Reviving reverence for the African environment
GARETH Patterson, renowned for unlocking the mysteries of the Knysna elephant, has begun a new initiative aimed at restoring the core values of “African environmentalism”.
African environmentalism espouses the traditional African beliefs that governed relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world, and makes no distinction between God and nature, and sees no boundary between man’s habitat and that of wild animals.
Having recently restarted his tours of the Knysna forest, where guests have the opportunity to see how he went about studying the movements and behavioural patterns of the Knysna elephant, Patterson hopes that his new Sekai environmentalist group will reclaim these values which have become eroded over time.
Sekai is Tswana for “symbol” or “omen”.
“Modern Africa has been greatly influenced by Western separatism, becoming greedy and detached from its heritage,” Patterson said.
“Western separatism removed God from everyday life, from creation, from nature.”
With poaching of rhinos, elephants and lions on the rise, Patterson said it had become common to view wildlife as objects for profit, gain and “sport”.
“In Africa generally, the erosion of African environmentalism in the colonial period was a portion of the erosion of the African dignity generally – a loss that, coupled with original environmentalism, needs to be rediscovered, identified and cherished.
“Humankind needs to reignite the reverence and respect for the environment. It needs to expel notions of supe- riority and entitlement and regain the African beliefs that historically governed relationships between man and animal. This is why the revival of African environmentalism is so relevant today.”
Patterson said that in traditional Africa, wildlife was always revered as the soul and life-blood of mother earth.
“By drawing on indigenous environmental beliefs and values, this can make a vital difference today in the preservation of the continent’s wildlife and wild places.”
To this end, the Sekai advocacy group was dedicated to creating awareness about the re- emergence of authentic African environmentalism through a series of articles and campaigns about the project.
“The public can contribute articles; inform and educate us about communities where African environmentalism is alive and positively working to conserve Africa’s wildlife and wild places. Through advocacy and awareness of African environmentalism, Sekai strives to move away from the ideas of conservation apartheid, separatism and the foreign-driven exploitation of animals, and to move towards harmony and respect for Africa’s wildlife and wild spaces.”
NEW PATH: Gareth Patterson