Environmentalism on the African Continent

Sea, Wave, Beach, Water, Ocean, Maritime

The environment is seen as having a religious dimension that extends beyond its physical prognosis in Africa. This may issue from their deep sense of appreciation for the numerous services rendered by the environment and its resources in their daily life tasks. To the African, a higher spirit is always responsible for any great deed that is extended to him/her. Thus, when s/he freely gets assistance to cater for his/her greatest needs of life like food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and recreation among others, s/he attaches spiritual value to its suppliers which are the environment and its resources.

The Africans do not worship the surroundings as they would worship the highest spirit who is at the apex of the belief systems, the Supreme Deity. But they treat the environment and its resources with profound awe and respect. They believe it is the Supreme Deity which has given these natural things from the environment as habitats for some spirit beings sent as messengers to aid the human family in their dire conditions. This belief is often known as Animism. In terms of great storms, the woods serve as wind holders to protect them from the anger of the storms. The leaves, stem, barks, and roots provide them with medicine to heal their ailments while the fruits offer them food. To the native African, the goods and services offered him/her by the plants, rivers and other things from the environment are the handiworks of the soul residing in them. Thus, it would be improper, or an act of disrespect and lack of appreciation to wantonly destroy these terrific resources that have served them and pivoted their lifetime existence.

Out of great appreciation, they treat the earth and its natural resources with the greatest care and gentility. The rivers and water bodies are not defiled in any way whether by bathing in them, tainting its purity with menstruation blood, drowning somebody dead in it, urinating or defecating in them or even using poisonous chemicals to fish in them. The water bodies have been seen as having souls residing in them and these spirits will be incensed and vouch their anger on offenders of these environmental malfeasances. This indirectly maintains the purity of the river bodies and the sustainable source of its anthropogenic and environmental services. The rich abundance of biodiversity and their conservation in most areas in Africa is as a consequence of the religiosity perspective of the surroundings by the indigenous African.

Because of the influx of Western religion and schooling in addition to globalization, many Africans that are affected by these external factors, especially the youth, have dulled the elevated sense of spiritual values for the environment. This is adversely affecting the sustainability and conservation of their natural resources in the environment. However, in local communities where this religiosity view of this surroundings is still high, the biodiversity resources are still intact and in their pristine state. This is largely as a result of the stringent sanctioning measures imposed by the traditional councils in the local communities comprising of the ruling chief and his cabinet of elders. Therefore, the environmental agencies and ministries in Africa must allow the standard councils to operate in full abilities to enforce these cultural beliefs which protect the environment. They can do this by setting a legislation to beef up their powers to sanction culprits who engage in environmentally degrading activities which are seen as defying the sanctity and purity of their environment. Also, assistance concerning logistics to maintain and propagate this belief in animism has to be provided to aid in the upkeep of the buoyancy of the environment and its essential resources.

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