Africa is still in a crucial and fragile state of transition since the colonialists physically ‘left’. Africans are beginning to change their conceptions on a whole lot of things for example: the causes of rain or drought are being changed from traditional and religious explanations to the scientific narrative. Many still believe that droughts are caused by the number of sins committed in a particular year echoing the furiousness of the gods! However, a lot more traditional Africans are beginning to open themselves to the scientific knowledge that droughts are not caused by the number of ‘sins’ committed in a calendar year and it has nothing to do with the gods either. This shift in paradigm from indigenous African conception to ‘Western scientific’ realities of life is good.
What is bad however, is the evil eye of the same western life style of industrialization that continues to rob even more heavily the indigenous Africans of their typical harmony with nature. The very genesis of climate change. Droughts, food insecurity, hunger, poverty, diseases, global warming, force migration and gross inequalities here and there are different facets of the same problem – climate change. Now Africans have to cherry-pick whether to revert to their own traditional lives of consumption and be in ‘perfect’ harmony with their gods and environment or infinitely suffer with the “unmanageable consumption” style of the industrialized world – which is partly obligated on them! Already the world is exploding at the seams in ecological, political and economic terms, in short, the Anthropocene.
Almost certainly, Africa is not the closest to the West in anthropological and geopolitical senses but perhaps Africans are undergoing the fastest stride of westernization human history ever recorded from the industrial ages to the so-called post-modernity. So what can be done to help Africa get out of this predicament? Can it modernize without Westernizing? According to Prof. Ali Mazrui “modernization is a change in a direction which is compatible with the present stage of human knowledge, and which does justice to the human person as an innovative and social being.
If a society does not want to take into account present-day levels of knowledge, science and scholarship, that society is pre-modern. If a society suppresses innovation, and insists on doing things according only to tradition, again that society is pre-modern. A society interprets the concept of man as a social being too narrowly; limiting social loyalties to clans and tribes or even just to nations, and it turns its back on the outer world of fellow human beings, that society is still pre-modern. If you define modernity, then, according to these three basic principles of responsiveness to the highest levels of knowledge, encouragement of innovation, and enlargement of social sympathies, there are clearly different roads to modernity. For the Third World the best way forward is to adopt those three principles of modernity on the one hand and, on the other, to pursue strategies of decolonization and of reducing dependency. It is a dual effort—to modernize and decolonize at the same time. In a sense, it is an effort to decolonize modernity.”
To understand the implications of this alteration, one must first consider the importance of culture as the lenses of reality. In what way did the industrial revolution (later to be called capitalism) changed the African perception of the world from ecological consciousness to over-consumption? Africans are the worst sufferers of the mechanistic Cartesian and Newtonian view of the world that has led to the great industrial revolution, the ramifications of which we now face in climate change (probably the most problematic). Now more than anytime else, the future of Africa is very curtail than the not least because of the dysfunctional political and economic institution in the cities of South Africa, Namibia, D.R Congo, Nigeria, Niger, Mozambique, Guinea, Tanzania, Ghana, Botswana to name just a few embedding and excessively exploiting most of the continents natural resources. Most Africans are much worried about how the extraction of this natural resources is impoverishing and disuniting them and how it enriches those outside their borders rather than the ecological problems it eternally stamp on the continent. With all the problems caused by climate change, many Africans who are forced outside their borders are yet to be defined environmental refugees (the old European definition of who is a refugee still stands.)
Africa was long since high-jacked by its contact with the West from 18 century slavery to colonialism, and from imperialism and the plundering of its natural resources by neo-liberalism or shall I say capitalism. This contact will/shall never be forgotten in other to make factual analysis of history, economics and modern civilization the effects of which we face today in climate change. The 18th century slavery was the first type of globalization that exported (depending on how one counts it or what source we look at,) 12.5 million slaves across to the Americas to work in the plantations to maximize profit for the slavers in Europe.
But little do we know the effects of such an industrial activities will lead to climate change and make Africa the worst victims. Africa is still the least industrialized but ironically supports most of the industrialized world with its natural resources or raw materials. Previously it was countries who plunder and indiscriminately extract everything they could and now multi-national companies took the lead in the campaign for globalization and free market politics –a neoliberal market model. For we Africans the paradigm of pain and suffering is ever increasing and the present market model of capitalism is calling many of us to our untimely graves: lack of energy, hunger, droughts, diseases, financial insecurity, wars, exodus and natural disasters are not in any way news to us. They are our painful living truth to which we contribute very little. However, market triumphalism (the belief in markets as the only liberator) is gradually eating us all. Policies from the IMF and the World Bank continue to threaten our development with promises that will never be fulfilled. Any company can get to Africa, exploit and destroy it natural resources and get away. It is that cheap to colonize Africa and its resources with the Chinese becoming the new colonial powers.
As the 21st century clarifies the above problems are all interconnected and interdependent. They are a systematic problem and needs systemic solutions. If we are to uphold to our moral standards and think more openly about the biosphere as “Commons” (belonging to all) and that we must pay some fundamental obligation rather than excessively viewing it as an infinite resource, some sufferings on the African people could be reduced. We might have to forgo over-consumption to fair distribution, inequality to the contrary and from dirty energy that has revamped African civilization to clean energy to revitalize us with our old moral gods. As the worst sufferers of climate change, we ask the developed world to change their perception from an outdated worldview that is incapable of dealing with our overpopulated, hungry, impoverished, and speedy crumbling continent. The developed world needs some fundamental changes in science and society, politics and law, from immorality to spirituality –a change as radical as the Copernican revolution – at least in so doing, Africa might survive climate change.
As we continue to suffer from climate change, I believe that a sustainable society must be premeditated in such a way that its ways of life, economy, physical structures, and technologies do not hamper with nature’s in-built capability to withstand existence.