Environmental Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa
Departing from John Herbert Michael Agar's contention that "the truth that makes people free is for the most part the truth which people prefer not to hear," I focus this article on two all too often implied, although not explicitly formulated, major triggers of Africa's predicaments -- including environmental degradation. I argue that while the ruling elites (Africans and non-Africans alike) have been, and still are, the major players in the development and exacerbation of the myriad of problems facing Africa and its people, this elemental dimension has not received sufficient academic attention. I also ascertain how the challenges facing Africa and its people -- ranging from environmental degradation to cultural putrefy, and from political paralysis to economic stagnation, are, while inseparably interlinked, largely stem from the denial of agency and humanity to the vast poor and struggling segments of society by the ruling elites. Linking these two dimensions, I marshal evidence from across diverse fields and different academic disciplines that indicate:
(a) How the many institutions put in place by the ruling elites, and the alien and alienating policies and programs they have repeatedly promoted, have driven populations living in poverty and squalor to destroy the environments where they live, that surround them, and depend on for their livelihood.
(b) How the failure by African and non-African academics, international and development agencies and policymakers to listen (and hear with respect) and accordingly respond to the priorities and needs of the poorer segments of society has intensified the on-going systematic breakdown of Africa's institutions of socialization and destruction of crucial life support systems.
Although in a very different context, Mark Taylor, quoting Derrida, offers a glimpse of what I systematically investigate in this article. That is, as he notes, how "every structure -- literary, psychological, social, economic, political, religious, etc. -- that organizes human experience is constituted and maintained through acts of exclusion. In the process of creating something, something else is inevitably left out. These exclusive structures [in turn] can become repressive -- but that repression comes with consequences... What is repressed does not disappear; it always returns to unsettle every construction."