The major sources of the conflict we are having in the world today are traceable to our exploitative relationship with Nature. The predatory and destructive activities of humans (including the mindless extraction of resources) have continued unchecked because we have lost the capacity to actually talk with Nature and hear Nature. Bearing this in mind, we asked the question- is it possible to have a dialogue with Nature or have we lost it completely?
This was accompanied by other questions like: What are some of the ways humans have exploited/are exploiting Nature? In what ways does Nature fight back? How do we reconnect? What does living a life of Dialogue imply? What can we define as a good life in terms of our relationship to Nature? What forms of energy and production will ensure we do not misuse or exploit Nature’s resources?
These queries were put forward and responded to during the 3rd series of Health of Mother Earth Foundation’s (HOMEF’s) ‘Conversations’ held on 28 September, 2020. The Conversations series was tagged ‘Living a Life of Dialogue with Nature’. It was co-hosted with Gloria Ekpo (Facilitator at the Agriculture and Food Policy Commission of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG)) and G. G. Darah (a professor of oral literature and folklore at the Delta State University).
Kicking off responses to the queries, Prof. Darah stated that “sometimes instead of engaging in dialogue of mutual benefit, we engage in warfare with Nature; we abuse, alienate, hate, exploit, oppress and try to dominate Nature. These behaviours disconnect humans from Nature.”
Nevertheless, Darah created an understanding that environmental and cultural factors determine how people understand, appreciate, relate to and befriend Nature. For example, some see Nature as a central bank of resources which we must plunder to make wealth. This was buttressed with reference to industrialized countries that tend to be more ruthless in their destruction of Nature due to singular focus on acquisition, accumulation and increase of material comfort. Such industrialized countries are placed against societies that relate with Nature in a respectful way. These societies see Nature as a companion thereby, advancing the understanding of humans as part of Nature not separate from Nature.
According to the Professor, it is based on this understanding that humans in pre-capitalist societies establish principles which are manifested sometimes in festivals, prayers and in the imposition of sanctions. Examples of these sanctions are those which stop people from entering a particular forest or harvesting particular plants for a specified period of time. Such sanctions are seen as a reflection of the respect that human beings extend to Nature. The distinction between capitalist/profit driven societies and those who are more in tune with Nature is necessary for us to locate the point where we missed it.
In continuance of the conversation, Gloria Ekpo stated that “we have a stake in whatever happens in the planet because we only have one of it. And knowing this will help us in building a system that is truly resilient” For this reason, there is need for us to go back to what we used to know- that is, our indigenous knowledge to see how we can tweak our interaction with Nature to put an end to the ongoing war with Nature. She emphasized that we are part of Nature not apart from it and we need this understanding to make peace with Nature.
Attending to the question of how humans can reconnect with Nature, Gloria Ekpo commented that the foremost thing that needs to be done is: a re-orientation – an understanding and going back to our value system. This entails the understanding of the value of our natural resources- that the resources are God’s gifts to us.
Further on reconnecting with Nature, Professor Darah stressed on the need to redesign our educational curriculum to include aspects that insist that humans are part of Nature and must relate to it in a manner that is self-replenishing.
Bringing the conversation home to Nigeria’s Niger Delta, Nnimmo Bassey, HOMEF’s director commented on the challenged state of Nature in the region which is listed among the top 10 most polluted places on earth. This led to the question- What do you think Nature is telling our oil companies, our government and people?
“If Nature wasn’t patient, it would have pronounced a death sentence on all the governments and companies that have ravaged the Niger Delta over the past 60 years.” Professor Darah responded.
Going further, there were flashbacks to the fire disaster of October 17, 1998 popularly called Jesse Fire which resulted from a pipeline explosion; and to other conflicts in communities like Umuechem and Odi as well as in Ogoni where, according to United Nations, the purification of just the water in their wells will take up to 36 years.
The conversation considered what forms of energy and production will ensure we do not misuse or exploit Nature’s resources. The answer to this was clearly renewable energy. We must quickly invest in and transition to renewable sources of energy in ways that are socially inclusive and sustain-able.
Other recommendations on the way forward in living a life of dialogue with Nature includes embracing and investing in agricultural systems such as Agroecology which replenish ecosystems and supports natural cycles instead of the destructive practices of the industrial system of Agriculture.
Also, it was stressed that we must desist from overconsumption and waste. We must live and act in ways that are sustainable; in ways that are in line with ecosystem limits. Doing this ensures a good life for all. A good life/wellbeing, as stated by Professor Darah is not just about a full stomach but the state of physical, emotional, ethical and spiritual wellness. Wellness is linked to the principle of coexistence.
The event had participants on both Zoom and Facebook. HOMEF plans to have more conversations on Living a Life of Dialogue with Nature so as to promote understanding on the importance of the subject while harnessing different perspectives from various eminent resource persons.