Re­viv­ing rev­er­ence for the African en­vi­ron­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JOHN HAR­VEY

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

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