AM Inspiration: Africa and the Political Environment

International climate change talks founder again and again on the differing realities to be found in developed versus developing nations, with good reason: climate change is being already affecting parts of the African continent. GreenBusinessAfrica reports "For most rural people especially in the Drylands of Africa, climate change is making their already difficult lives impossible," while some African communities have adapted in their agricultural practices and social networks. Searching for ways that these adaptations might be reflected in African literature, I found this interesting article about Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, an African environmentalist, and the emerging field of eco-criticism.

For over three decades, she [Maathai] has been advocating the rights of forests and women, the rights of the easily overlooked "other". Since post-colonial readings of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the Western view of Africa as a baffling space which, like a woman, has to be tamed and controlled, has dominated cultural discussions on Africa.

In the West, eco-criticism focuses mainly on the 19th century literature which celebrated nature and wildness. In Africa, it would be more energetic because most of the literature has a rural setting or a degenerate urban background that expresses a longing for the lost rural peace.

If the article offers a refreshing variety of images and perspectives on nature, it also has an edge:

Beyond love and romance, the African environment is political. If forests served as the sanctuaries for freedom fighters, nature itself seemed to presage and support armed struggle.

The Western Transcendentalists were clearly neither the first nor the last word on the connection between nature and the environment. Here's just one taste of "A Kind of Drought," a poem by Zimbabwean poet Charles Mungoshi:


Only trees.

Yes, trees.

They remain

the same old faithful parents...

In our land

the trees can be trusted

and sometimes they hide someone

who feels just like you do

and for a while

there are just the two of you

to frighten the darkness away

if only, only if,

if only

you can come to a river.

Tags: Africa, Climate change, Criticism, Culture, Developing nation, Literature, Western

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