, pollution and soil degradation) and obviously cannot be expected to contribute very much to global environmental responsibility. Africans are seen as incapable of overcoming their own environmental crisis. But a closer look at African history shows that the real issue is not so simple. One has to examine how and why Africa has faced an environmental crisis before concluding that Africans are environmentally unfriendly. This examination may show that colonialism and its ills are largely responsible for the African environmental crisis. As a result an African perspective of studying African environmental problems becomes necessary.
The third position affirms the existence of a meaningful African environmental philosophy. Opuku (1993:77), commenting on African culture writes, ―there is community with nature since man is part of nature and is expected to cooperate with it; and this sense of community is expressed in terms of identity, kinship, friendliness and respect.‖ Three issues can be drawn from Opuku‘s analysis. Firstly, human beings are part of nature and this means the community extends beyond human beings to include environmental issues. Secondly, the ethical expectation to co-operate with nature means environmental responsibility that involves protection, conservation and respect of the environment. Thirdly, the respect for fellow human beings means taking care of the environment.
Commenting on African environmental ethics, Murove (2004:195-196) notes, ―this is an ethic of the interdependence of individuals within the larger society to which they belong and to the environment on which they all depend.‖ Murove (2004:196) posits society and environment and the interrelation of the two is made possible through an ethical concern. The ethical concern cares for fellow human beings as such and it also cares for them through the care of the environment.
CHAPTER 1: DEMARGINALISING SHONA PROVERBS: A CRITIQUE OF THE EUROCENTRIC EPISTEMOLOGICAL PARADIGM
1.2 Conceptualising epistemology
1.3 Understanding a paradigm
1.4 The Eurocentric Epistemological Paradigm and its Consequences
1.5 Criticism of the Eurocentric Epistemological Paradigm
1.6 A Defence of the Legitimacy of Shona Proverbs
1.7 The Term Shona
1.9 Shona proverbs and their worldview
2.1 Understanding the Environment
2.2 Defining Ecology
2.3 Contextualising Environmental Philosophy
2.4 African Environmental Philosophy Debate
2.5 Ubuntu and African Environmental Philosophy
2.6 Shona Environmental Philosophy
2.7 Shona Environmental Philosophy as shown in Selected Proverbs
2.8 Objections and replies
2.9 Significance of Shona Environmental Philosophy
CHAPTER 3: SHONA PHILOSOPHY OF LAW
3.1 Understanding law
3.2 African Law
3.3 African Philosophy of Law Debate
3.5 African Philosophy of law
3.6 African Philosophy of law and Ubuntu
3.7 Law among the Shona
3.8 The link between Shona proverbs and philosophy of law
3.9 Shona Philosophy of law
3.10 Selected Shona Proverbs as Expressions of Shona Philosophy of law
3.11 Objections and Replies
3.12 The Significance of Shona indigenous approaches to philosophy of law
CHAPTER 4: SHONA POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
4.1 Understanding Political Philosophy
4.2 Political Models in Africa
4.3 Why an African political philosophy?
4.4 The African political philosophy debate
4.5 Ubuntu and Politics
4.6 The Shona Political System
4.7 Proverbs and Shona Political Discourse
4.8 Objections and replies
4.9 Significance of Shona Political Philosophy
CHAPTER 5: SHONA PHILOSOPHY OF ECONOMICS
5.1 Definition of terms
5.3 Debate on the relevance of African indigenous philosophy of economics
5.4 Why an African Philosophy of Economics?
5.5 African Philosophy of Economics
5.6 Shona Philosophy of Economics
5.7 Shona Philosophy of Economics as expressed in selected proverbs
5.8 Possible objections and replies
5.9 Significance of Shona Philosophy of Economics .
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