The ecological crisis in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria is a major green issue of global concern. The depletion of air, indiscriminate falling down of trees, land and water pollution etc., may be not explicable to atmospheric chemistry, but a green issue attributed to humans’ negative relationship with the environment. Cleanly enough, the enviroment become unfavorable for the survival of species, because of the present of predators ecocides, terriories, and biohazards the entire region. To make a case for an enviromental health and security, one would ask; how can ecological crisis be ameliorated if not totally eradicated? How can we reclaim our environment and reintroduce the endangered species? Adopting a critical analytic method, the paper examine the application of ‘deep ecological principles’ as a green audit and a cleanup for the ecological crisis, in order to reclaiming the Niger Delta environment for a sustainable development.
Key words: ecological crisis, vital needs, anthropocentricism, mystical and sacramental universe, Aquaculture, biocentric equality, self realization and Ukama Philosophy
The Niger Delta region include Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Delta, Edo and some portions of Ondo, Imo and Abia States of Nigeria. These states however, are situated and surrounded by the coastal region of Nigeria, by inference some of the people who live in this area, rely on fishery and other aquatic undertaking as their major source of income (Akinbi, 2012:p.1). In 1956, oil well was first discovered in Oloibiri, an Ijaw town in the present day Bayelsa State, today, oil accounting for about 98% of Nigeria annual earnings (Akinbi, 2012; p.2).
Additionally, the Niger Delta environment has been contaminated due to oil explorations, aquaculture and other human activities. The ecological crisis in this region does not only threatens the life of non human species, also exposes the environmental to security threats, unsustainable development and inadequate security of lives and properties (Akinbi, 2012;p.2).
For the purpose of enviromental health and security, there is a need for human recognition of the ‘intrinsic worth’ of all life forms, and the right of non-human beings to exist and flourish just as we humans. This would help to rejecting the ecological subjugation and environmental terrorism, this in my view, it would help to avert ecological crisis.
Additionally, the vital nature and the symbiotic relationship are morally neutral for non-humans and humans to sustain a peaceful human coexistence with nature for posterity sake. Furthermore, it’s difficult to realize a peaceful coexistence without ‘I and Thou,’ Individual is a part of a whole, just as nature, both must work together to achieving a common goal. Osebor (2012) argues thus; African concept of Ukama is a cross fertilization between the individual and the cosmos. Individual affirms his own existence when he recognized and relates with the cosmos (p.55)
This principle could be applied by with illustration; the growth of science and technology, the application and development of weapons of war, food security, diplomatic/international treaties, may not lead to a sustainable world peace, if the relationship between nature and man is parasitically sustained. Here individual carries out his activities based on the principle of relativism respect, dignity. Ukama philosophy regards everything that exist as brothers in relationship, and human should be a gatekeeper irrespective of the challenges of protecting the other ( Osebor, 2012:p55).
To achieve environmental health and security, Deep Ecological principles should be adopted for environmental sustainability. Norman (2004) quotes Brundtland Commission Report thus;
Few threats to peace and survival of the human community are greater than those posed by the prospects of cumulative and irreversible degradation of the biosphere on which human life depends. True security cannot be achieved by mounting buildup of weapons (defense in a narrow sense), but only by providing basic conditions for solving non-military problems which threaten them. Our survival depends not only on military balance, but on global cooperation to ensure a sustainable environment (p.1).
Some philosophical foundations of the ecological crisis in the Niger Delta
The ecological crisis in the Niger Delta region region of Nigeria is a major green issue of global concern. For the purpose of this paper, there is need to examine the Christian teaching, how it influences human psyche and causing ecological crisis.
As humans carry out their daily activities in the Niger delta environment, it’s believed that oil companies in the Niger delta contributed 80% causes of ecological crisis in the Niger Delta. These oil companies however, adopt and applied Christian negative worldviews on the environment, thereby causing harm to nature (White, 1969:p. 189).
In the antiquity, nature is conceived as animism genius loci, the protective spirits, and these spirits are accessible to men for different purposes. The spirits are interpreted as God in transcendence nature, venerated as intermediaries of the image of God.
Furthermore, the anthropocentric teachings of Christianity contrast the ancient paganism and the Asian religion worldviews about environmental health, protection, conservation and human relationship with nature. Thus; “Christianity made possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of a natural objects” (white 1967: p.189). Osebor supports this view thus;
The relationship between individual and the cosmos recognizes their worth not what they posses, but intrinsic right to life. Here every one is mindful that each person has something to contribute to his welfare, no matter the degree not for egoistic reason but a good sense of humanism (p.52).
The biblical teaching assertion thus; “the earth is simply there for humans to have dominion over. Genesis 1:26, God commands humans to have dominion over the earth and its resources” Ikeke (2015) cited Vantassel (2009, 2), argues that “dominionism” of humans are totally higher and above nature; they are to exercise power over nature and nature is there to serve their needs (p.181).
Philosopher Kant would say, that the above views is an end-in-itself, the uncritical attitude of human beings, to treat nature as an end in themselves, and not as a means to something else. The fact that we are humans and has value, nature should be considered having values and intrinsic worth just as we humans.
Furthermore, Zimmerman cites Heidegger argues that “dominion” over nature is the root cause of ecological crisis, because the teaching is not accidental but arrogance worldviews of the Christian faith which posses as predators, ecocides, terriories, and biohazards the Niger Delta enviroment for an anthropocentric humanism (n-d: p.4).
The concept of dominion in over if strictly applied, will no doubt arrogate a wanton destruction of nature. Heidegger will say dominionism is “shallow”; because it’s a environmental negative conception of nature which encourages a shift in human self-understanding and negative attitude towards nature, this had caused social and ecological catastrophe in the Niger Delta (n-d:p.4). According to Ikeke (2015) citing Lynn White thus;
Christianity for contributed to the devastation of the earth. Though Christianity in its western form is essentially anthropocentric and man is to have dominion over creation and rule over them. This according to White has contributed to much industrial exploitation of the earth (p: 181).
However, the root cause of ecological crisis in the Niger Delta may not be totally attributed on Christianity. There are some traditional teachings such as the catholic tradition that affirms a ‘mystical and sacramental universe’ here, All beings has an intrinsic worth, participating in divine beauty; each being is a “Cosmic Christ” until lately, many Christian body has failed in their teachings, in the area of environmental health and security because, nature is conceived as scientific (Ikeke, p.181).
Another philosophical foundation of ecological crisis in the Niger Delta is Aquaculture. Aquaculture has been the chief occupation of the people of the Niger Delta. With the advancement of societies, the method of fish farming has change from crude to mechanization of aquaculture. Although, Mechanization of aquaculture enhances productivity, encourages the use of intensive techniques for fishing and also, help to increase the revenue generation to farmers, but it encourages wild fishing harvest and bottom trawling, these encourages ecological crisis (Sustainability for all n-d) (Olawande, 1998:p15). This is contrary to the teaching of Ukama philosophy, Osebor (2012) argues Ukama teaches environmental protection and management. The mythical consciousness of the African people saw no separation of I and Thou, here I and Thou are animated, human and the environment are inseparable, so the destruction of the environment is the destruction of human (p.61).
Another cause of ecological crisis is the use of Cyanide fishing method for fish harvest. This approach is mainly use in aquariums. The method is the act of applying sodium cyanide into a fish habitat in order to capture the desired fish. The implication of this technique is that it does not only hurt the desired fish, but also affects other aquatic organisms such as coral reefs. The use of chemicals for fish harvesting destroys aquatic organisms that are vital to the marine ecosystem, pollution of the aquariums and encourages food poising (Olawande, 1998:p15).
Dynamite or blast fishing has also been attributed as one of the philosophical foundation of the ecological crisis in the Niger Delta. Fishes are killed by the shock from of the explosions of dynamite. The indiscriminate explosions of dynamite kill large numbers of fish and other aquatic species in this area, and destroy the physical environment.
This development presents a negative philosophy of nature, with a history of interactions between living things and the surroundings. But the most alarming is the distortion of ‘food chain’, such as the indiscriminate application of chemicals, pesticides, wild fishing harvest and other modern chemicals by man. Man’s assaults upon the environment are the contamination of air, earth, rivers, sea etc with dangerous and even lethal materials, this we perceived the possibility of man extinction from the biotic community, in an attempt to control pest and diseases( Carson, 1962:p.2).
A mind-boggling question aroused, “How would intelligent species like humans seek to fish and harvest aquatic species through the contamination of the entire environment and brought threat to the ecosystem?(Carson, 1962:p.2) Carson further viewed, that she is not against the control of pest and disease, but the acceptable method should be employed to avoid to ecological crisis. (p.2). Carson further argued thus:
It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. But I contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. .. …we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and the man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life,(p.2).
Ikeke (2015) cited Thomas Berry who frowns at mechanization of farming, for it contributed to risen trends of the ecological crisis. Critiquing mechanization technology Thomas Berry argues, thus; ‘that industrial processes have produced jobs and profits, expanded life, but they have equally alienated humans from their mystic sensitivities to natural life systems” (p.181).
Mechanization aquaculture for wild fishing harvest rooted against the spirit of African communalism with subsistence farming. ‘UKama’ and ‘Ubuntu’ does not affirm consumerism, individualism, and profiteering through exploitation of the cosmos for anthropocentric humanism.
A dualistic mindset has also contributed to the ecological crisis. One of the vital hindrances to the principle of dynamic relationality in which all things enhances one another is western dualism. The danger of a dualistic mindset is that it has separated humans from the earth or nature. Humans are seen as being here and nature is over there. Humans are perceived to be radically different from the other (nature). Humans are perceived in this dualistic mindset to be masters and controllers. Nature is a thing and object under them. It can be conquered and subdued. This is not to say that it is only a dualistic mindset that produces images of human control of nature. Francis Bacon sees nature as external to humans and a platform for unlimited human accomplishments
DEEP ECOLOGICAL PRINCIPLES
Aldo Leopold’s land ethics
Marina (2013) quoted Aldo Leopold’s land ethics as the precursor to Naes’s deep ecological theory (p.6). Deep ecology just like Leopold’s Land Ethics preached love of nature and frown at human anthropocentric nature in the Niger Delta. Marina (2013) presents Leopold idea on deep ecology as a positive human’s relationship with nature, and that we should preserve nature for the sake posterity (p.22).
Marina, further viewed that for sustainable development, peace, national security to be achieved in the Niger Delta region, there is a need for all those who may come in contact with the region to see animals, plants, valley, mountains, etc., not as a means to an end, or an object that exists mainly protected and conserved for the survival of man (p.23). Nature should be seen as a part of our moral community, “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community, it is wrong when it tends otherwise” (Leopold, 1977: p.865).
Given a philosophical analysis of Leopold’s ecological thinking, one would agree that it’s rooted in environmental conservation and preservation of all life forms in their diversity in the Niger delta. Also, it affirms that all life forms are members of a community, who are interdependence with one another, Leopold will say, we are parts of a whole” (Leopold, 1977: p.866). The above survey also is a clear refutation of the ‘dualistic conception of nature,’ and an affirmation that homo-sapiens are no longer conqueror of the land or community, but plain member and citizens of the biotic community, which we are morally bound to respect one another”( Leopold, 1977: p.865).
The philosophical aphorism ‘know thyself ‘is attributed Socrates’ account, one the greatest philosopher ever lived, as document by his student Plato. The concept of ‘know thyself ‘ when critically analyzed, it means self-development, self-understanding, self-examination, self-interpretation etc. ( Talukder, 2016:p.4). Although Plato interpretation of Socratics expositions, did not explore ‘Self-realization’, ‘self’ was the kernel moral of his thinking. The inner message of the ‘self’ in my view is the statement that affirms self-control and a good life in a relationship with the environment; this involves a process of on “Self-Realization.”
The ecological security in the Niger Delta requires the application of the metaphysics of the self realization for national development and environmental security. Zimmerman (1998) argued in a paper entitled Deep Ecology, Ecoactivism, and Human Evolution, that ecological principle of self realization; presents that man should not be enslaved by the ‘ego’ of wild fishing harvest because, the ego play an important role in human perception of realities. Self-realization helps to craving control of the “self.” The “Self” in “Self-realization” must not be confused with the constricted ego-self but a diminishing of our ego in the exploration of nature (p.2). Talukder, (2016) supported the above assertion thus; “By the diminishing of ego he means the gradual reduction of our hedonistic attitude, the diminishment of our Western isolated ego. The integrity principle says that everything in this biosphere is internally connected, all organisms are parts of an integrated whole”(p.2). Talukder further argues thus;
Self-realization does not mean self-centeredness because the individual self cannot be isolated from, as well as dissolved into the greater Self. Secondly, Self-realization is a process of expanding oneself to realize that she is a part of nature and others’ interest should be her own interests Finally, since Self-realization is an active condition, or a process, or a way of life, nobody can ever reach Self-realization (p.2 )
Zimmerman (1998) puts that , “self- realization is the preservation of what is real, and positive in us, it’s that which unites us with the whole, and not what disperses us both in appearance and separateness” (p.2). The unity of the whole is the affirmation that no ontological divides between man and nature or attempts to widening our relationship with nature in alienations. Spinoza argues thus;
There is ultimately only one substance; reality is a unity, which we may refer to as God or Nature. When we realize that we are united to the whole, alienation drops away and we identify more widely with the world of which we are apart (p.2)
Another way of expressing this is Spiritual realization of the self as part of the human and nonhuman world, Self-realization is more easily achieved in a non-dominating society, Self-realization is achieved through a meditative, deep questioning process, that ecological crisis in the Niger Delta could be clean up through the Realization of “self-in-Self is morally justifiable (Talukder, 2016 p.1). The spiritual realization help us to realize in a larger sense the self; our own unfolding becomes more and more bound up with the unfolding of other entities (or, in Spinoza’s terminology, with the unfolding of the other modes of the single substance of which we are ourselves a mode (De Jonge, 2004:p.2).
However, we discover our ecological self, through the widening of our relationship, changing of our perception or pysch from anthropcentric dominances and interaction with nature, instead of us imposing environmental ethics on people. Ethics may not be necessary, because of natural respect, love, honour, protect, and preservation of our self and the Niger Delta environment. Talukder argues thus “Deep ecology as an environmental movement emphasizes Self-realization, ecological wisdom, and asking of deeper questions. Instead of dominating moral norms, such as the Categorical Imperative” (2016: p,1). This is a clear extension of receptivity to animals, mountains, rivers and encourages ecological solidarity this would help to averts ecological crisis.
Aristotle and Naess presented a similar view that ethics, ecology and biology should be the essential part to solving the ecological crisis integrity. The integrity principles; ethics is constructed for the realization of biocentric equality in nature (Talukder 2016:p.6).
Biocentrism refers to a relational principle of integrity, a total-field image of non-human and humans which has diversity, complexity, autonomy, decentralization symbiosis, egalitarianism and classlessness is naturally justifiable for the exploration of nature. However, a reflection of human lifestyle and relationship; pollution and contamination nature called for a balance in the exploration of nature in Niger Delta, it become difficult to realize biocentric equality.
To achieve biocentric equality, human excessive anthropocentrism rejects anthropo-cosmic relationship. Joseph (2012) argues thus: The term, anthropo-cosmic; implies a balance between the human and the “cosmic” (or natural). The Anthropo-Cosmic relationship preserves the indisputable human or humanistic thrust, thought and practice for the preservation of the ecological self, it’s not anthropocentrism that excluded non sentient beings but human interests. anthropo-cosmic; shares a close relationship with humanity and the natural world ( p.3). Joseph (2012) further argues that deep ecological principle of biocentric equality is fundamentally, because all living and non-things have equal rights to live and flourish (p.2).
The framework of ‘ecosophical further support the above assertion that the cosmos remain an organic whole, were all species therein are equal, partners and has the ability to maintain equilibrium with each other without alienation. The ecosystem is understood in terms of interdependence and interconnectedness, they have value in themselves despite in diversity (Marina, 2013, p.2).
The vital needs
The ecological principle of vital needs must be critically applied in order to achieve a green audit, cleanup the ecological crisis, in the Niger Delta environment for a sustainable development. According to Naess, the “vital human needs” is an ecological principle which remains very broad and complex concept in environmental philosophy and ethics. Nease further affirmed that human exploration of nature in the Niger Delta is fundamental only for human survival not for anthropocentric reasons, dominates and alienation; “vital need” Wendy (2005) “vital need” thus: Nature is inherent value, or intrinsic worth, is only reducible by vital needs of the individual. This is is somewhat of a vague area, and it was meant to be left this way for the individual’s interpretation of what they define as vital needs. Vital needs are opposite of “other” needs, meaning that while it is the individual’s job to determine the difference between the two, all of these should be categorized as such. While some would say that vital needs are just food, clothing, and shelter, many others may say that all of the daily activities and ways of life are vital needs. It is also important to look into the intention of reducing living things inherent worth. While some individuals go hunting for food to eat, others go for the sport. While some accidentally step on a bug, others do it on purpose. Basically, it is being stressed that no human has the right to reduce any other living things right to live and flourish, except in the case of its own vital needs, and every living thing needs to be taken into consideration. If an individual does so happen to violate another beings’ right when it is not a vital need, it should never be done with intention or awareness of doing so (p.3).
African concept of Ukama
Ukama according to Murove is a philosophy of relatedness. It could also be perceived as a social political behavior in which one can interact, interpret with the cosmos for a mutual coexistence (Osebor, 2012: p. 40). Osebor further view Ukama as aphorism of ‘I am because of the cosmos’, meaning human existence is solely depended on how the established relations with the cosmos, in this sense it’s a relational ethics (Osebor, 2012: p. 40)
Osebor cites Ikeke, who views Ukama as a concept of unity of all things in the cosmic web. Here, Ikeke did not deny if there may be some dissimilarity between all things in the cosmic web, that should not be an issue, but the unity of sentient and non sentient beings in the universe in terms of interaction and interrelatedness (Osebor, 2012: p. 40).
The cosmological understanding of philosophy of Ukama is the belief and practice of relatedness. This affirms a strict hierarchy of beings, which has no room for arrogance and greed. The hierarchy of beings rejects superiority over the other for the survival of all. Every member in the food chain is important for the survival of a whole.
Ukama philosophy further presents exploration environment and it resource on principle of unity of everything in the cosmic. Ad hence to this principle affirms the protection and management of the environmental resource for vital need, and the adoption of animism and sacredness of nature. Ukama and it practice frowns at the destruction of faunas and flora for no justifiable resources and the philosophy is rooted in environmental conversation for the sake of posterity because human existence depended on native vice-vaser.
A synopsis of the above, answers could be finding to the question; how can environmental crisis be ameliorated if not totally eradicated and to reclaiming our environment through the reintroduction of the endangered species in the Niger Delta? No doubt this paper is an environmental and revolutionary attitude suggestion that man should hold back deserting nature for ‘short-term’ purposes (shallow ecology) or civilization in order to avoid ecological crisis.
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